Three months ago, fall semester seemed like the one thing college students could look forward to amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as August approaches, the reality of a “normal” fall semester on campus looks more grim than it did in March.
Many schools have already released official plans for the fall of 2020 detailing how they see life on campus playing out. Schools like The University of Wisconsin-Madison and The George Washington University plan to bring college students back with modified calendars and enforcement of public health measures, while schools like USC recently reversed a previous decision and will now have mainly online classes. Georgetown University released their plan on July 7th, allowing only freshman students on campus for the fall of 2020 and all other undergraduates to take courses online.
Many of us college students have conflicted feelings on how we should go about the fall semester on campus. Part of me wants to be back on campus and have things be as close to normal as possible. The other part of me understands the threat of COVID-19 and that we can’t necessarily trust all college students to take every precaution necessary to protect the health of all students.
A friend of mine sent me a link to a website that had an interactive article showing what on-campus instruction would be like from the perspective of either an undergraduate student or faculty member that are both at a greater risk for COVID-19. It shows an important perspective on why “normal” life just can’t work in the fall.
Another group of college students that must be kept in mind are those that have unstable home situations and would be at a greater risk mentally and physically if their semester was totally online. International students in the U.S. that attend universities that are fully online are at risk of deportation because of ICE's new regulations that prohibit any international student from attending school in the U.S. unless they have in-person classes.
To accommodate every student’s circumstances is a daunting task for colleges and universities. However, it must be done. A plan that favors students that are able to work from home or that are able to rise above university regulations to live off campus is a plan that is inherently discriminatory. As August nears, it is evident that many schools must reevaluate their plans in a way that can protect all college students from harms related or unrelated to COVID-19.
Lily Westover is in the Class of 2022 at Georgetown University.