NJIT students and staff have experienced more “one-time” events in their lives than their predecessors. A pandemic continues to rage across the world, seemingly increasing every two months. Crippling inflation, compounded by shortages caused during the pandemic, is causing well-documented economic problems at home and abroad. More recently, war rages in Ukraine as Russia continues to commit alleged acts of genocide against the Ukrainian people while the world waits for the attack to spill over its borders. As each historical event leads to the next, how have students and staff been affected and able to cope over time?
“We’re supposed to keep going to school like we haven’t seen record numbers of deaths and injuries,” remarked one student, who wished to remain anonymous. “And wearing a mask while walking between classes can make you look ridiculous.”
As the coronavirus pandemic appears to be slowing, despite an impending resurgence brought on by the BA.2 variant, the effects of a years-long battle with a virus are beginning to show. The National Institute of Health has reported that more than 140,000 children under the age of 18 in the United States have lost their primary or secondary caregiver to Covid-19. As these children struggle to find their new normal, the World Health Organization reports that this new normal includes a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide.
The coronavirus isn’t the only concern students are concerned about. For students with relatives in Russia and Ukraine, their daily lives changed overnight. For Mira Sapozhnikov’s second year, the life their family has built in America seems to be uprooted. “My family and I spent fourteen years trying to prove we could be Americans and now we have to prove it again.”
“I go to religious functions like the Seder dinner,” Sapozhnikov continued. “When I speak in my native language, strangers come in to ask me where I’m from and get opinions on issues as if they were our issues.”
Unlike previous instances in history, students and staff cannot avoid the atrocities occurring in Ukraine. Despite Russia’s position that this is not genocide, all signs seem to point to the contrary. “Genocide is about the idea of intent,” said Dr. Deborah Morrison-Santana, an NJIT professor who earned her Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. “They say they want to denazify, but then they equate denazification with de-Ukrainization, getting rid of Ukrainian culture which is very genocidal. They are deporting people to Russia and there are reports of children being taken from their parents.
“It’s similar to the Iraq war in terms of exposure,” said Dr. Deborah Morrison-Santana. “It depends on who you follow and who you interact with on social media, but there it is.”
With the US media cycle, Dr. Morrison-Santana fears this will be forgotten. The students in his class begin each lecture by talking about what is happening in the news. At the start of the invasion, it was mentioned frequently; however, the students stopped talking about it as the war progressed, despite the revelation of atrocities like the Bucha massacre. The NJIT administration has done little to attract attention or relieve the Ukrainian population. The administration’s response appears to have stopped at an email in February condemning the invasion and another email a month later directing students and staff to outside agencies where they can show their support. by donations.
As previously reported, NJIT’s Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (C-CAPS) saw a sharp 45% increase in the number of students seeking counseling services and sessions over the previous year. Students also suffering from food insecurity, brought on by a 41-year high rate of inflation, can access the NJIT Food Pantry on the fourth floor of Campus Center.