In the July 11, 1919 issue of the Dalhousie Gazette, contributor Alice L. Wickwire writes a history of her graduating class:
“When Dalhousie opened its doors to us again [in 1918], we came back in a much more cheerful frame of mind, for the war situation had vastly improved during the summer. Classes had been going on for about a week, the Influenza epidemic began and we were sent home for five weeks. Then we had scarcely settled to work again, when the glorious news of Peace came and set us all in a whirl of excitement. The whole college seemed to gain new life, the boys began gradually to come back from France and to Dalhousie and some of the old pre-war customs were revived.”
Wickwire’s words comfort me.
I don’t mean to draw a simple comparison between the current state of the world and the year 1918. A lot is different today. We aren’t facing a world war (though there is plenty of ongoing violence across the globe). I suspect many young adults like me, who make up most of Dalhousie University’s student body, aren’t as worried about catching COVID-19 as Wickwire and her classmates were about getting the Influenza A(H1N1) virus, which was disproportionately fatal to our age group, killing tens of millions of people.
Despite these differences, just as Wickwire must have grappled with extreme situations when completing her degree in 1919, students face many similar issues today. It’s not just the global pandemic factor. Many nations are in economic, political and social disrepair. The idea of leaving university and entering the real world is at the very least unflattering. Individually we’re all pushing through weekly assignments, and trying to reach the end of a year marked by violence and death.
But what’s hopeful in Wickwire’s writing is the simple fact her graduating class made it to the end. They survived (and quite miraculously so — the 24 men in her cohort who went off to war all returned home).
We will overcome this pandemic, even if it takes more time than we wish. For now, there is hope and unless things change for the worse (which they very well could), Dal plans to hold many in-person classes in the fall.
Through all the wins and losses of this school year, the end is approaching. I accept it with open arms. Though I’ll no longer be at Dal in the fall, I hope we’ll see this university “gain new life” when the pandemic is over, just as it did after the First World War. I hope the Gazette has a life very different from the largely virtual one it’s lived this past year.
By the way, this is our only print issue of the year. If you’ve been reading online this whole time, I thank you. If you’re reading this in paper and realizing you never noticed we were out of print, still, I thank you. As readers, you are the reason the Gazette has continued to publish articles during this hectic time and will do so for years to come. It’s been an absolute honour of mine to work at this paper with brilliant staff and contributors. It’s hard for me to admit the end of this particular journey is in sight.
By the time this letter is published, there will only be two weeks of classes left. Like Wickwire and her graduating class of 1919, all of us students, staff and faculty will make it to the end. We too will survive.
This editorial was originally published in print issue 153-13 of the Dalhousie Gazette, which came out on March 26, 2021.