Campus Plans for Fall Evolve

College announcements fall along a continuum from mostly online to mostly in person. Some unusual elements: scheduled showers and a primarily freshman campus.

June 25, 2020
 
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Every week the fall semester gets closer. Thus, each week comes with new announcements about how -- and if -- campuses are planning to reopen.

Many universities are continuing the trend of ending in-person instruction by Thanksgiving and continuing remotely after that time, in addition to forgoing any fall breaks. Many others are continuing to announce hybrid options. While that can mean a range of things, it roughly shakes out to less time and fewer people in class and more coursework done online.

As has become clear, online and in-person learning exist on a continuum, and institutions are beginning to plot out where exactly they will fall on that spectrum.

At the more extreme end, the University of Massachusetts at Boston announced Monday that it will continue to rely on remote learning in the fall, with only some lab classes held on campus.

"In very important ways -- especially the extent of daily reliance on public transportation and the prevalence of students from communities most affected by COVID-19 -- UMass Boston is unique," Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman wrote in a message to campus. "Public health officials have urged every campus to look to its particular circumstances. As a large, urban, commuter institution, we have done exactly that."

In saying it will be overwhelmingly online, the university joins the California State University system campuses, Eastern Washington University, several schools within Harvard University and several community college systems in the decision, as well as McGill University and Cambridge University internationally.

Many colleges have chosen to divide up time and schedules in a way that allows more online learning, but how exactly that time will be divided is far from uniform.

Some, like the University of California, Los Angeles, have decided to divide in-person and online instruction by course. UCLA announced that 80 percent of classes would be online. The University of Texas at Austin made a similar announcement, with a much smaller number, saying that 20 percent of courses will be online.

Others have chosen to divide in-person and online instruction based on weeks. Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey announced that the first three weeks of the academic year will begin remotely, with in-person instruction beginning at earliest Sept. 8. FDU joins the many colleges ending in-person instruction by Thanksgiving in altering the academic calendar.

Some others have chosen to instead divide up students. Bowdoin College announced Monday that only first-year students, incoming transfer students, seniors with preapproved on-campus projects and those who are not able to learn online at home will be permitted on campus, in addition to student residence life staff. All other students will continue remotely.

That decision is similar to one from Stanford University, which announced that only half of the student body will be permitted on campus at a time, with class years switching each quarter. First-years will be on campus in the fall, and seniors will be on campus in the spring.

There is some indication that graduate students may have different delivery models or rules from their undergraduate peers. For example, at the University of Vermont, though undergraduate instruction will go online at Thanksgiving, graduate courses will continue in person.

Beyond the Classroom

Outside of instruction, other institutions have been releasing new details about how they plan to clean spaces and manage student movement.

At Florida A&M University, a historically black college, resident assistants will be scheduling showers for students to avoid crowded bathrooms.

The University of Georgia will be mailing every student two washable cloth face masks and a thermometer on July 1. The university will also be giving students an additional five minutes to walk between classes, as campus transit options will have capacity limits. The university says it has scheduled commencement for spring 2020 grads for Oct. 16, to be held in the on-campus stadium.

Though some universities did choose to give students prorated refunds for student housing when they asked residents to move out in March, Western Carolina University has said students shouldn't expect any discounts this year.

"In the event of such temporary closures, restrictions, and/or adjustments to the housing services schedule, WCU shall not have the obligation to issue a partial refund or credit for such interruptions or adjustments," the university's updated residential living agreement states. The contract also describes having students move their possessions in an emergency, or potentially having university workers remove items for students.

"WCU will not be responsible for loss or damage to resident's personal items that must be moved and stored in such instances," the agreement states.

In the spring, accounting for and moving student belongings became a logistical challenge for both students and administrations, with some students complaining that their possessions were not properly cared for.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has similarly indicated students "may not" receive refunds if residences need to be vacated. Over 25,000 people have signed an online petition asking the university to reconsider and commit to housing refunds if students are asked to leave campus.

In the background of college plans, coronavirus cases are spiking in many states, and some governors are implementing new restrictions. The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced Wednesday that their states will require anyone traveling from several Southern and Western states to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Quarantine requirements for some out-of-state visitors are still required in Vermont, Maine and Florida. How these may affect student travel, and whether colleges will need to quarantine their out-of-state students, remains to be seen.

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