The Tator

Fossilized skeleton still waiting for campus computer to log in

Taylor Reisdorf

More stories from Taylor Reisdorf

COVID-19 Statements
March 25, 2020

Since last Friday, Centennial Hall’s first-floor computer lab has looked like something out of a history museum. Sitting in front of the first-row, left corner computer is the untouched, fossilized skeleton of Patience Sterling, who was a sophomore nursing student at UW-Eau Claire.

The skeleton sits upright, eagerly facing the screen, its hands propped on the keyboard ready to type. The computer in front of the skeletal remains stares back at the student, its screen reading “Sterling, Patience Grace, Preparing Windows…” as the dreaded loading circle spins and spins.

Claire Luck, a business student and junior at Eau Claire, said she’s also had many issues with the campus computers.

“On multiple occasions I’ve spent entire days in a lab because of the computers taking forever or the printers malfunctioning … such an inconvenience,” Luck said. “Every time it happens, I want to die. All I can do is sit there and wait, staring wide-eyed at the screen. It really takes a toll on the soul.”

Luck said it often feels like she spends more time waiting for campus computers to load than she does actually attending class.

One of Sterling’s professors, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she feels “guilty” for assigning a 25-page review packet for her students to print off. The packet is the document Sterling was likely waiting to access.

From now on, the professor intends to keep her assignments accessible without the use of a computer as often as she can.

Chancellor James C. Schmidt was outwardly distraught regarding the situation.

Since the start of last semester, four other students have met their demise waiting for the inconsistent computers to do their jobs, Schmidt said.

“This is obviously a very serious issue that needs immediate attention,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt, alongside other campus officials, has already begun to think of ways to keep an incident like this from happening again.

A discussion with Dr. Arnold Boyle, a physician at Mayo Clinic, resulted in the surfacing of a potential solution to the problem.

“Well, for starters, if your computer takes longer than a day or two to load, just walk away,” Boyle said. “Leave it. No assignment is worth boring yourself to death.”

The only insight into Sterling’s last thoughts can be found in a Tweet she posted on the night of her death.

“Here I am, yet again, waiting for a computer in Centennial to load. Literally have been here for days. #dying,” the Tweet read.

The event, though tragic, is banding students together.

Keith Ringwald, a senior studying geography at Eau Claire, has especially noticed this newfound bond between students.

“I think this all just functions as a reminder to watch out for one another,” Ringwald said. “It should never get to the point where someone is waiting for as long as Patience did, completely unnoticed.”

The Eau Claire campus and community members alike are working towards creating a statue to put in front of Centennial Hall. The statue will act as a way to commemorate Sterling and the other students whose lives were cut drastically short because of slow computers.