Hope and Healing

COVID-19 and the Global Racial Reckoning at Rutgers–Camden

By Sam Starnes

The first day of the fall 2020 semester on Rutgers University–Camden’s campus was a first day of classes like no other. The walkways through the quad and the Campus Center that traditionally teem with students excited about the promise of a new academic year were quiet, with only an occasional lone masked student passing by. Most classrooms that normally buzz with students sat empty. The vast majority of fall Rutgers–Camden classes were held remotely, with students logging in from their homes to join discussions and fulfill assignments online to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

There hasn’t been a year comparable to this one in more than a century. The threefold challenges of the pandemic, the resulting economic downturn, and the heightened awareness of systemic racism in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, described by Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway as a “global racial reckoning,” have shaken the foundations of our university, our state, our nation, and our world. The impact of these crises on Rutgers–Camden has been significant, but through innovative faculty and creative methods to stifle COVID-19, the university has continued to offer world-class educations.

Through it all, students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni have maintained hope for the future as healing begins.

Keith Schlapfer, pictured above and on the cover of the fall issue of Rutgers Camden–Magazine, performed in the campus production of Clybourne Park in 2019.

Keith Schlapfer, a Point Pleasant, New Jersey, resident who has dual goals of becoming an actor and attending law school, said while he wishes that his classes were in person instead of offered remotely, he has not slowed down on his dreams. He was accepted into an online class with a prominent acting coach in Hollywood, and he also buckled down on his studies for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), noting that he made the most of the pandemic limitations on activity by studying more than he might have in normal times.

Schlapfer, a junior English major in the dual-degree program with Rutgers Law School, is on track to earn both undergraduate and law degrees in only six years. He also is pursuing aspirations to act, which included performing in the Rutgers–Camden theater production of Clybourne Park in February 2019.

For other Rutgers–Camden voices on COVID-19 and the global racial reckoning, see the links below.

Overcoming COVID-19

Priyal Shah, first-year biology major

Kimberly Mutcherson, co-dean, Rutgers Law School

Margo Wallace SNC’08, director of the School of Nursing CARES program

Jinglin Fu, associate professor of chemistry

Sandy Stewart CCAS’81, GSC’87, member and former chair of the Rutgers University Board of Governors

Monica Adya, dean, School of Business

Donna Nickitas, dean, School of Nursing

Global Racial Reckoning

Melani Cruz Stokes, criminal justice major

Lisa Laffend, second-year law student

Nyeema Watson, associate chancellor for civic engagement

Sharon King ’93 and Stanley King RLAW’94

Oscar Holmes, associate professor of management

Kendra Boyd, assistant professor of history

Posted in: 2020 Fall, Features

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