While the University of Connecticut may be three weeks into the Spring 2022 semester, students have only been on campus and attending in-person classes for one week at this point. The university announced on Dec. 30, 2021 that they would begin the spring semester virtually, citing hopes of protecting community health as the reasoning behind this decision. Residential students moved back in the weekend of Jan. 28, 2022 and began in-person classes the following Monday. This transition from starting the semester online to being back on-campus has been a difficult one.
The Daily Campus reported students struggling with online learning in its most recent iteration, especially those students experiencing housing or food insecurities. While students could apply to live on-campus during the initial virtual period, the limited nature of these spots required students to demonstrate a need for such housing. If approved, students were unable to leave campus for any reason during the period of remote learning, and also experienced limited dining options and no guests or access to the Student Recreation Center. Moreover, in a Feb. 2 2022 email from Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Eleanor JB Daugherty, UConn reported a significant number of positive tests since the return to campus. Thus, the campus is remaining in the red COVID-19 alert level for the time being.
With the overwhelming uncertainty in the air of what the rest of this semester will look like, UConn should be aiming to make such transition periods as painless as possible for students. Accommodations are necessary, as it is immensely difficult to be a student right now. When the pandemic started in March of 2020 and UConn made the transition from entirely unrestricted, in-person schooling to entirely online education amid initial lockdowns, it was justification enough for severe changes to the university’s pass/fail policies. Specifically, after the pandemic began, UConn made adjustments so that students were able to declare classes as pass/fail toward the end of the semester rather than during the initial few weeks, and there were fewer restrictions regarding which classes could be put on pass/fail. This semester, students were expected to switch from virtual learning to in-person learning in a matter of days in addition to the increased threat of sickness due to more contagious COVID-19 variants, and they did not receive any additional support from the university.
Additionally, move-in this semester was perhaps more confusing and difficult, considering the requirement for all students to submit pre-arrival testing. This is not to say the increase in COVID-19 testing was a bad idea or not worth it, but it was up to students to arrange their own testing with little help from the university.
What’s more is that there is no protocol for how a student will arrange to keep up with their classes if they test positive or need to quarantine during the semester. It is up to students to reach out to professors, and it is up to each professors’ discretion as to how to handle each situation, when really a universal policy requiring some alternative materials in the event of sickness or absence would be in students’ best interests.
COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon and this fact needs to be addressed. In essence, UConn needs to better accommodate its students with the same resources and flexibility they provided when the pandemic began. That requires open communication between students and administration, and ample warning before any decisions impacting students are made.