June 17, 2020
As the world continues to face the effects of the unpredictable and highly contagious coronavirus pandemic, institutions everywhere must decide when they will reopen to the public. This difficult decision cannot be taken lightly. On March 11, 2020, Michigan State University announced that all classes would be switched to an online format to prevent further spread of the virus. The intense spread of COVID-19 essentially caused every educational institution across the country to close indefinitely, leaving many students feeling uncertain about the future of their studies.
On May 27, 2020, President Stanley announced MSU’s plans to return to campus for the fall 2020 semester. This announcement was not made lightly, and the administration is working carefully to implement precautions for students and faculty to take to prevent any further spread of the novel coronavirus. These measures include ending in-person instruction on November 25 and having the remainder of the semester taught virtually, including final examinations. International and out-of-state students will have the option of working remotely, and classes on campus will be held both in-person and online. In order to establish these regulations, President Stanley has appointed a COVID-19 Reopening Campus Task Force that is responsible for creating guidelines that will work to keep everyone safe and healthy. The Task Force meets regularly and is working to establish procedures for those on campus to follow, such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Soon, students will be returning to a campus that many have not seen since March. How are they truly feeling about their impending arrival?
Julia Steenland, Samantha Arnone and Madeline Guter are entering their junior year at MSU. After the university announced that the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester would be online, they all returned home for the rest of the summer. They agree that allowing students to return to campus was the right decision.
Arnone feels that she, as well as other students, are not able to learn effectively while doing classwork online. “I do think this was the right decision made by the administration because, from my impression, many students did not like online learning. Personally, I learn better when I am in a classroom setting, compared to being at home,” she states. “I’m very excited to be going back to MSU in the fall and I trust the administration to take the right precautions. I didn’t want to miss out on another semester, so I’m glad they are giving us the opportunity to go back,” agrees Guter. Steenland echoes their sentiments. “I think this was 100% the right decision. It is a big move to return to campus in the fall, but I feel as though it is one that will benefit not only the students, but the faculty as well. Teaching online has to be just as challenging, maybe even more, than learning. The mental health of many students will also benefit from this decision, especially those people who are extroverted, myself included,” she says.
However, they are taking the risks of coronavirus seriously and are prepared to take precautions as classes resume. “Like everyone, I have become more cautious of germs and personal hygiene since the COVID-19 outbreak. I will most likely be wearing a mask to class and around campus. I will also be sanitizing and cleaning my house way more than I previously did. I will keep hand sanitizer in my backpack at all times and try to stay a safe distance away from people walking around. When it comes to the social aspect, I will try my best to not come so close to people at parties and tailgates,” Steenland states.
Despite feeling ready to return to in-person instruction, these returning students expressed some fears they had regarding their arrival back to campus. “Yes I am nervous, because I feel I will be exposed to coronavirus easily, compared to being exposed if I was at home,” Arnone says. Steenland concurs. “Although I am very excited about returning to campus, I cannot help but feel nervous at the same time. There is the constant fear of a second wave of the virus, and also getting it yourself and spreading it to your loved ones. Another fear I have is that when we go back and loosen the reins a little bit, people will completely forget about precautions and we will be sent home from school again,” she says.
This new way of life not only impacts those returning, but incoming students who will be arriving on campus for the first time in the fall. Andrew Grajewski is a transfer student who will be starting his first semester at MSU. While he is excited to officially start his time there, he hopes people continue to take precautions. “I am not nervous to begin on a large campus after the height of the coronavirus pandemic. I feel as if we have all been having to adapt and change our lifestyles to stay safe during this time, so the fall shouldn’t be much different. Along with MSU, my last institution’s classes and events came to a halt in mid-March, so it will be nice to get to a new school and have a new start,” he says.
Although he is excited, he realizes that his first semester on campus will be different than what he initially hoped it would be. However, Grajewski remains optimistic. “I feel like the first semester may not be the ‘normal college experience,’ however, it is what you make of it. I think the setting will be similar, but people will just have to be a little more cautious while they socialize.” Although he believes that MSU made the right decision allowing students to return, he agrees that strict precautions should be put in place. “I hope that the university limits class sizes and practices social distancing in lecture halls. I believe that it will be easier to focus in class if I feel as if I am safe. I also plan on wearing a mask on campus when in close quarters with other students such as on the bus to class, or in class if needed,” he says.
Living in such unprecedented times means that reopening large establishments like universities requires much thought and consideration. Guidelines put in place by MSU’s administration are made to protect students and faculty while maintaining some sort of normalcy. This upcoming year will be unlike any other as rules such as social distancing and wearing masks are likely to be made mandatory. It is vital that this protocol is followed, so that we can protect ourselves and each other and prevent another outbreak of coronavirus.
Claire Bahorski (@clairebahorski) is a junior at Michigan State University studying Human Capital and Society and Humanities Pre-Law, with concentrations in Public and Professional Writing and History. In her free time, she loves spending time with her friends and family and watching movies. She hopes to always continue writing, along with her aspirations of becoming an attorney.