As the spring 2021 semester reaches its halfway mark, New College makes plans for the future concerning in-person and online classes, and other matters related to COVID safety. Here are the details from the Towne Hall meeting on Friday, Feb. 26.
- The Nuances of “Going Back To Normal”
First to speak after introductions was Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Suzanne Sherman on what classes will look like in fall 2021. Sherman began on a hopeful note, stating that the aim is to be back to a “primarily residential, in person, learning experience” and congratulating students, faculty and staff for an exemplary job in adapting to the current circumstances.
Sherman elaborated that due to the six-feet social distancing guideline, some classes with large numbers of students might need to be remote rather than in-person. However, this is partially contingent on where guidelines stand by this August.
“Maybe by mid-summer, things will get to the point where the CDC lowers those guidelines to a smaller distance between people,” Sherman furthered. “I expect that in fall people will still be wearing masks.”
But guidelines are not the only thing that Sherman is concerned about.
“Another issue is how easy by fall semester will it have been in the preceding months for all of our staff to get vaccines,” Sherman said. “Faculty will feel more comfortable teaching in-person if they’ve been vaccinated, and I’m hopeful that a lot of students will have at that point been able to get vaccinated as well. I’m sure students will feel more comfortable if there are high levels of vaccination among the student population as well.”
Looking even further into the future, thesis student and Catalyst Editor in Chief Anna Lynn Winfrey inquired about what the college had planned for spring 2022. Sherman answered by saying that due to pressure from the Board of Governors (BOG), the college is aiming for mostly in-person classes by then, working towards a goal of “five to ten percent distance learning.”
This is not particularly surprising, as the BOG recently convened to discuss the transition back to in-person classes as the pandemic ends. Currently, information obtained from the Office of The Registrar puts the number of full distance learning courses at 136, out of a total of 246. Faculty and staff have a long road ahead of them if such changes are to be pursued fully.
- Peer Pressure For A Good Cause: Getting More Students To Use The Symptom Tracker
After Sherman, Covid Liaison and thesis student Courtney Miller was up next, with a brief update on things COVID-19 related. She praised NCSA President Sofia Lombardi and all the others involved in the planning of a safe and responsible Valentine’s Day COUP and emphasized the need for more students to use the new Symptom Tracker.
“We’ve got the symptom tracker, but not enough people on it, so if you haven’t done it, do it,” Miller emphasized. “If your friends haven’t done it, peer pressure them into doing it for public health.” (For the record, Miller does not support peer pressure.)
- No Walls For The Near Future
Last to speak before the meeting became an open forum was Lombardi on the subject of if more in-person events would be happening in the near-future, with sobering news:
“Walls are not going to be happening this semester, unfortunately,” Lombardi shared. “I discussed with my cabinet and Student Affairs staff and we just don’t think it’s a great move. COUP went pretty well but to have to do a mini version of that every two weeks—it’s just gonna be too much on everyone to keep everybody safe.”
Miller brought up the point that while walls may not be happening, more occasional events could be an option, with enough caution being exercised.
“I feel like we’re at a point where we can absolutely and we see there’s evidence that we can do these great special events,” Miller said, “but we have to be mindful about the throttle and the thrust that we take them at and we really have to be mindful and be a part of this dialogue but again I think that the kinds of events the NCSA is doing are awesome.”