Year in review 2020: Features

This year, as Temple University moved to an online format in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students learned how to adapt to online classes and changes to residence halls and campus food vendors struggled with business as students went home.

Zach Oser, a freshman finance major, studies for online exams at his home in North Wales, Pennsylvania. | ZACH OSER / COURTESY

1. Family’s fund supports development of ALS care

By Matt Strout

Latoya Weaver, MDA/ALS Center of Hope patient services coordinator, and Dan Mergner, ALS Hope Foundation respiratory therapist, discuss patient care at the Neurosciences Center on Jan. 21. ISAAC SCHEIN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After discovering her mother-in-law had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a nervous system disease, Mollie Elkman and her husband started the ALS Genius Fund, advocating and raising money for families and patients affected by ALS. The Genius Fund, which began operating in August 2019, raised more than $20,000 by January for the ALS Hope Foundation which supported Temple’s MDA/ALS Center of Hope and Neuromuscular Research Laboratory. In addition to donations, The Genius Fund highlighted the work of doctors who treat ALS and the hope they bring to patients with the disease. 

2. Temple professor’s novel sheds light on Philadelphia opioid crisis

By Pavlína Černá

Liz Moore, an English professor, showcases her new book “Long Bright River” in her office in Anderson Hall on Feb. 10. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Liz Moore, an english professor, published her fourth novel “Long Bright River” in January. The novel, set in the Kensington neighborhood, follows two sisters through two perspectives of the opioid crisis. The novel was translated into 15 languages, and a book tour took Moore to multiple countries, including the United Kingdom and Ireland prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moore’s novel was a New York Times bestseller and was picked for Good Morning America’s book club.

3. ‘Scared’ and ‘unclear’: Students react to Temple’s move to online teaching to combat COVID-19 spread

By Madison Karas

Jonah Turk, an undeclared freshman, stands at the Bell Tower on March 11 and discusses his plans to travel home after Temple University announced that all classes will move online. | CLAUDIA SALVATO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On March 11, Temple University moved all classes online and closed Main Campus for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester due to cases of COVID-19 spreading to Pennsylvania and surrounding states. The decision followed many local universities to mitigate the spread of the disease, but left students facing confusion and stress as they navigated moving back home, online classes and the risk of contracting the virus. Students shared their reactions to the announcement and expressed fear, uncertainty and sadness about the semester’s rapidly changing circumstances.

4. Here’s how several Temple offices went remote amid COVID-19

By Bibiana Correa 

Sara Wilson, assistant director of outreach and communications at Temple Libraries, sits working on her laptop at her home in South Philadelphia. COURTESY / SARA WILSON

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney ordered nonessential businesses to close on March 16. This meant several Temple facilities, including Charles Library, the Wellness Resource Center and Student Activities shut down their in-person services and transferred them online. University offices used Zoom, sent out email newsletters, built website extensions and used social media to connect with students and provide resources and information as they moved to virtual platforms. 

5. How Temple’s class of 2020 celebrated graduation from home

By Madison Karas

Ananya Bhowmik, a senior mathematics with teaching major, celebrated her graduation with her family on Thursday. | ANANYA BHOWMIK / COURTESY

On May 7, Temple’s largest ever class of graduates expected to walk in the Liacouras Center for commencement, but with campus buildings closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Liacouras Center converted to a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients, they celebrated virtually instead. Faculty, staff, administrators and alumni sent virtual video messages to graduates, and some schools and colleges hosted their own virtual ceremonies. Students found alternative ways to celebrate with their families amid lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, like having cookouts with their immediate family or ordering balloons and takeout to make the day as special as possible. 

6. Students react to Temple’s plan for in-person fall classes

By Emma Padner

Students discuss their thoughts on the university’s announcement of having both in-person and online classes for the Fall 2020 semester. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When Temple announced on June 2 that Fall 2020 semester classes would be a mix of in person and online learning, students worried about how in-person classes would be held safely but also how hands-on programs, like art or music, would be taught virtually. Students expressed concern about how safety precautions would be enforced, where they could attend online classes while on campus and if campus reopening was the best plan for Temple and North Central communities as the fall semester approached.  

7. Incoming Temple freshmen attend new student orientation online

By Emma Padner


In previous years, incoming freshmen would spend a night in White Hall with other students after a day of orientation activities and tours in person, eager to learn about life at Temple. This year, due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, students experienced orientation virtually via Zoom. From June 1 until July 31, Owl Team Leaders led incoming freshmen through a “choose-your-own-adventure” style orientation, where freshmen decided which and how many orientation meetings they would attend. After meeting with students in various groups, incoming freshmen turned to group messages to meet others prior to the Fall 2020 semester.

