USF has been remotely online since the end of spring break due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and returning to campus in the fall seems to be the plan. However, students are divided on how they feel about fall face-to-face classes being cut short.
President Steven Currall sent out an email on Wednesday announcing the decision to reopen campus in the fall, but transition back to remote learning after Thanksgiving break through the remainder of the semester.
“We have decided that after Thanksgiving … all classes and final exams will be delivered in a quality online format,” Currall said. “These modifications are intended to avoid potentially thousands of students, faculty and staff from returning to our campuses after traveling for the holiday.”
Some students are not on board with coming back to school in person in the fall to begin with, and feel as though the safety of the students and faculty is being jeopardized.
Loren Lawrence, a senior majoring in health sciences, is one of those students.
“In all honesty, this decision doesn’t make much sense,” Lawrence said. “We are all coming back in August from God knows where.”
Lawrence said she worries about coming in contact with other students who seem healthy but are actually asymptomatic.
“I really don’t want to go back on campus because I have really bad asthma and I am prediabetic,” Lawrence said.
However, she said she has no choice but to return to campus because some of her classes are not offered online, so she is preparing herself for the fall semester.
“I ordered a bunch of reusable masks, and I bought wipes and gloves,” Lawrence said. “I know how to take care of myself, but I just don’t want to catch it.”
Natalie Sallah, a senior majoring in studio art, feels the decision to reopen is a positive one and is satisfied with going remote after Thanksgiving.
“I thought it was a pretty good decision, especially because three of my classes I am taking in the fall physically cannot be offered online, so the opportunity to even be in person at all is really great,” Sallah said.
Being asthmatic like Lawrence, Sallah is part of a vulnerable community that is at risk to have a more intensive case if the virus is contracted.
“By going remote after Thanksgiving they are not risking vulnerable populations, like myself,” Sallah said. “No one is risking bringing anything back from home.”
Sallah said she is grateful that the university has spoken out on decisions being made so she can plan accordingly.
“I was starting to get upset that USF had not said anything about any plans, so I am happy they have finally started to share information since fall is coming faster than people think,” Sallah said.
Osama Gurwala, a sophomore majoring in biomedical science, said he is overall surprised by this decision.
“I think we should have it online for the first half of the semester and then see if it should still be online or in person,” Gurwala said. “I feel like the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. This is opposite than what should be happening.”
From his experience working at a Starbucks, Gurwala said he feels that indoor dining areas are not ready to be opened, nor is the university.
“I don’t think we are ready to open yet because I think we could get hit harder with a second wave of cases,” Gurwala said.
Although he is excited to go back to class and some form of normality, he does not know if this is the right decision.
Likewise, Ashton Piazza, a senior majoring in theater, said he is glad that he is likely to be graduating at the end of the summer semester because he thinks reopening may not be the best idea.
“I would not feel safe going into an in-person working space in the fall because it is hard to practice social distancing in theater,” Piazza said.
Worried that this decision stems from the university focusing on monetary gains, Piazza said that opening just to close seems counterproductive and indicates the issue is still at large.
“Going remote after Thanksgiving shows there is a health concern,” Piazza said.
Other students are ready to get back in the classroom and think that coming back with preventive measures is necessary for the academic success of USF students.
Connor Sidman, a junior majoring in criminology, is ready to return to in-person classes.
“I know that the disease is real and people have died from it and some families have immunocompromised, but everyone is different,” Sidman said. “Our age at USF is not overly affected by it. Obviously, we need to be taking preventative measures, but our education should not be affected.”
The reasoning behind coming in the fall and then going remote after Thanksgiving does not make sense to Sidman.
“What’s the difference if these people who live in a place like New York come in the fall versus coming after Thanksgiving?” Sidman said. “It just isn’t logical. I think it is way too early to make that decision and I think we are already seeing so much decline in death rates and cases it just does not really add up to me.”
While Sidman said he understands the need for limited travel and reducing students exposure to infected areas, he thinks the education of the student body is in need of returning to normal.
“I think students need to get back on campus and get a proper education,” Sidman said. “If we all wanted to do online school we would do online school. We go to a university for the university resources, socialization and to do classes in person, like labs.”
Students are seemingly split on their feelings toward Currall’s message to the students and the plans the university has, but there is still more information and decisions to come before the fall semester starts Aug. 24.
“Rest assured we are focused on more completely developing our plans for the fall and we look forward to providing additional updates soon,” Currall said.