When it comes to higher education, the matter of going about the fall semester seems to be one that is approached differently by each college/university. While there are some colleges that have already decided to remain physically closed for the fall semester, others are pursuing different ideas.
Harvard University is one of only 8% of colleges in the United States, so far, that has decided to fully switch to online learning for the remainder of the fall semester. Their decision not to have students and faculty return, of course, revolves around public health concerns and safety, which they project will remain sensitive for the rest of the year.
Meanwhile, Ithaca is one of the many colleges that are postponing their start date for the semester. While undergraduates usually return to campus around late August, Ithaca and multiple other institutions across the country are only going to allow their campus to fully reopen towards September-October, in lieu of the assumption that COVID-19 will not be as prominent of a threat then.
Lastly, of course, there are some universities that do not plan to go off track at all in regards to the timeline of physically reconvening. New York University, for example, still intends on having their students move into the residence halls during the last week of August. Their plan is to have small classes still meet in person, while having larger classes (specifically classes that are being taken by over 40 students) be instructed online.
All of these changes are undoubtedly overwhelming to returning students, especially those with compromised learning spaces at home, those that have underlying health conditions and are especially vulnerable to coronavirus, and those that are from outside the country. Although there might not be a stagnant ‘right or wrong’ answer, each and every single one of the approaches bring up many unanswered questions. How will students without easy access to computers retain information that they need to prosper in their studies? Will athletes still be able to participate in sports? How will social distancing be implemented on campus? While all of these very valid concerns might not get the attention they deserve in this time of uncertainty, we can only wait and see if these plans can actually be carried out properly.