• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.



Trying to plan a spring schedule amid COVID uncertainty.

September 23, 2021

It’s September, which means that some of us have to start thinking about the spring schedule. That’s because we like to publish it in October so registration can start in November.

In a more normal year, that’s not such a big deal. We could rely on a combination of patterns, projections and experiments to come up with a working draft. We’d have to tweak it as registration patterns emerged, but the underlying structure would be pretty much settled. We’d know roughly what percentage of classes we wanted to offer online, which new or experimental classes we’d give a shot, and how many sections of the gen ed staples to run.

This year isn’t like that.

For spring 2021, we were almost entirely virtual. Given the transmission rates late last fall and the lack of available vaccines at the time, it was basically a command decision.

This year is more complicated. We’re running about 60 percent of our classes in person this semester, as opposed to a pre-COVID 80 to 85 percent. Vaccines are present and plentiful, though not mandated. Happily, we have a mask mandate on campus, and people seem to be taking it seriously.

But it’s hard to project the course of the virus over the next few months. In July, it looked like we could go almost entirely back to normal this fall. By late August, it was clear that we’d need to require masks. Circumstances changed so quickly that we nearly fell behind them. That makes it difficult to project spring with confidence four months in advance.

We know that many students and faculty are glad to be back in person, even if only for some of the time. We know that some students really struggle with virtual classes, especially when it’s all they’re getting. And we know that when we went entirely virtual, the largest enrollment drops were among men of color; I’d hate to default to a modality that tends in practice to exacerbate existing inequities.

All of that said, there are real limits to how much pivoting we want to ask people to do. Midsemester changes are disruptive and exhausting.

So as I often do when I need wisdom, I turn to my wise and worldly readers.

For my counterparts, what are you planning for spring, and why? For others, what do you think would make sense for spring, and why? Any constructive suggestions are welcome. I’m reachable on Twitter (@deandad), or via email at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.


We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Letters may be sent to [email protected].

Read the Letters to the Editor  »

Back to Top