Only 18 percent of all undergraduates lived in university-affiliated housing in 2019, according to Temple University’s 2019-20 factbook.
However, the remaining 82 percent partially includes people like me, who commute to campus.
Back-to-back in-person and online classes puts commuter students in a dilemma.
Temple acknowledged this, stating students “will be able to reserve spots in the TECH Center, Charles Library or certain recreation facilities, and new areas will be available on campus,” like “Zoom Rooms,” in an email sent out by the university on July 30.
But unless the university uses staggered schedules and drastically reduces its on-campus capacity, it is unlikely they will be able to accommodate commuters. Students who have less than a 10 minute walk to their apartment or residence hall can probably make it to class with a few minutes to spare, but that is virtually impossible for commuters who are driving or taking public transportation home.
Additionally, all commuters cannot simply switch their classes from in-person to online or vise versa to fit their needs.
“While not every course will be offered in multiple formats, we are working hard to provide you with as many options as possible,” President Richard Englert wrote in an email to students on July 15.
Olivia Siegel, a senior music therapy major who has commuted the past two years from her home 15 minutes away, will experience schedule conflicts with back-to-back in-person and online classes.
“I’m just hoping that me and my friend are able to book a room in the library for that chunk of time,” Siegel said. “But, if not, I’m okay doing class outside if it’s on a good day.”
Commuters like Siegel should have no problem booking a room for the library in advance or finding available seating inside, said Sara Wilson, the assistant director of outreach and communications for Temple libraries.
“They can do that right on our website,” Wilson said. “And in terms of other seating throughout the building, that will be first come, first served, but it has been reduced.”
Non-commuters need to be cognizant of limited space in university buildings by not booking a room unless they absolutely must. Likewise, professors will have to be understanding of commuters who are rushing to find public spaces to utilize for their back-to-back online classes and not penalize them for being late or missing class.
James Salazar, an English professor, is teaching all online classes this semester and anticipates the hybrid schedule will create many barriers for students.
“There’s personal issues that get in the way of you being able to do your normal routine at school,” Salazar said. “I think there’s gonna be all kinds of other difficulties related to the technology.”
Along with academic challenges, hybrid learning can also pose some public health threats.
Siegel works part-time at a daycare and is worried that the return to campus might impact her students.
“I don’t want to get the kids sick if I got sick somewhere on the subway,” she said. “And I don’t want anyone to be in that situation.”
Temple has a duty to be more conscious toward its commuters and their needs because they can be carriers of COVID-19 on and off campus. As members of Temple’s community, we should take an interest in our commuter classmates and their safety.