After finishing the semester online amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, college students across the nation were left wondering if they would return to their campuses in the fall.
On June 15, a message from Shippensburg University President Laurie Carter announced that SU would provide in-person instruction while simultaneously offering online classes for remote learning for the fall 2020 semester. These options allow students to reside off campus.
Since then, incoming and returning students have returned to SU’s campus and begun preparing for the new semester. However, upon arrivial students soon realized that the campus is not in the same condition as it was when they left.
Everyone knew it would be different. All aspects of our lives are complete different now than they were last fall before the pandemic. Because of that, SU officials have made various changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials have sent emails updating the campus community of the changes they have made to campus. SU has spent the summer renovating the campus to ensure students’ safety. These renovations include convenient hand washing and temperature check stations, as well as reconfigured venues for social-distance approved movement.
Many policies and rules around campus have changed including the guest policy for residence halls. Non-students and off-campus students will not be permitted for overnight visits. On-campus residents are also not allowed in other dorm rooms in which they are not assigned.
Everyone on campus is now required to wear a mask — both indoors and outdoors — for the safety of others.
Though SU’s decision to bring students back to campus for the fall semester seems well-thought out and accommodates remote learning, the choice of on-campus living still receives criticism.
Unlike other schools, SU gave students the choice to attend remotely or in-person. This gives some power and control back to students in a time in which many feel powerless.
On one hand, allowing students to reside on campus allows incoming freshmen to fully experience their first year. Albeit, there are restrictions in that experience but meeting new people and creating lifelong friends is enough of an experience to attract students to campus.
It is also worth mentioning the hands-on learning opportunities the campus provides. Last spring, students in lab classes lost valuable, hands-on classroom time.
While faculty will have virtual office hours for remote learning, they are also encouraged to hold in-person sessions as well. Moreover, the campus also provides computer labs, a bookstore and library for scholarly use. This helps the student who prefers hands-on learning over remote learning.
On the other hand, students returning to campus can cause anxiety for those who fear contracting the virus. Though SU is being very cautious by implementing stricter cleaning regimens and reducing the capacity in venues, it does not necessarily mean that the virus will not be spread. The coronavirus is community spread and the Raider community hails from all parts of the nation and world.
The decision to come back to campus is a big one and holds a lot of responsibility. SU has done a lot to make the campus safe; however, it is ultimately up to us as students to be responsible and keep the campus safe.
It does not matter if you believe returning to campus is a smart decision or not, if you are here, you have to abide by the updated code of conduct.
We have returned to campus but the coronavirus is still present. Face masks must still be worn, daily self-checks for virus symptoms must be made and social distancing rules must be followed.
In order to remain on campus until Nov. 20 we must take responsibility for our health and the health of the community members around us. The ending of spring 2020 was not ideal. Wear a mask for yourself and your community members so we can stay in school.