In March, students across the UNC System, including those at N.C. A&T were sent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the spring semester is over, UNC System president, Dr. Bill Roper, announced the plans for the Fall 2020 semester. The aim is to integrate students back on campus, by the fall. He feels as though the state has seen enough progress with the virus to get students back to their life on campus
During the Spring semester instruction was shifted to virtual platforms with many students expressing that they did not like this change and struggled to finish the school year. “It was difficult. I even fell behind by two weeks, trying to get used to it”. said rising senior, Heaven Smith.
Asia Ruiz-Smith expressed how she felt the pressure of these new platforms students have to now use. “I found it difficult transitioning to online classes because I had to wait for my professors to update their requirements and assignments, while I deal with stress in my personal life.” said the junior.
Twitter was abuzz with criticism of this way of learning, as well as the desire to return to campus. Many students have expressed wanting to get back to campus as soon as possible, but some feel as though this may not be safe for students or administration. The UNC System wants to make this a possibility for students, however, there are changes that must be made for everyone’s safety.
Scientists are suggesting that there will be a second wave of new coronavirus cases in the US, due to the poor management of this pandemic. “Almost every government is talking about lifting control measures…that’s a really risky thing to do right now” says Marc Lipstitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard University.
In North Carolina, confirmed infection numbers have been rising according to the NCDHHS. This is coming around the same time that Gov. Roy Cooper slowly began pulling back restrictions. “Honestly, I would not feel safe on campus. But, for the sake of my GPA and grades, I would go back,” said Heaven Smith when asked about how safe she would feel returning to campus. “ I understand the shortening of semesters, but then again I don’t…it leaves no time for the professors to make sure we understand the material they are covering,”
Students also expressed concerns about course work being more rigorous due to the shortened semesters but the most common concern was about students’ overall safety. “I will one-hundred percent be social distancing,” says Ruiz-Smith.
While the UNC system is planning safety measures for students, it is almost impossible to keep everyone safe. The culture of on-campus life is very social. Even on-campus housing, for most students, includes a roommate. A roommate that you cannot be sure has been social distancing. “If it was actually possible to practice social distancing on campus, I would,” says Smith. Students are experiencing the pressures of attending school while trying to stay safe from a global pandemic looming over them.
“We are making careful preparations to return to campus operations and some level of in-person instruction in August, with our Fall 2020 Planning Committee overseeing the work necessary to make that transition as safe and healthy as possible,” said Chancellor Martin in a memorandum to campus employees with an update about re-opening. In a UNC System meeting, staff members expressed their concerns with returning. Many fear that their health may be at risk.
“I do not think we have had enough progress to go back in the fall, we are actually regressing with the re-opening of some states. I don’t think things will be ‘normal’ again until a vaccine is safely created,” said Asia Ruiz-Smith.