Return to normalcy: Fall 2021 in-person classes announced

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Jaxon White, News Co-Editor

University administrators have officially announced that campus is committing itself to return to full in-person instruction for the Fall 2021 semester. Plans are in place for the unmodified academic calendar to also make its return, with New Student Orientation kicking off the year on Aug. 18. However possibly the biggest difference for next semester’s calendar is the inclusion of a Fall break, currently scheduled for Oct. 8-12. Although all dates remain tentative, a Thanksgiving break has also been planned for Nov. 19-28. The announcement includes a statement from Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Robert Midkiff, who noted that “it is unlikely that we will create online programs or offer courses in a virtual format on a routine basis.” 

Associate Professor of Spanish Fernando Blanco discussed that, although he is excited to get back into the classroom, he would be open to accommodating students that may not feel comfortable returning to campus yet. “The transition has not been easy. The most complex and challenging thing has been to adapt teaching strategies to the Zoom environment […] I guess the key concept is flexibility,” Blanco said.

With COVID-19 vaccination rates rising across the country, it comes as no surprise that the University would announce full in-person courses for the fall. But, the question remains whether it is too soon to remove a remote learning option from students that may be greatly affected by the pandemic. “I would feel greatly disappointed if the school offers no remote instruction. I think even the minimum of course requirements should be made available remotely,” Manuel Teshe ’23 said. “I myself would likely decide to go back in the fall, but we must also be mindful of other people who may be in worse-off positions.”

Caleb Wooten ’23 and Kaiya Burton ’23 feel similarly, thinking that it may be too soon to remove the remote-learning option for some students. “The university getting rid of that would be extremely saddening as they would not be considering the circumstances all their students have and how the pandemic has affected people long-term,” Wooten said. 

Similarly, Burton believes that “there are many positive features found remotely that do not have the same impact in person. I think if the University does not offer any remote options, we will be missing out on a type of learning that can be quite interesting.” 

Professor of English Elena Machado had mixed feelings when asked about the announcement. She misses “informally chatting” with various students and peers across campus, but knowing that people are still suffering from the pandemic “makes the idea of returning to a pre-pandemic, fully in-person campus experience a bit stressful.” 

Midkiff states in his announcement that the University will move ahead “cautiously and deliberately.” Still adhering to the COVID-19 class schedule, the fall will maintain half-hour blocks in between classes to give facilities enough time to guarantee cleaning of classrooms. Situational updates will be announced as the Fall semester approaches.

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