March 2020: A Year In Review

In the slightly redacted words of Jon Rothstein: that was March.

I can honestly say I have never experienced a month quite like March 2020, and I think it’s safe to say that we never will again (We can only hope.).

In a matter of a month, the coronavirus grew from a seemingly distant health issue being discussed in the background and not taken seriously enough to a historic pandemic that’s only continuing to spread right in front of our own eyes. Thirty-one days later, we’re left with so many parts of our normal society at a standstill as we practice social distancing, take online classes, and wait for the end of this upsetting and difficult time to come.

The coronavirus pandemic alone defined the entire month and made it one we will truly, never forget.

However, although the coronavirus dominated news coverage for the last three weeks of March, the month brought plenty of other strange, albeit drastically less important events that none of us saw coming when we rang in the new year with an innocent sense of optimism just three short months ago.

This is a month that began with students holding candles and singing outside of a closed Taco Bell and ended with life as we know it at a lull. Somewhere in between, people became obsessed with a show about tigers.

Let’s take a look back at this month that came in like a lion and went out more ferociously than any of the cats raised by Joe Exotic.

March 1: Students Hold A Vigil For Taco Bell

March started with a bang and the latest “WTF is this school?!” moment when nearly 100 students turned out for a candlelight vigil remembering the recently closed Taco Bell on College Ave.

Organized by student Prajesh Patel, the vigil included students sharing memories of the former location and singing songs in its honor. It also generated plenty of buzz around the world over the course of the next week.

It’s only fitting that what ended up being seniors’ final week in State College included an event that may only be rivaled in terms of absurdity by one from their freshman year: the infamous clown riot of 2016.

March 2: SPA Announces Q&A With David Dobrik, Finneas Adopts Penn State As Alma Mater

In my four years at Penn State, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a SPA announcement get as much excitement as the Q and A session with David Dobrik did. The event would eventually be canceled due to the coronavirus, but tickets to see Dobrik sold out in minutes both days they were available — with students camping out more than five hours in advance to secure them.

Additionally, the day after the Taco Bell vigil, songwriter and producer Finneas, who’s known best for his work with his sister Billie Eilish, claimed Penn State as his alma mater because of their outpouring of support for the chain.

March 3: Penn State Cancels All Spring Break Trips

The first major step taken by the university in response to the coronavirus pandemic was cancelling all spring break trips just days before many of them were supposed to embark. This decision came after a series of restrictions introduced on study abroad trips already in progress, but was far from the last cancellation mandated.

March 4: Foster the People Announced As Movin’ On Headliner, Five Guys Closes Due To Health Code Violations

Still, as the first half of the semester wound down and the coronavirus continued to spread throughout the United States, many believed the rest of the school year would go on as planned — unaware of the changes that were about to arrive.

Movin’ On introduced its 2020 lineup on Wednesday, March 4. Headlined by Foster the People, this year’s lineup also featured Sasha Sloan, Lil Yachty, and Two Friends. It was welcomed with plenty of excitement from students, some of whom declared it Movin’ On’s best ever.

Shortly after the Movin’ On announcement and just days after Taco Bell closed, Five Guys was shut down temporarily due to health code violations. Five Guys was the first of at least three State College businesses to be closed by the Health Department this month.

The restaurant would soon reopen before the current social distancing procedures took place.

March 5: Penn State Says There Are No Plans To Close Campus Due To Coronavirus


March 6: Pennsylvania Reports First Cases Of Coronavirus; Unknowingly, Students Attend Class For Final Time This Semester

Things began to feel very real once Pennsylvania had its first reported cases of the coronavirus on Friday, March 6. The state’s total is now well over 4,000.

March 7: Taco Bell Vigil Is Featured On SNL

As the coronavirus continued to spread, things continued as usual for Penn State. Campus cleared out as many students departed on spring break trips and others returned home. The wrestling team competed in the Big Ten Championships, while the basketball team traveled to Northwestern for its regular season finale. Both teams turned in disappointing finishes, finishing in fourth place and losing to the conference’s worst team, respectively. Both showings ended up being the underwhelming finale of each team’s season.

The biggest news that weekend was when the Taco Bell vigil from just a week before was featured on “Saturday Night Live”‘s Weekend Report segment.

