The COVID-19 disaster has come to college with startling speed. Within a week of reopening, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had reported four clusters of five or more cases in two residence halls, a private apartment complex housing some students, and a fraternity, forcing the school to frantically backtrack on its plans. Michigan State was not far behind, suspending in-person classes in the face of rising case counts.
When fall semester instruction begins online and in person Sept. 2, the 3,296 members of Cornell’s Class of 2024 – the first to start their college journeys in the coronavirus era – just might be the most nimble group in the university’s history. “Coronavirus is a challenge, and this incoming Class of 2024 reminds us that Cornell students embody ingenuity and fortitude,” said Jonathan Burdick, vice provost for enrollment. “This talented entering class, my first, has been flexible and understanding in every way, and these students are not going to let anything hold them back.”
On Saturday, Lauren Pope—a biology Ph.D. student at Stanford University—received an email detailing a “graduate student compact” she’ll be required to sign before she can register for the fall semester. The document lays out expectations for how students will behave on campus given fears of COVID-19 transmission, as well as punishment procedures for those who don’t follow the rules. Pope—who returned to the lab in June to resume her research and lives in on-campus housing—is concerned about the one-sided nature of the agreement. “I would be more comfortable signing this … if there were more precautions and transparency on how [the university is] going to keep us safe.”
Colleges got a schooling in virology this week. After ignoring recommendations from the local health department to hold virtual classes this fall, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill started classes on August 10, in person. Within a week, with outbreaks spreading on campus, the school abruptly shifted to online learning. A day later, also facing an outbreak, Notre Dame did the same.
After one week of in-person classes, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill closed its doors to stop uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. Four hotspots surfaced in student housing and a fraternity on that campus. Make no mistake. A similar story will likely play out at the University of Kansas if it follows through on plans to bring students back to classes in person starting Monday. Already this week, other schools, such as Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame, suspended in-person learning because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
A new editorial in the student newspaper at the University of Kansas slams the school’s plans to start in-person classes next week and demands a switch to remote learning. With classes set to start Monday, the University Daily Kansan’s scathing editorial accuses school officials of not telling students the truth about reopening the campus and insists that they follow a science-based approach to starting the 2020-21 academic year.
MOSCOW, Idaho — Scott Green, president of the University of Idaho, sent a memo to all students and faculty titled “It Is Up to You to Keep our Campus Open”. The memo came several days after students returned to the UI campus and reports were made of off-campus parties. Green thanked students and staff that have been following the Healthy Vandal Pledge but asked those who have not been to reconsider their actions.
For the sake of Baltimore’s health and students’ safety, University President Ronald J. Daniels and the University’s leadership must work more collaboratively with faculty, students, staff and the people of Baltimore. As July gave way to August, the University was still making preparations for the return of undergraduates to Homewood Campus, despite the rising number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Baltimore, which doubled in the first two weeks of July. As new cases continued to rise, University leadership in Garland Hall signaled heightened concern.
When we learned the institutions within the tri-campus community intended to have students return for the fall semester, we experienced a variety of emotions — excitement to reunite with our friends, relief to return to the classroom following the difficulties of remote instruction and reluctance to acknowledge that the in-person semester we were promised could be taken away at a moment’s notice. Two weeks into the semester, our worries are close to reality.