Photos: A Look Into the Class of 2024’s First Year At Albion

On the right, the author and Adrian senior Katherine Simpkins sits with friends on the quad after the “Detroit ‘67” theatre production in the fall of 2020. Due to social distancing guidelines, circles were spray painted on the quad for groups of five to sit in for various activities (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).

The following images are from the 2020-21 academic year, and attempt to represent what the year looked like for students. This includes images of the following information as well as other various events that also occurred that year.

Many students in the senior class of 2024 started their college careers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of these students, this was my experience. 

On March 13, 2020, FEMA released a declaration of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enacting a two-week closure of schools. On April 2, 2020, Mich. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that suspended all in-person learning for K-12 for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. 

When my school closed for our “two-week spring break,” we all left not knowing what was next. We were not required to complete any online work due to the lack of technological accessibility in my town, therefore my learning stopped on March 13. 

With my plan of going to college being uncertain, I sat at home, like many 2020 seniors, waiting for communication from Albion College. 

The first communications regarding dining and housing safety came via email on July 17, 2020. In the email, Student Development explained the COVID-19 protocols, stating that “in on-campus residence halls, apartments and fraternity houses, students will be required to wear a mask/face-covering whenever not in their assigned rooms,” while also practicing social distancing. 

While navigating the unknown of a pandemic, I knew that my college experience would be different than those before me. I’ve dreamt of going to college since I was in the eighth grade, obviously not expecting a pandemic to interfere with that. The first emails sent by the college did not surprise me and in fact, made me happy to still be able to attend college. 

In a separate email, sent on July 24, 2020, by former Albion College President Mathew Johnson, guidelines for COVID-19 testing were released. Students were notified of mandatory testing upon arrival to campus, as well as the “guaranteed no more than 72 hours for test results.” 

While waiting for those results, we were confined to a three-day quarantine in our dorms, leaving only to retrieve meals from designated areas. 

This time, and the weeks after, allowed for each hall to become close, even finding ways to utilize outdoor spaces because that was the only time we got a break from wearing masks. I remember playing board games every day, having picnics on the quad and chatting with anyone I saw. This is how I created friendships that I still have to this day. 

Information that was sent to students in the summer of 2020 regarding the 72-hour quarantine via email. At the time, COVID-19 tests took days to come back rather than the 15-minute rapid tests we have now (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).

In the same July 24 email sent by Johnson, students were notified that “routine testing” would be conducted every two weeks. In addition to testing, students were also required to do self-check-ins every day with the Aura Track app

In an email sent on Aug. 12, 2020, President Johnson stated that “the app tracks locations of students, which is critical in order for us to rapidly and effectively do contact tracing,” which followed Calhoun County guidelines at the time. 

Without permission from the college, students could not leave campus; we could only travel to the businesses in town that followed CDC guidelines. This was commonly known as the “bubble.” 

I tried to abide by the guidelines, but I remember submitting a request to go home and see my great aunt before her surgery and it being denied. 

Just like many other students I knew, I still went home despite the rejection because I wasn’t going to be kept from my family. I still made sure to follow the testing guidelines. We were also told in the email from Johnson which said, “when a student returns to campus after having left without permission, their ID will be deactivated and they will therefore not have access to any campus building.” 

Beyond the contact tracing data, it felt like we were watched like hawks and that our mobility was taken. I even knew of students who placed the Aura app on their laptops so that they could leave campus freely. 

However, I wasn’t the only one upset by some of the protocols.

Even though the college was met with mostly positive feedback about their “together safely” plan, some students and parents did not agree with the protocols put in place for students. A petition to “Unlock Albion College” was started by “Concerned Parents of Albion College Students” on Aug. 10, 2020. Within the petition, the anonymous source detailed how they, and others, felt like the requirements of students were “invasive;” stating that their child had left Albion College because of it. 

The author poses with other students at a sorority recruitment event hosted by the Kappa Delta sorority in the fall of 2020. Events were allowed to be held outside on the quad as long as they followed social distancing guidelines (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).
The petition to “unlock Albion College” with 1,913 signatures. The petition listed the requirements of the college during the pandemic and how some parents and students felt it was “invasive” (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).
An email sent to the author on Nov. 12, 2020, from the Aura Tracker app reminding her to submit a daily health report. Students were notified that the app also tracked their location, causing frustration among students and their families (Photo illustration by Katherine Simpkins).
A list of businesses in Albion that aligned with CDC guidelines, where students were allowed to travel. If students wanted to leave the “bubble,” they had to submit a request, including doctor’s appointments, funerals and religious obligations (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).
An email sent from the Office of the President on Oct. 17, 2020, with COVID-19 data. These updates were sent daily throughout the academic year (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).
An email sent to the author on Oct. 20, 2020, informing her that she must get tested for COVID-19 the next day. On top of bi-weekly testing, students were also randomly selected to be tested; meaning students were sometimes tested twice in one week (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).
A meme created by the author posted on an Albion College meme Instagram page. Many memes were made and posted on the page during the 2020-21 academic year (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).
A meme posted on the same Instagram page, poking fun at a situation that occurred in the fall of 2020. The situation included a toilet that was set on fire in the Wesley dorm, 911 being called and students being evacuated to the Goodrich Chapel late at night (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).
The aftermath of the toilet that was set on fire on Oct. 13, 2020, in Wesley Hall (Photo by Katherine Simpkins).
About Katherine Simpkins 26 Articles
Katherine Simpkins, aka "Kat", is a senior from Adrian, MI. She is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Educational Studies. Her passion for journalism started at an early age when she picked up her camera and started seeing life from a different perspective. In her free time, you can find Kat snuggled up next to her cat, Phoebe; named after the best "Friends" character. You can contact her at

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