Safety remains the primary concern as colleges and universities continue with plans to reopen. Due to the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic, American colleges continue to make adjustments to both physical spaces and social interactions that will reshape the future of in-person learning, at least for the coming months.
Queens University is no exception. On Sept. 22, President Daniel Lugo sent an email announcing a return to in-person learning for the spring semester. This “Royal Return 2.0” plan highlights the precautions and preventive measures the administration plans to implement, such as a testing plan, requirement of social distancing and facemasks and reduced density in residence halls and classrooms.
President Lugo also introduced two accountability tools— the “daily symptom checker” in partnership with Novant Health where students will fill out a form every day about their symptoms or lack thereof and the community covenant, a form students will fill out pledging to one another that they will keep campus safe.
“Students are the beginning and end of our ability to stay open,” said Lugo in a recent interview with Queens Chronicle reporter Alexandra Cogan. “You can do the right things,’’ he continued. But “if there is no student buy-in, it is pointless.”
In an Oct. 7 “COVID-19 Update” email, Lugo listed more campus-change specifics, including adding signs to support physically distant traffic flow, determining maximum capacity for classrooms, installing plexiglass barriers in offices, and equipping the campus with sanitizing resources.
“We have diagrams for every single classroom that has a lower density, so there will be social distancing, but I think masks are going to be critical,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Sarah Fatherly.
Although the Queens administration is taking the necessary precautions to re-open this spring, both Lugo and Provost Fatherly acknowledge the needed collective effort by students, faculty and staff for Queens to stay open.
“We are all fatigued and will make mistakes, but we have to motivate each other,” said Lugo. “Cut the crap. Put your mask on.”
“I hope that everybody who can be on campus sees the opportunity,” said Fatherly. “We want to be there, and I hope that we will do the things we need to do to stay there.”
Others are not as optimistic as Fatherly regarding the return to campus. Junior Naomi Matthusen is skeptical about the return to campus, given the continued rise of COVID cases.
“In all honesty, I thought there was no way we were going to go back in the spring,” said Matthusen. “I still hesitate a little bit because I do not think we will be any better off numbers-wise in January than we were in August.”
Despite some skepticism, Queens is carrying on with re-opening protocols and procedures. It is hard to say what the coming months will bring, but for now, Queens is taking on the new normal of hybrid learning.