Despite the fact that coronavirus cases have been on the rise in the last few months, many colleges and universities have proceeded with partial or full reopenings, welcoming students back to campus for what is sure to be anything but a normal semester.
As the first campuses opened their doors in the last week of July and with many more still to come in the next few weeks, there are many unanswered questions regarding the health, well-being, and safety of campus populations. Will students adhere to rules on mask-wearing and handwashing? How will schools prevent outbreaks from spreading through campus housing?
For one, some schools have decided to only bring back first-year students; others are asking students to quarantine before arriving on campus. In an effort to avoid transmission and community spread, some schools, like Columbia and the University of Texas at Austin, are shifting all classes online and embracing remote learning. At College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, all in-person classes were canceled and on-campus housing was greatly reduced.
“We are shifting all learning to a remote model and we will allow only a very limited number of students to live on campus,” President Philip Boroughs wrote in a letter to students and families as the decision was made.
The pandemic has thrown the process, structure, and even the value of higher education into question for a great many students, parents, and administrators. The question now is not when colleges will figure out the best way to keep their students safe- it’s how.