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Pandemics and Illness at CUE, Now and Then

By Emma Grant


Friday, March 13, 2020. The halls in Hole Academic were bustling with students and a looming talk of being sent home. In class, my group and I jokingly discussed what hospitals we would be quarantined in so that we could finish our group project there. Although humour is a healthy coping mechanism, there was nothing funny about COVID-19. Rather it was scary to think there was something invisible that could close a school. Over the weekend it was announced that schools would be closing in-person classes, universities included, and we were automatically enrolled in what became known as “Zoom University.” There is something hauntingly lonely and strange about doing your classes alone at your house. There’s not the hallway chatter, no collective sighs exchanged between you and someone else who doesn’t like the class you are in, and reduced interaction with people.

Though we navigate a new world, disease itself is not new. In the 1920s Concordia was hit with an outbreak of diphtheria, a disease that spreads quite similar to COVID-19. It progressively spread around students in a seemingly unorganized way, affecting an upperclassman one day, then a lower classman the next. A story that sticks out is one of a student who reported a headache and sore throat. He wanted to go back to class but was encouraged to rest and was diagnosed with diphtheria that afternoon. A letter was sent home to his parents notifying them of his diagnosis. He passed away the following morning with the doctor by his side. Isolation is not new and it would have been incredibly lonely and difficult to deal with isolation in the 1920s with technology, our limited tool for interaction, not able to aid those who were dealing with disease.


About Emma Grant

My connection to Concordia involves a very special opportunity to work in the President’s Office. Not every school do you get to meet the President, let alone work in their office! I have also had the opportunity to be a research assistant in research about COVID-19 by the Psychology Department. Concordia has given me a platform academically and professionally to grow and challenge myself while being in a supportive environment.


CUE Students and Alum to Make Their Own History

Concordia’s CUE 100 committee is very excited to feature the written work of several students and alumni as part of its centenary celebrations. As these celebrations continue, you can look forward to reading short articles by these writers on interesting aspects of Concordia’s history over the past century. Writers were given access to archival documents on particular topics which they were asked to summarize and personally respond to. You’ll be able to discover much about Concordia’s history and how it still resonates among us today. We hope you find these articles both informative and entertaining. Happy 100, Concordians!