Updated: Mar 31, 2021
On the heels of the exciting announcement of returning to in-person instruction this Fall from Chancellor Christ, tons of emotions and questions were raised surrounding the whole process. With thousands of students and faculty to account for, the announcement was met with understandably mixed reviews. For some, they are ecstatic for life to return to “normal”, in-person classes, activities with peers and getting the fullest “post-pandemic” campus experience possible. For others, a real sense of hesitancy exists. Concerns over the safety of the return rollout, vaccination requirements, and other looming questions that address future outbreaks on campus. Both camps have real and valid facts supporting their stances. These responses are a perfect microcosm view of how the nation is feeling about post-Covid life. As Cal students, we pay tuition for the full use and experience of the campus facilities, programs, and faculty. During this time, we have paid full tuition and received half of the experience we paid for.
During the shelter in place era, many departments had to reimagine what instruction would look like for an online learning environment. Many classes that relied on in-person and interactive learning, for instance lab courses, theater, dance arts and the majority of the sciences have suffered. Students are feeling that they are missing integral portions of these classes that cannot be replicated in an online format. The online class environment is a very difficult space to form a bond with the tangible. For the majority of us receiving the theory portion of our studies online has been fine, however, the doing has been the issue. In most programs, there is an element of performing or applying acquired knowledge. But how can you test formulas, perform social investigations, rehearse, and execute a collaborative play or musical successfully online? The people piece is absent, the tangible performative piece of being a student is missing, and that is overwhelmingly being felt by the student body. Let’s not forget that Zoom fatigue is a real and present issue, being locked to your computer screen for 4-8 hours each day can test anyone’s fortitude as an engaged student. So how do we move forward?
The other day I discussed with some other students about Fall 2020/Spring 2021 admitted students. Jokingly, I brought up the subject of getting an orientation redo. We have two semesters worth of students who theoretically have never stepped foot on campus. How will their transition be addressed? We often speak of the mental and physical toll that students are paying during this pandemic, but have we really dissected the financial strain this presented or will present for some? With lots of job options that could work with a full-time student schedule now off the table, how have students been making ends meet? What will the financial toll look like for those moving to the Bay area, with the high cost of living, rent increases, and affordable housing options low. How are we making sure that attending in-person classes does not turn into a financial burden or a case of housing insecurity or worsen the current student loan debt crisis?
With roughly 19% of the adult population in the U.S. already vaccinated, and 50% more planning to get vaccinated there's a healthy chunk of people taking advantage of the vaccine. That also leaves 35-40% of adults undecided or opting not to get vaccinated. So comes the question, what will be the requirements for students to return to campus? Will the vaccine be required for all students? Will there be a hybrid/online format for students who chose not to be vaccinated? What happens in the event of a covid positive student or instructor in the classroom? What will contact tracing look like for a campus full of people? What happens to the class if a quarantine situation is implemented? All these questions and more surround the return to campus life.
After a LONG year of being in lockdown with students unable to utilize all the offerings of the university. Cal seeing a decrease in revenue from sporting and other events, memorabilia sales, housing, and tuition. What is the plan that is safe, equitable for all, and timely? We are all eager to get back to campus life at Cal. The hope would be for complete transparency in the process of returning, clear direction for preventative care for the student body and faculty. Just as eager as we are to return to campus, we are also cognizant of the fact that there is still a pandemic going on. There must be copious amounts of continuous student support in place during the transition back to in-person classes. The focus of the return rollout must be ensuring that the physical, mental, and financial wellbeing of the student body is addressed properly.
Cary Funk and Alec Tyson, “Growing Share of Americans Say They Plan to Get A Covid-19 Vaccine – or Already Have,” March 22, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/03/05/growing-share-of-americans-say-they-plan-to-get-a-covid-19-vaccine-or-already-have/#:~:text=Taken%20together%2C%2069%25%20of%20the,views%20of%20COVID%2D19%20vaccines,