Public Relations Manager and Culture Editor
Starting in August, many colleges and universities began to reopen their campuses to students. Most American colleges initially had the same plan for the beginning of the year: to transfer the majority of classes online and welcome students back into the dorms. However, many of those same colleges have since reversed these policies due to new clusters of the virus appearing on campus.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reopened its campus on Aug. 10; however, after one week, it shut down as more and more students tested positive for the virus. In the one week that classes were in-person, 130 students tested positive, which equates to a 13.6% positivity rate at the school. Although the university had precautions in place, with residence halls at 60% capacity and classes at 30% capacity, these efforts were not enough to stop the spread of the virus, and the university had to make the difficult decision to send students home on Aug. 17.
UNC was not the only school to face this issue. In Indiana, the University of Notre Dame experienced high rates of students testing positive as well. Notre Dame welcomed back students and began in person instruction on Aug. 3. As classes commenced, many students participated in off-campus partying, which resulted in a spike in cases. The university proceeded to halt all in-person classes on Aug. 19 to try and reduce the number of confirmed cases on campus. As of Sept. 2, the university plans to gradually reinvite students to in-person classes, since the numbers of confirmed cases have gone down.
After seeing how other big schools have not been able to handle in-person classes safely, Michigan State University decided to make the change and not allow undergraduate students back on campus before their classes started. MSU was originally going to allow undergraduate students to live in the dorms, however they reversed their decision on Aug. 18, just two weeks before the start of classes. In a statement to the community, the president of the university, Samuel L. Stanley, wrote, “While I have faith in our students and all of the members of the campus community, we know that this virus is relentless and is easily spread. We’re seeing on our campus and in other areas of the country that a few mistakes by some are having large impacts on many.”
Recent LGHS graduate Eilidh Slater elaborated on how the University of California, Santa Barbara, is tackling the task of reopening campus. At first, the UC planned to welcome students back into the dorms on campus, but during the week of Aug. 31, they chose to close all dorms. Slater mentioned in an interview, “They said that they were going to be open and then two weeks later they said they were closing all dorms, which was a little frustrating.”
UCSB has changed their plans frequently as they have been closely monitoring the cases in Isla Vista, the college town that sits adjacent to campus. Slater commented that only 3% of instruction is planned on being in-person and she thinks that number is very likely to drop to zero as students return to campus. Most people she knows will either be living in apartments off campus or staying at their own homes. Since the university is on the quarter system, they are scheduled to begin virtual classes on Oct. 1.
Over on the East Coast, New York University, located in the heart of New York City, is taking as many precautions as possible with bringing back their students. Jamie Blough, another member of the graduating class of 2020, and one of last year’s editors-in-chief for El Gato, explained how NYU is making do. As students were welcomed onto campus into housing, students who came from states that were on the watchlist, such as California, had to complete a two-week quarantine without leaving their respective dorm room. The university sends out a “Daily Screener [survey] where students answer questions about any symptoms or anything like that, and to get into any NYU building you have to show that you completed the Screener.” She also shared, “I think NYU is the school taking things the most seriously out of the schools I’ve heard about from friends. We get tested weekly and Governor Cuomo has also been really good about keeping New York contained.”
Her only complaint regarding how the university is addressing the situation on campus was the food. “Our food went viral on TikTok because the meals were so dysfunctional…One day for breakfast I got a small orange and orange juice, and another day I got a ‘salad’ containing lettuce and unseasoned tofu. Luckily, they pulled their act together and realized how bad it was, so they sent us about $300 in Grubhub money which was incredibly helpful.” Regarding classes, they have been having a few in-person classes for certain courses, but the majority of classes are held virtually.
(Sources: UNC.edu, MSU.edu, Washington Post, CBS)