In an almost twenty minute video sent out on September 1, UMW President Troy Paino announced that students will be returning to campus for classes beginning September 14. The reactions of students and faculty have been a mix of worry, excitement and doubt.
“It is among the most difficult decisions I have had to make,” said Paino in the video. “In the face of such uncertainty, it is also possible that events might force us to change course.”
He announced that 61 percent of classes will remain online, 24 percent will be hybrid courses and 15 percent will be in-person. Faculty also have the option to not come to campus. In a recent email from Wes Hillyard, Director of Academic Services, students were told that if they are in a class that plans on returning to campus, and they wish to remain virtual, they must speak with their instructors, who are under no obligation to offer virtual learning options. If a professor is unable to offer their class in a virtual format Hillyard encourages students to petition Academic Services to switch into a class that offers virtual options. Students have until Friday, September 4 to make this switch. UMW has removed the requirement to live on campus to maintain scholarships.
Many professors have decided to continue teaching remotely for the remainder of the semester.
“I will not be teaching any in-person classes this semester,” said associate professor of English Shumona Dasgupta. “I have preexisting conditions and my home is multi-generational with people over 70. Thankfully, the University was very good about letting faculty do their own risk assessment.”
Some students worry that their peers will not take enough precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m nervous not everyone will follow the guidelines put in place, which could be devastating to our whole community,” said freshman Peter Lermo. “I will go to campus with caution.”
Paino also expressed concern that off-campus partying will spread Covid-19. He admits that, while UMW has never branded itself as a party school, the danger of a superspreader event is still there. Paino acknowledges that the decision to party is an individual one, and that UMW will be unable to completely prevent social gatherings off campus.
Other students are looking forward to returning to campus.
“I think UMW has put in a lot of effort to make it a safe environment, and I really like that they’re leaving the ultimate decision about whether to come back with the students,” said senior English major Piper Giannini. “As a senior, I wanted to spend the last of my time at UMW on campus, so I’m excited to be coming back in that regard.”
Overall, many students have mixed feelings about returning to campus for the remainder of the semester.
“I was sad that this is how things are, but I have accepted that this is going to be a new normal for a little while,” said Lermo when asked how he feels about having an abnormal freshman year. “It could be worse. It’s a nuisance, but we will get through this.”
“I think UMW is the kind of community that can handle this,” said Giannini. “While we’ve been hearing about schools not doing well, we haven’t been hearing about the schools who are (who are often small schools like us). If we all stick to the guidelines, I think we can make this work and make it worth it.”
As of today students are still set to return to campus for in-person learning starting September 14.