“After you eat Taco Bell, it never hurts to light a candle,” host Colin Jost said.

March 10: Playa Bowls Closes Due To Health Code Violations

Playa Bowls was temporarily shut down after the Pennsylvania Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services found 11 total violations within the store. The restaurant reopened later that day after passing another inspection.

This was the last true day of normalcy.

March 11: Coronavirus Declared A Pandemic, Penn State Cancels In-Person Classes For At Least Three Weeks; Athletics, Big Ten, NCAA Close Games To Fans; NBA Suspends League Indefinitely

The 48 hours of March 11 and 12 will long be remembered as the day the United States finally took the coronavirus seriously as a whole. I’m unsure what it will be known as, but these are the types of days that are given names like Black Monday and have documentaries made about them that are titled just by their dates.

A marathon afternoon and evening of news began with the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus a pandemic. Shortly after, Penn State became the latest school to revise its schedule when it canceled in-person classes until at least April 3. Then, Penn State home games, Big Ten tournament games, and upcoming NCAA Championship events were all closed to fans. Penn State fans, hoping to witness their team’s first Big Dance in nearly 10 years, were disappointed to lose that dream and called the closure the “most Penn State basketball thing ever.”

Later that day, the NBA suspended its league indefinitely, becoming the largest cancellation yet and setting the precedent for every other major sporting event to follow in the coming days.

As the NBA took proactive steps to put its season on hold, the preliminary round of the Big Ten basketball tournament was underway in Indianapolis. Penn State was set to play Indiana the next day after the Hoosiers beat Nebraska. That game never happened.

March 12: Big Ten Cancels Basketball Tournament, NCAA Cancels All Championships For Remainder Of School Year, Penn State Football Suspends All Team Activities & Cancels Blue-White Game, Penn State Cancels Accepted Student Days

March 12 somehow topped March 11 as the NHL, MLB, and MLS all suspended their seasons, while the NCAA made the biggest decision yet, canceling all championship events for the remainder of the school year.

The Big Ten originally canceled all sports for the remainder of the school year, but later amended that to be through April 6. The moratorium has since been extended to May 4.

Penn State football canceled team activities indefinitely and originally said it hadn’t made a decision on Blue-White, but hours later, announced the annual spring game had also been canceled.

…also, The Killers are (planning on) coming to the Bryce Jordan Center on October 6.

March 13: Cafe Postpones 55 Days, Penn State Cancels Summer Study Abroad Trips, UPUA Pushes Elections Back Two Weeks, Wrestling Olympic Trials Postponed

The after effects of the major cancellations were felt as the week wore on, as Cafe 210 West’s 55 Days was postponed, summer study abroad trips were canceled, and UPUA’s elections were pushed back two weeks. The U.S. Olympic Trials that were supposed to take place at Penn State this weekend were also postponed.

March 14: Gumby’s Closes Due To Health Code Violations

Even amid everything happening with the coronavirus, ANOTHER health code violation shut down a State College business. This time, Gumby’s was cited for allowing the unsanitary tattooing of an employee on a food prep table.

March 15: Penn State Bans All University-Affiliated Travel To United Kingdom, Ireland

March 16: Remote Classes Begin, Penn State Announces Prorated Meal Plan & Housing Reimbursements, Borough Council Cancels Activities Through May 10

After spring break, classes resumed for the start of the remote learning period, meeting via Zoom. It’s been a period of adjustment, but nearly three weeks into this new normal, it seems to have gone better than many originally expected.

That night, the university announced it’d offer prorated meal plan and housing reimbursements to compensate for students being unable to use resources they had paid for at the start of the semester. Borough Council also passed legislation canceling all special events to be held during the next two months.

March 17: Faculty Senate Passes Resolution In Support Of Option For Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Grading Policy

Like the initiatives to reimburse housing and meal plans, the start of online classes brought conversations about what accommodations needed to be provided during this unprecedented time. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution in favor of offering students an option to take classes on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis this semester. Under the proposed policy, students would be able opt out of receiving a traditional letter grade and into receiving either a Satisfactory (C and above) or Unsatisfactory (Below C).

