‘School’s out’ a little too early: An ode to the class of 2020

Illustration of graduating student in Zoom meeting
Lucy Yang/Staff

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Alice Cooper’s 1972 classic rock hit “School’s Out” echoes in the hallways of every elementary, middle and high school on the final day of class: “School’s out for summer/ School’s out forever.”

It’s the best day of the year: School children fly out of their classrooms, not once looking back into their dark classroom’s void that they’ve spent far too many days in. They only look forward to their ambitious summer plans, all while Cooper’s catchy tune hums in the back of their minds.

I was always one of these kids, happy to escape the confines of a classroom each spring to spend the following warm months playing, running and swimming in summer’s long days. 

And since entering college, the last days of freshman, sophomore and junior year haven’t felt any different. Again, I found myself flying out of the lecture hall, not once looking back, the weight of deadlines and assignments lifted — all the while tapping my foot to the beat of Cooper’s genius while the Campanile chimes above me. 

But this time around is different, or at least it was supposed to be, because the final day of senior year of college is the first time we are supposed to look back — maybe relieved, maybe thankful and proud or maybe even sad as we reflect on the past four years as college students.

To say we’re disappointed would be an understatement, and to say we aren’t going to be a little dramatic about it would be naive. But maybe, looking back, an ending like this one seems to fit just right in the complicated puzzle of our college experiences. And fortunately, amid this sudden goodbye, these complex times and the confusion, there’s something comforting in that we’ve experienced it all together. 

Our time began with a presidential election — one that ignited fires on campus and inspired united crowds to flow down some of Berkeley’s busiest streets. Our time brought helicopters to the skies, buzzing overhead as controversial speakers were scheduled to visit the same campus where we were supposed to learn. Our time brought smoke to the air, so thick that for days we stayed indoors, looking out at the mucky Berkeley skies as wildfires raged in the north. Our time brought power outages large enough to turn the libraries dark and silence the campus for days. And, finally, our time here ended abruptly, sending students home to learn from the screens of their laptops as opposed to being surrounded by passionate classmates in marbled lecture halls.

The class of 2020 hasn’t had it easy, and I think that’s something we can celebrate, in a demented, messed up sort of way. Because instead of dwelling on our lost months together, we should instead dwell on the permanence of our campus, the permanence of our friends and the relationships we’ve built, the permanence of our unique interests and backgrounds and the permanence of our memories.

For the class of 2020, school’s out a little too early, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look back fondly, humming Cooper’s tune together.

Contact Emily Denny at [email protected] .