First ‘Come Friday Forum’ contemplates the importance and lessons of COVID-19

Flannery Moore, Culture Editor

The first Come Friday Forum of the school year was held on September 2 in the Event Space of the Jean Student Center. The Come Friday forums, hosted by the Gregory J. Grappone ‘04 Humanities Institute, invite members of the Saint Anselm community to consider a different question each week in an effort to more deeply reflect on our experiences as members of humanity. This week’s discussion was led by Professor Kyle Hubbard of the philosophy department and Natalie Bender, a senior Great Books and music double major, and asked the question “What has COVID taught us about ourselves?”   

In his opening remarks, Hubbard noted that it can be “tempting” to answer such a question “from a political standpoint” and consider the political implications of the pandemic rather than the simply personal, but that he chose to focus his answer instead on his own experience as both an individual and a member of a community.  

As a faculty member of the Saint Anselm community, he noted that “teaching and learning is a lot more about face to face, embodied learning” than he had previously been aware. The importance of interpersonal connection in an academic setting was made clear by the Zoom class experience. 

Natalie Bender answered that during COVID she learned how multifaceted an individual’s well-being truly is – stating that while physical safety was the ultimate goal of the 2020 lockdowns, she became aware of the many other elements of her life that were crucial to her wellbeing. She described her experience of being compelled to reflect on just what was essential to her in her daily life and to evaluate her values during the lockdown and the following months.  

After Hubbard and Bender shared their initial thoughts, the question was opened to the forum, of which several members attended via Zoom. Professor Gary Bouchard, professor of English and executive director of the Humanities Institute, observed that this in itself was a crucial example of COVID-19’s impact on the College community. The use of Zoom to expand accessibility to events such as Come Friday was an unforeseen benefit of virtual learning. 

Several students in attendance shared their experiences in high school and college throughout the pandemic. Common themes among all of those who shared were a drastic decline in the student’s mental health and the dramatic negative impacts of losing their community or support systems. 

Another attendee noted that the collective grieving process was stolen from families and communities during the pandemic, referring to the fact that the deaths of loved ones during the peak of the pandemic could no longer be marked by in-person gatherings. Such stories only support Hubbard’s observations on the importance of interpersonal connection that cannot be replaced by a Zoom call. 

When asked to share the importance of such a topic for discussion, Bender noted that there is so much that people simply took for granted before 2020 came along. As different facets of our lives that disappeared during the pandemic gradually return, it’s important to reflect on what we have learned so we can apply it.   

Hubbard observed that it’s “really easy to be a prisoner in the moment” and to forget to take a step back and reflect on some of the lessons we have learned about ourselves as individuals and as members of communities. As the Saint Anselm community transitions into a new school year, last week’s Come Friday forum encouraged participants to reflect on what they have learned from the past few years and can carry with them.