Feeling ‘in the dark’: Students react to Temple’s pause on in-person classes

Temple University announced Sunday in-person classes would be suspended for two weeks after active student COVID-19 cases rose to 103.

(Left) Mia Graupera, a freshman engineering major, Sarah Barnes, a a freshman media studies and production major and Olivia Keener, a freshman psychology major, sit outside the Tuttleman Learning Center on Aug. 24. On Sunday, the university announced it will suspend most in-person classes for two weeks, after reporting an increase in COVID-19 active cases. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After meeting her professors and classmates in-person last week, Johanna Bauer anticipates difficulties at home with her courses transitioning online, like working around her roommates’ class schedules and understanding class content virtually, she said. 

“It’s definitely going to be a little trickier of a learning environment to try to understand all of the material without that face-to-face interaction and connection with your professors,” Bauer said. “I’m a little bit worried about online classes in that respect.” 

Temple announced Sunday it would move most classes online until Sept. 11 after the semester began classes both in-person and online one week ago. While classes will move online and campus buildings will remain open during the two weeks, some students now worry about the switch to a virtual course load, when a final decision will be made on the semester and what it will mean for those living on campus.

“I think that Temple shouldn’t have opened, period,” said Sarah Barnes, a freshman media studies and production major.

The university announced the decision to move online after reporting an increase of 58 to 103 active COVID-19 cases among students this weekend. 

The number of students attending classes in person dropped from 27,000 last year to under 9,000 this year, while the number of seats in Temple’s classrooms dropped from 15,000 last year to 3,300 this year, The Temple News reported.

Classes deemed essential by colleges will be able to meet in-person, according to Temple’s announcement. The university will reassess holding if in-person and hybrid classes again after the two weeks.

Barnes, who lives in 1300 Residence hall, had classes that were in person this week. She worries about the public health risk in students socializing around campus, she said. 

“We were all walking around campus positive or negative and now it’s like constantly spreading,” Barnes added. “I really feel like the students are in the dark about what’s happening.”

While in-person classes are suspended for two weeks, Main Campus buildings like Charles Library, the TECH Center, the Howard Gittis Student Center and dining and residence halls will remain open, The Temple News reported. 

Mia Graupera, a freshman engineering major who lives in 1300 Residence Hall, thinks students should be sent home from the residence halls since she doesn’t think transitioning to online classes will stop cases from increasing.

“If we’re already at that many cases after a week, it’s going to get worse,” she said.

Temple said COVID-19 case numbers in residence halls have remained low. The university attributes some of the current active cases to small social gatherings among students, which the Philadelphia Department of Public Health discouraged in new guidelines released Saturday.

Kyra Beckish, a junior public relations major who lives on campus, was not taking any in-person classes. She moved to campus because she wanted to have the experience of living on her own, Beckish said. 

While she said she’s seen students disobey social distancing guidelines, she doesn’t feel they deserve all the blame for the rising number of COVID-19 cases on campus, Beckish said.

“I think there’s dual fault at it,” Beckish said. “I think it’s Temple’s fault for opening up in the first place, but I’m not going to say that the students are not completely at fault. They should be social distancing and they should be listening to guidelines because they are here, but they shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

Bryanna Laws, a sophomore nursing major, was not surprised by the suspension of in-person classes. She only had one in-person lab class at Temple’s Health Sciences Campus, so her schedule will not be greatly affected, she added. 

Laws anticipates the rest of the semester will be held online, she said.

“What is two weeks going to do?” Laws said. “I don’t think it’s classes that are causing the new cases. I think it’s just kids not wearing masks, going out and doing whatever they want.”

Temple University Student Body President Quinn Litsinger feels cancelling class for two weeks is a good initial step, but it will not be enough to stop the uptick in COVID-19 cases, he said.

“Certainly it’s on all of us right now to make smart decisions, but at the same time the university needs to take responsibility and accountability for enabling this to happen in North Philadelphia,” he added.

Litsinger feels he must shut down campus completely to protect the residents in neighborhoods surrounding Main Campus, he said.

On Aug. 21, three days before Temple reopened campus for in-person classes, Temple Student Government called for the university to move to all online instruction and close campus housing, The Temple News reported.

“All these things that the university promotes so much, like the Good Neighbor initiative, we can’t be good neighbors if the university is enabling the spread of the global pandemic,” Litsinger added.

Jeremiah Werhoff, a first-year law student, said he hopes if the university decides to transition to a completely online semester, they will notify students sooner rather than later.

“The only thing I don’t want them to do is go at like a two week interval where every two weeks they decide if they’re going to keep online,” Werhoff added. “If they are going to go online, I just want them to make the decision.”

Werhoff had three in-person classes that will be moved online during the two-week suspension. At the beginning of the semester, his professors told him they were ready for a possible transition to online, he said. 

In the Temple’s return plan, the university stated they were prepared to move all classes online if necessary, The Temple News reported.

“I’m kind of torn on it, because at the same time I want in-person classes,” Werhoff said. “I’m sure everyone does. But I think at the same time, I understand the decision and it’s probably needed because it’s just safer for everybody.”

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