News | June 2nd, 2020

Officials and Students Weigh in on Fall In-person Classes

By: De'ja Stokes
Officials and Students Weigh in on Fall In-person Classes

Due to COVID-19, daily routines have shifted for everyone, especially college students. Along with the rest of the world, social distancing, self-quarantining and wearing masks are the new norm. 

“We’re a part of a system and that system is moving towards a model that will provide us with some form of in-person, as well as a continuation of some components of virtual,” said FAMU’s president, Larry Robinson. 

Universities nationwide have shut down to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 cases. The abrupt end of in-person classes following spring break was unforeseen. Students that previously depended on campus housing were forced to move back home,which has presumably had a negative impact on students.

 Many college students are now questioning when they will be able to return to campus. For Florida, the decision is still pending, but the plan is to reopen schools in some form. No details of the possible reopening of state universities and colleges will emerge until May 28 at the State University System of Florida’s Board of Governors meeting. June 23 is the current day that plans for reopening in the fall will be shared from each of the 12 universities in the system. 

The biggest concern is the alarming cases of COVID-19.  Classes resuming in-person seem to be almost impossible considering that the virus is still at an all-time high and a lot of students reside in “hotspot” states. According to new research, the virus could be spreading at an alarming rate in over 20 states. This poses a threat to health and safety as students are returning from each of those states and could possibly infect more people if classes are in-person. 

Last Thursday, an outline was presented to FAMU’s Board of Trustees stating that only freshman, graduate researchers and experiential learning students are allowed to have face-to-face instructions in the fall. This potential plan received backlash considering that sophomores, juniors, and seniors may be excluded. 

The outline was presented last Thursday to FAMU’s Board of Trustees to receive their input on what is being considered. Robinson believes that the outline was misinterpreted by many, but he is very adamant about freshmen getting off to a great start like everyone else received the chance to do. 

“I just want to emphasize that a plan has not been approved yet, but the plan that we’re looking at would include a cross section of our student population,” said Robinson. 

Robinson and others understand there are a lot of critical experiential courses, such as laboratories, that must be taken in-person. Robinson said the final plan will also take into consideration those aspects as well. 

There are many mixed feelings about the possibilities of in-person classes resuming. For most, the aura of being on campus will be missed, especially for some FAMU students. 

“I honestly enjoy the in-class atmosphere, being able to socialize with my peers and seeing my professors face to face. It is a lot better and easier to understand than online classes,” said Derek Cogdell, a rising sophomore majoring in Business Administration at FAMU. 

Classes transitioning online this past semester was not easy for everyone and some are not looking forward to classes possibly being online again. “I need to be able to have a face-to-face interaction with my professors in order to be successful. Also, in-person classes are better for my procrastination,” said Maya Solomon, a rising sophomore majoring in Sociology at FAMU.

Not only were classes forced to be online, but one of the most awaited events for college students was cancelled. College graduates everywhere could not celebrate the official end of their collegiate journey with a traditional commencement ceremony. The upcoming graduating seniors of this fall are hoping for a different outcome as they want to enjoy their last undergraduate semester.

“I support having classes in the fall because I want to actually get to walk the stage after I graduate,” said Ivan Roundtree, a senior majoring in Health Science at FAMU. 

Other universities in Florida, like FSU and UCF, also have plans to reopen for the fall. As plans are formed, both schools are sharing information with students, faculty and staff. 

“Florida State University is continuing to develop its plan for fall semester with our highest priority being the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” said Dennis Schnittker, director of University News and Digital Communications at FSU. 

Although UCF’s plans are not complete, their efforts include hybrid classes that involve both face-to-face and remote class sessions. The school is also working on a plan that will put a specific capacity in classrooms. Heather Smith, the director of Media Relations at UCF, said “capacities will most likely decrease significantly and classrooms will [average] 33% to 50% of regular capacity, depending on the room.”

For many students, spring semester was their first semester of college. For Emory Lowe, he explains the semester as an unsettling experience. It was his first semester at UCF and the transition to online classes was hard because of he majors in Computer Science. It forced him to question whether he even wanted to stay at the university. However, online transition aside, Lowe believes fall should stay online if there is not a public vaccine by then. 

“I really disliked spring semester being cut short. It was my first semester at my dream school, and I didn’t get to experience it like I wanted to,” said Lowe. 

New developments are still surfacing for the virus and for each school’s plan in the fall. The good news is that Florida schools’ plans will be finalized next month. Officials at FAMU, FSU, and UCF collectively note that no matter what the plan consists of everyone should remember that operations will not be completely normal because health and safety are the top priorities.