The University of Connecticut plans on having students back on campus for classes in the fall, after students were sent home in March to shelter during the coronavirus pandemic.
But the announcement of a return to campus life is drawing mixed reactions.
UConn students received an email June 10 from university President Thomas Katsouleas that included some of the draft plans to open campuses for fall classes and housing. According to the email, the fall semester will begin Aug. 31, but after the Thanksgiving break classes and final exams will be conducted online.
Junior accounting major Caroline Warren felt relieved when she received the email, because distance learning has been so difficult.
“I had no motivation to get anything done. I’d procrastinate so much, like I felt like I wasn’t really getting the experience that I wanted,” she said. “You couldn’t have any social life, you couldn’t have, like, anything to look forward to. You’re just sitting in your room doing homework and that's it.”
That said, Warren thinks that while the proposed precautions look good on paper, they may not work in reality, as students resume hanging out with friends.
According to the email, UConn plans to offer courses online, face to face, or a hybrid of the two. Classroom capacities will be reduced, but students still have the option to choose an exclusively online experience.
Senior economics major Elsie Newcombe said she has health problems that put her at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. She believes precautions, including mask wearing, won’t make a difference. She would consider finishing her undergraduate degree online.
“I know I’m doing everything I can,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that other people are, and that doesn't mean that other people are fully policing their own symptoms or will stay home when they have a fever. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to wear a mask that’s going to cover both their nose and their mouth, or wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.”
As a puppetry major, Elise Vanase is looking forward to returning to in-person classes. Vanase said she is disappointed that finals will be online again and that she’ll lose the opportunity to perform her finals in person.
“Art students have a different story because we didn’t just sign up to learn and be in these classes, we also signed up to have physical resources,” she explained. “So for puppetry, about half of the program is about building puppets, and because that was like woodshop tools and they have a ton of materials for us that are at our disposal -- and if we’re not allowed back in school, we literally cannot build anything except for like at-home arts and crafts, which, let’s be real, won’t get anyone a job.”
Still, Vanase believes it will turn out OK if most of the semester is in person, as she and other students will be better prepared to bring needed materials home to complete classwork.
“I think it’s important for people to remember that not everyone’s education is exactly the same,” she said.
Psychology major Dante DeCesare is disappointed in some of the restrictions but understands why he can’t have a normal senior year. DeCesare thinks Katsouleas did a good job stepping in and providing straightforward information.
With all the proposed restrictions, however, he believes that students should not have to pay full tuition, whether they are attending class on campus or in person.
“For those students that are in a position where they’re working every day to pay their way through school, there’s no way -- and for all students in general in that respect -- there’s no way that full tuition should be charged when you’re not getting the full experience,” he said.
According to the email, UConn will provide more updates related to reopening, operating and the coronavirus. Information about the proposed plans is available at reopen.uconn.edu.