8. Temple food vendors ‘depend on the students’ for income

By Natalie Kerr

The Foot Long food truck, located at 12th and Norris streets, is one of many small businesses that continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As some students returned to campus for the fall semester in August, food vendors dealt with financial blows from the lack of on campus foot traffic compared to previous years. Food trucks and businesses at The Wall lost a significant amount of business due to Governor Tom Wolf’s suspension of all non-life-sustaining business in March. Vendors and students expressed concerns about the financial implications of the pandemic on small businesses and following public health guidelines while on campus. 

9. Quiet halls: Temple students stay living in on campus housing

By Lawrence Ukenye

Jennifer Mittelman (left), a freshman undeclared student, and Meghan Kelly, a freshman early childhood education major, stand and sit outside of 1940 Residence Hall where they both currently live on Sept. 21. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In September, after Temple announced plans to switch to mainly online instruction for the fall semester, roughly two-thirds of students who originally moved on campus left residence halls to secure refunds for housing and meal charges. Students who remained in on campus housing shared their decisions to stay. From grappling with deserted residence halls to finding ways to stay safe amid a surge in university COVID-19 cases, students reflected on how the virus had affected their idea of the typical college experience.

10. Here’s how Temple’s few in-person classes are operating

By Matthew Aquino

Dr. Laura Katz Rizzo teaches ballet in her class in Pearson Hall on Sept. 24. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After COVID-19 cases on campus rose to more than 200 among students and employees, Temple moved nonessential classes online on Sept. 3. Classes deemed essential, like some performance and laboratory-based classes, continued to operate in person. Students and faculty shared how they were staying safe during these meetings by wearing masks, attending class outdoors or installing plexiglass barriers in classrooms to limit contact and potential exposure to the virus.

11. Student restaurant workers navigate industry amid COVID-19

By Chelsea Badri

Aaron Hines, a senior marketing major, prepares a latte during his shift at Walnut Street Cafe at 30th and Walnut streets on Oct. 9. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Philadelphia raised indoor dining capacities to 50 percent on Oct. 2, before it was later suspended again the following month, which felt risky to some Temple students who work in the restaurant industry. Three students working in city restaurants shared their experiences with indoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic shortly after capacity was increased. They feared exposure to COVID-19 while at work, but needed to work to pay their bills, rent or tuition. 

12. Women voters in Temple community commemorate suffrage centennial  

By Natalie Kerr and Emma Padner

Joy Jones, 39, a cook at Delaware Valley University, stands outside the Liacouras Center for early voting on Oct. 26. Jones said she is proud of the work women have done to gain the right to vote and have their voices heard. | NATALIE KERR / THE TEMPLE NEWS

This year marked one hundred years after the 19th ammendement passed, which resulted in the inability to deny the right to vote based on sex. With Kamala Harris running to be the first women, Black and Asian American Vice President in the general election, the centennial of women’s suffrage carried more weight in women voters’ minds. Women voters in the Temple community felt the importance of women representation in politics and came out to vote, speaking on the importance of women’s rights, racial justice and COVID-19 relief during the election cycle.

13. Temple students alter Thanksgiving plans and traditions

By Matthew Aquino 

Emma Hines (left), a sophomore theater education major, and DeAhna Fisher, a sophomore biology with teaching major, sit on the lawn outside the Paley Building on Nov. 9. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As COVID-19 cases continued to rise through Philadelphia and across the country and Philadelphia banned indoor gatherings until 2021 on Nov. 16, students faced the decision of whether to travel home to see family members for Thanksgiving or stay living near campus. Students had small get-togethers with their immediate family rather than elaborate dinners with extended family, altered Black Friday traditions and found new ways to celebrate and give thanks. 

14. Temple students study for finals at home

By Joelle Delprete

Zach Oser, a freshman finance major, studies for online exams at his home in North Wales, PA. | ZACH OSER / COURTESY

When Temple suspended most in-person activities in late November and closed residence halls and some on campus facilities until the spring semester, many Temple students prepared for their final exams from home. Students discussed their challenges to stay motivated and the need to manage their study schedules amid the distractions of at home life. While some felt prepared after managing online coursework for the entire semester, other students shared feelings of being overwhelmed. 

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