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‘Too early to talk about the fall’: Colleges remain uncertain about when they’ll re-open

Schools may maintain shutdowns through next semester

With COVID-19 still spreading across the United States, virtually every American college or university has been forced to switch to remote learning, with physical campuses having been shuttered for the foreseeable future. While the strategy for the present is clear, the future remains hazy. Health experts’ models and projections have changed day-to-day, and the true nature of the virus remains as-yet-unknown. Schools are consequently unwilling to say if they’ll open their campuses in August and September.

The University of California, Berkeley was one of the first campuses in the country to suspend in-person instruction. The school originally closed down for several weeks before instituting remote learning for the remainder of the semester.

Reached for comment this week via email, spokeswoman Janet Gilmore gave a succinct answer to inquiries about the school’s fall plans: “Too early for us to weigh in on that at this point,” she told The College Fix.

That sentiment seems to be prevalent across the state. University of Southern California spokeswoman Lauren Bartlett told The Fix: “We don’t yet have information on the issue.”

Rick Fitzgerald, spokesperson for the University of Michigan, echoed that feeling. “It’s too early to talk about the fall,” he said.

“We are still wrapping up our winter semester and then we will head into spring/summer terms with remote delivery of classes. We’ve been regularly sharing information with our community…and we will continue to share significant developments with our community,” he added.

Fitzgerald also pointed The Fix toward a video message from university President Mark Schlissel, in which the administrator tells students: “We’ll be in touch as more information becomes available. We miss you here on campus. It’s just not the same without you. Stay healthy.” The president did not give any indication in that video what the status of the campus would be in the fall.

‘Our hope is to be back together in the fall’

Of all the schools queried by The Fix, only Ohio University appeared positive about the possibility of in-person classes in the coming months.

Reached via email, spokeswoman Carly Leatherwood told The Fix: “While we cannot yet fully anticipate the trajectory of this pandemic, Ohio University will continue to take whatever precautions are necessary to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. It is, of course, our hope to be back together face-to-face in the fall.”

“If we can safely offer our courses face-to-face in the fall, we absolutely will, and we will put in place any precautions necessary to ensure the ongoing health of our community.”

That university’s response demonstrates the competing interests at play regarding when to re-open Education has no doubt taken a significant hit during the pandemic. While professors will have more time in the months ahead to perfect online learning, it allows for far less instruction than in-person classes, particularly for instructors who have never done it before.

At the same time, universities are also prioritizing the safety of their students, hoping to suss out how the virus will behave in the next few months and whether or not it will be practical to re-open campus after several months of closure.

While the previous two months have tested people’s fortitude, the next two months will test their patience, as everyone waits to see how fully coronavirus has changed the American way of life both in the near future and the long term.

MORE: Study says COVID-19 has wrong characteristics for school closures

MORE: How COVID-19 may completely pop the higher education bubble

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About the Author
Charles Hilu is a sophomore studying political science at the University of Michigan. In addition to reporting for The College Fix, Charles also writes for his on-campus publication, The Michigan Review, and serves as secretary of Michigan's Young Americans for Freedom chapter. After finishing his undergraduate degree, he plans to study law.

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