What can senior high school students expect at their college in the fall?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Many colleges and universities are planning to reopen in the upcoming fall semester. Students can expect to forgo concerts, parties and more.

Several colleges are planning to reopen their campuses next Fall 2020. As universities continue to publish guidelines for physical and social distancing, students must be reminded that they are key to ensuring success.

Purdue University President, Mitch Daniels, recently outlined plans for reopening the university’s campus for the Fall 2020 semester.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Daniels shared, “Perhaps most important will be the cultural change on which we have to insist because in another lesson of the coronavirus spring, nothing makes a more positive difference than personal behavior and responsibility.”

Next Fall, college students at Purdue will have to sign Protect Purdue Pledge which will ask them commit to a semester that will forgo concerts, convocations, fraternity parties and more.

“I will urge students to demonstrate their altruism by complying, but also challenge them to refute the cynics who say that today’s young people are too selfish or self-indulgent to help us make this work.”

It is true that universities are placing a lot of responsibility on their students. Many faculty members, however, say it is naïve to believe that all students will adhere to campus restrictions at the level necessary to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19.

Susan Blum, an anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame, worries that student behavior will not change in the way that is necessary.

Blum conducts research focusing on campus culture in the U.S. and has spent decades honing a classroom experience that’s based on mutual respect and trust.

Blum says she believes students are “capable of understanding and wanting to do the right thing, but there are also a lot of competing forces on them that's going to make it really, really difficult to comply with all the distancing that we're asking of them."

We are still unsure how many colleges will be opening in the fall. The American Council of Education surveyed 310 college and university presidents. 53% says it’s very likely, 31% say it’s somewhat likely and 11% said it was somewhat unlikely or very unlikely.

A majority of students want to go back to school. But Blum says it is unlikely they are thinking about what a campus will look like in times of continued coronavirus.

Students will be bored. “There won’t be dances, there won’t be concerts, there won’t be club meetings. What is going to happen between 5 at night and 2 in the morning? Are people going to sit alone in their rooms?”

“[Universities] are asking thousands of students to come within a few feet of each other, but not get closer than that. That seems really, really difficult. I’m sure they are taking risks seriously, but the restrictions are going to be brutal, and asking them to keep the up the whole time they’re here is asking a lot.”

Many universities, like the University of Southern California, will operate on shortened semesters that start early, skip fall break and dismiss students before thanksgiving. Schools like Michigan State University and the University of South Carolina will have online college classes after Thanksgiving to prevent the spread of infection during flu season.

Nearly all colleges will require facemasks, temperature checks and social distancing policies. There will be lots of changes made to enforce physical distancing.

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