The uncertainty and fear brought about by the pandemic has made students more critical concerning the safety of their teachers and fellow students as well as the decisions made by their universities.
One such decision was from the University of Florida (UF), which drew flak for announcing its return to in-person instruction for the spring semester. Graduate student and organizing chair of Graduate Assistants United Ara Hagopian arrived to campus Sunday afternoon dressed as the Grim Reaper to protest the decision.
Hagopian’s striking display included a scythe that read “Furlough Fuchs First,” a reference to opposition against the furlough policy recently approved by the UF Board of Trustees and president of the university, Kent Fuchs.
“People shouldn’t have to choose between their livelihood and their lives,” Hagopian told The Grainville Sun, in defense of employees who may temporarily lose their jobs under the policy next semester.
However, this decision by the University of Florida appears to be an exception. Other institutions are focused on moving away from in-person instruction, managing the coronavirus threat as the fall semester ends after observing many college communities across the country struggle with a fresh wave of positive cases.
This is taking place even before the Thanksgiving break, which is expected to exacerbate the rise in cases due to the high volume of travelers who will journey home to see their families.
The universities that have made the move in the past week include Lenoir-Rhyne University, the University of Maryland College Park, St. Ambrose University, and Syracuse University.
A recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Catawba County, North Carolina has led Lenoir-Rhyne University administration to push for exclusive online learning. From November 9 until the end of the semester, all classes at the Hickory campus will shift to remote learning. Students are also being asked if they can move back home early.
“Our ability to remain flexible and to adjust to changing conditions during the semester has been critical to our success in managing COVID on our campuses.” Dr Fred Whitt, the president of the Lenoir-Rhyne University, stated.
Beginning Monday, Nov. 9, all LR classes shift to online for the final two weeks (for Hickory campus only). Hickory residential students may choose to move home as early as this weekend on a staggered scheduled. Read the latest LR Coronavirus update at https://t.co/ovFyJOpYtI. pic.twitter.com/t64MW6l8hk
— Lenoir-Rhyne Univ. (@lenoirrhyne) November 7, 2020
The university has clarified that before school started all students and faculty were required to take a COVID-19 test before setting foot on campus. Since then, school leaders have stated that they have witnessed an average of six to nine cases a week with a recent uptick of nine to 12 cases.
While there have been very few cases on campus, Catawba County overall is struggling with a 300 percent increase in positive cases.
University of Maryland, College Park
The University of Maryland’s College Park campus will make the transition to mostly online courses after the Thanksgiving break due to concerns about the rise in COVID-19 cases.
Students with plans to travel from campus for the break are encouraged to remain out of the campus until the end of the semester, while students who will remain in residence halls for the holiday will be allowed to stay until the end of the semester.
The school is also planning to orchestrate campus-wide COVID-19 testing the week before Thanksgiving.
President of the University of Maryland, Darryll Pines, extended his gratitude to all members of the campus community for cooperating with safety guidelines.
“On behalf of every member of our campus community, I thank you for doing your part and for demonstrating such care for your fellow Terps during the past several months. We will emerge from this pandemic strengthened for having faced this challenge together,” he said.
St. Ambrose University
St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa has suspended all in-person extracurricular activities including most athletics from November 9 to November 13. The administration is encouraging students to stay on campus and avoid returning home since course plans have not been altered to fit remote learning beyond the suspension period.
This morning Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, the president of St. Ambrose University, shared the following message with the SAU community. pic.twitter.com/rfmsTrhZNi
— St. Ambrose University (@stambrose) November 9, 2020
Administrators will review the status next week and assess whether the suspension needs to be extended.
Syracuse University has stopped all in-person activities after a surge in coronavirus cases. The university believes the rise in cases is aligned with the rising levels of COVID-19 cases across Central New York and the inability to fully adhere to public health guidelines.
By November 16, the university will be moving all classes online for the rest of the semester in an attempt to ensure the safety of students and support their efforts to travel safely ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Glen Oaks Community College
With four weeks left in the fall semester, Glen Oaks Community College in Michigan announced that most of its in-person classes will be transferred online to prevent the spread of the pandemic on campus.
Glen Oaks President David Devier told Three Rivers News that their experience in the previous semester helped the administration anticipate emergency measures for the fall semester.
“As we move to all online classes for the remainder of the semester, the experiences from the spring have prepared all of us for this possibility,” he said.
St Joseph County is struggling to deal with a rise in positive cases, with over 450 reported since October 23 and a total of 1,544 total cases within the area since the start of the pandemic.
Technical courses, as well as nursing and allied health offerings for laboratory components, are exempted from the move.
Sacred Heart University
The administration of Sacred Heart University (SHU) announced that most of its classes will be moved online from November 9 until the end of the semester.
The SHU website states that the university is under COVID-19 Alert Level, with 77 active cases on-campus and 44 active cases off-campus.
Students that need to complete in-person instruction for course progression and graduation have been asked to stand by while the deans, in consultation with program directors, deliberate about what should be done to accommodate them.
Young Adults and the Coronavirus
The CDC has found that most COVID-19 cases occurred in young adults between August and September, suggesting that a part of the increase could be attributed to college and universities returning to physical instruction.
While young adults are less at risk for mortality from the virus, they can be vehicles of transmission to vulnerable people and the elderly. Universities are being pressed to help create safety guidelines for their students before the start of the Thanksgiving break.