Looking forward: Spring 2020 semester

Nicole Yeager, Assistant News Editor

The University has made it nine weeks into the fall semester and, due to all community members’ commitment to safety and diligence, may very well finish the semester on-campus. This turns our attention to the next challenge: the Spring 2021 semester. On Oct. 1, just over halfway through the semester, students received an email from University Provost Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak detailing the current updates for the upcoming semester. Mermann-Jozwiak began by stating, “As the pandemic continues, we have finalized necessary adjustments to the spring semester calendar, with a goal of safely continuing in-person education with our current model of hybrid instruction.”  

The start of the Spring 2021 semester has been pushed back from the usual mid-January date to Feb. 1, 2021. This, paired with our early end date of the current semester, results in a 10-week winter break. Mermann-Jozwiak’s email explains that doing so ensures professors ample time to prepare their courses for both in-person and remote instruction, allows for pre-arrival COVID-19 testing again and guarantees careful planning of the move-in process. 

The email also shared plans to eliminate spring break, similar to the lack of a fall break this past semester. While the reasoning behind both of these decisions revolves around safety concerns and a matter of controlling the unnecessary spread of the virus, they pose issues concerning the mental health of students and faculty alike. Many students have reported feeling increasingly stressed and overworked with the absence of a mid-semester break to recharge. Additionally, to touch upon a more trivial yet understandable matter, some students feel that they are missing the more fun, social side of their college experience.

Kate Normandin ’23 spoke to these concerns about mental health, from both a lack of breaks and an overall sense of stress. “While I am excited that students are allowed back on campus after a (hopefully) successful fall semester, I am worried about the mental health and fatigue students and professors will experience. I think that the school will have to take measures to ensure students are staying engaged and professors have support as well,” Normandin said.

As for the end of the upcoming spring semester, classes are set to end on May 7 and the last day of finals will be May 17. Unlike the current semester, the administration’s goal is to “hold final exams in person.” This end date, remaining similar to previous semesters, and the hoped-for format of finals is the University’s first step toward assuming a sense of normalcy that resembles pre-COVID life. Furthermore, while Commencement is scheduled for May 23, Mermann-Jozwaik noted that “plans will depend on health and safety limitations presented by prevailing pandemic conditions in early 2021 and are subject to change.”

While this sense of uncertainty is similar to that of this past summer, the University community shares the beginnings of a newfound sense of hope. “After a very successful fall semester under the new circumstances we are living under, I’m very hopeful about the promise of the spring. At the moment, however, due to the lack of a COVID-19 vaccine, I don’t foresee any easing on the social distancing rules on campus for the spring semester. The most important priority should be that of providing a safe and healthy environment for students while still practicing social distancing,” Vice President of Administration Caroline Tattersfield ’22 said. 

“Unfortunately, I think the spring semester will be quite similar to our current semester. I fear the pandemic will not rapidly disappear and we will once again have to be extremely precautious with health and safety. However, we are lucky to have had a fairly successful fall semester with some in-person education and I think we can have an even better one in the spring,” Bucknell Student Government (BSG) President Wilder Brice ’22 said.

Lastly, the Spring 2021 semester will again offer students the option to learn in-person or remotely, while also featuring a hybrid model of instruction. Students who opt for remote learning are encouraged to discuss their choice with their faculty advisors first; students must complete the “remote learning form” in the email by Nov. 13. As was the case this semester, those who are remote will not be allowed to return to campus, will not be charged for room and board, will have their financial aid packages reviewed and adjusted and will not see any change in their tuition.

“The upcoming spring semester actually holds a lot of high hopes for me, particularly because I believe this was a semester of hope. Bucknellians have done wonderful this fall limiting cases here on campus, and I am glad to hear a similar plan will be implemented next spring. As an online student this semester, I am proud to see how well my school has done, and feel safe and excited to be returning next semester,” Trevor Gulock ’22, a current remote student, said.

“I am really optimistic that next semester will run smoothly, I think it is pretty impressive how well this semester has played out so I think it makes a lot of sense to keep the same plan in place. I am hopeful that both students and faculty will continue to be compliant with the COVID-19 guidelines so we can have another epic semester on campus,” Vice President of Operations Molly O’Neil ’22 said. 

More information is expected from the administration in the coming weeks regarding the details of the upcoming Spring 2021 semester.

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