Institutions of higher learning across Connecticut are already preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic to impact the 2021 spring semester.
What will spring break look like during a pandemic? Will it be canceled?
A Sept. 4 memo from Central Connecticut State University hints that the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, which oversee the state’s 17 public institutions, might cancel spring break and end the semester a week early. However, CSCU spokesperson Leigh Appleby said “no [such] decision has been made.”
As far as its instructional plans for spring 2021, “We expect the current mix of on-ground, hybrid, HyFlex, live/remote and asynchronous online learning to continue for the spring semester,” Appleby wrote in an email.
Students like CCSU senior Jenna Hugh remain hopeful that COVID-19 will not define the coming spring semester. Hugh wants to return to campus, but not at the cost of public health.
“[I want to go back] because I’m going crazy at home,” Hugh said. “But not if the world’s still not safe. I’m kinda torn on whether I would be better at school or home.”
CCSU’s Council of Deans reports in its Spring 2021 Schedule Development Plan that courses will continue as HyFlex and online. The target date for CCSU’s full Spring 2021 schedule is set for early October.
As of Sept. 10, CCSU has 52 cumulative COVID-19 cases, including residential and commuter students, and faculty and staff. The university confirmed many of these cases resulted from off-campus partying.
Meanwhile, the University of Connecticut, which has reported 109 cumulative resident cases at its Storrs campus as of Sept. 10, is preparing “the Spring 2021 schedule of classes as if we are returning to a full, in-person term,” according to UConn’s Office of the Registrar.
“However, because there remains a strong possibility that we will need to maintain our physical distancing practices in the spring, our office is working on a plan to quickly gather information from departments about the changes that will need to be made to each class,” the Registrar’s message states.
Eastern Connecticut State University junior Sydney Gidman said she reported a UConn student she met online who told her he’d be having a party, but that the reporting process was confusing and slow until she got through to an operator with the university’s COVID-19 hotline.
“Students are responsible for making good choices, and I also feel like the school has to realize that the younger students may choose instant gratification over long-term risk,” she said.
Gidman believes that Connecticut universities need to take more responsibility and pay more attention to students who break the rules in order to prepare well for the upcoming spring semester.
“The brain of an 18-year-old is not fully developed to make those rational decisions,” Gidman said. “Schools need to take this into account before trusting young adults to adhere to these regulations. If schools want to be open in the spring, more guidance and consideration must be put into these plans.”
At private colleges like the University of New Haven, junior Tiara Starks thinks that the spring semester should stay entirely remote and that no one should live on campus “for the safety of everyone.”
“And I say this as someone who used to be a resident up until this year,” Starks said. “If a second wave is on the horizon, why not take the steps to prevent it?”
According to UNH’s academic calendar, students are set to move in for the spring semester in January. The university does note, however, that the calendar is subject to change due to the ongoing global pandemic. Eight individuals are currently in quarantine at UNH’s campus.
In West Hartford, the University of Saint Joseph’s academic calendar indicates that classes will continue as a combination of online and on-ground in the spring and even into the summer. The same goes for Hamden’s Quinnipiac University. QU’s academic calendar states that online classes start in January.
At a COVID-19 roundtable with the Yale School of Public Health, Gov. Ned Lamont said that he was “a little worried” about colleges and that November will be a “period of risk.”
“This is a very crucial 60-90 days coming up. That’s an urgency I have to repeat,” Lamont said.