A week after this resolution passed at the Faculty Senate meeting, a finalized version would be implemented.

March 18: Penn State Extends Remote Learning Period Through End Of Semester, Announces Prorated Reimbursements On Student Parking

One week after suspending in-person classes for at least three weeks, the university extended the period through the end of the semester and postponed commencement. The decision didn’t come as a surprise, but it still brought plenty of disappointment that the school year (and for seniors, their college careers) had already effectively ended on such unceremonious circumstances.

The university also announced it’d offer prorated reimbursements on student parking, like it was already planning to do for housing and meal plans.

March 19: Eric Barron Says Penn State Won’t Reimburse Tuition, University Announces Two Students Have Coronavirus, Movin’ On Officially Canceled

The Board of Trustees met the day after in-person classes were officially canceled for the remainder of the semester. While addressing the Board, President Eric Barron shared that the university wouldn’t reimburse tuition and that two students who had been studying abroad had tested positive for the coronavirus, the university community’s first two reported cases.

Movin’ On also officially canceled its 2020 festival, even though there was little doubt that’d be the case after the university shut down all other campus events.

March 20: Penn State Locks Buildings, Closes Libraries & Computer Labs, One-Year Anniversary Memorial Of Osaze Osagie’s Death Postponed, Centre County’s First Coronavirus Case Reported, THON Names Next Executive Director, Penn State Says Move-Out Might Be Delayed Until “At Least May,” Tiger King Debuts On Netflix

March 24: University Commits To Pay Employees’ Salaries & Benefits Through April 30, Introduces Satisfactory/Passing/Unsatisfactory Grading Policy & Two-Phased Commencement, Case Of Coronavirus Is Confirmed On Campus, Canvas Crashes

Penn State hosted two town halls on Tuesday, March 24 for administrators to respond to community members’ questions about the current remote learning period. For a total of three hours, President Barron, Provost Nick Jones, Vice President of Student Affairs Damon Sims, and others addressed concerns regarding everything from grading to graduation to plans for the future.

Some highlights from the town hall’s announcements included:

Right before the student town hall was set to begin, the university announced the first case of coronavirus on campus, but didn’t provide much information beyond that it was confirmed.

Additionally, the university had its first major hiccup of the remote learning period when Canvas went offline for a short time that evening.

March 25: Summer Olympics Postponed Until 2021

With qualifying events like the United States’ Olympic Trials for wrestling already postponed and countries announcing they wouldn’t send athletes to this year’s games to compete unless they were postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced it’d hold the 2020 event one year later.

March 26: Department Of Education Rules Penn State Failed To Protect Students From Sexual Misconduct & Must Change Its Title IX Policies

March 27: Mount Nittany Employee Is Reported To Have Coronavirus

March 30: Summer Olympics Start Date Announced, Spring Sport Athletes granted Extra Year Of Eligibility

Although Penn State lacrosse’s Grant Ament has already announced he isn’t returning for his additional year of eligibility, plenty of athletes, whose seasons were cut short by the NCAA’s and Big Ten’s cancellations of sports for the rest of the year, will likely welcome the extra year.

Your ad blocker is on.

Please choose an option below.

Sign up for our e-mail newsletter:
Support quality journalism:
Purchase a Subscription!

About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected]. All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

Penn State Planning $40.4 Million Renovations To Former Art Museum Building

The renovations would aim to create general purpose classrooms after the Palmer Museum was moved to the Arboretum.

No. 8 Seed Penn State Baseball Defeats No. 4 Seed Michigan 7-6 In Big Ten Tournament Semifinals

A two-run home run in extra innings off the bat of Adam Cecere put the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten Championship.

Ace Baldwin Jr. Confirms Return To Penn State Hoops For Fifth Year

Baldwin was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year during his first year in Happy Valley.

Other posts by Anthony

An Open Letter To My Sedated Self: Anthony Colucci’s Senior Column

“No challenge you encounter in college will come close to the obstacles you overcame to get there. However, that drive to do things your own way and disregard for what’s seen as ‘normal’ or ‘expected’ will carry on.”

4 Lessons I Learned From Cael Sanderson After Covering Him For 4 Years

Play Penn State-Themed Family Feud