While getting pizza with his friends at T.J.’s Pizza and Pasta in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Ari Weiss’ mood plummeted after receiving an email from Temple University announcing a move to online classes for the first two weeks of the Spring 2022 semester.
“I just felt like the decision was made way too early,” said Weiss, a freshman early childhood-elementary education major. “I feel like they’re just kind of giving up hope.”
As COVID-19 cases rise due to the Omicron variant, Temple will hold spring classes virtually through Jan. 21, except for essential in-person classes, The Temple News reported. While some students support the shift to online instruction, others fear Temple will transition to virtual learning for the entire spring semester, feeling like they traveled back in time to March 2020 when the university made a similar move.
The Omicron variant was first detected in Philadelphia on Dec. 3 and accounts for nearly three-quarters of new COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vasista Kola, a graduate student in the Master of Science Financial Analysis program, supports Temple’s decision because not much is known about the Omicron variant. Protecting students’ health is more important than keeping them happy with in-person classes, he said.
Though he prefers in-person classes, Kola has adapted to taking classes on Zoom and isn’t worried about virtual learning impacting the quality of his education, he said.
“It’s kind of become the new normal,” Kola added.
Christian Fitch, a sophomore health professions major, is frustrated Temple is switching to online classes after already requiring students and employees to get vaccinated. He thinks the university will extend the two-week remote learning period to the entire spring semester, he said.
Fitch understands Temple’s reasoning but feels cases will spread anyway because students will still be on campus and socializing, he said.
“I don’t think the results are going to be quite what they’re hoping for,” Fitch added.
Residence halls will open on Jan. 8 as scheduled and all students living in residence halls must test negative for COVID-19 within 24 hours of moving in, The Temple News reported.
Jessica Gambino feels two weeks of virtual classes was a poor decision by the university, she said.
“Temple knows good and well that nobody’s staying home anymore, nobody is locking themselves in their house and shying away from COVID,” said Gambino, a sophomore music education major.
Gambino feels online classes will not reduce the spread of cases because students will still be on campus using university housing and campus services.
“They’re taking this backwards claim that keeping students off campus will keep them safer, meanwhile, still having them on campus,” Gambino added.
Buildings and campus services – including Health Services, dining, Charles Library, the Student Center and the TECH Center – will reopen as scheduled for the Spring 2022 semester, The Temple News reported.
Gambino believes students are safer on campus, in a closed community of vaccinated people, than off campus. The decision to temporarily remain online will hurt students more than help them, she said.
“To keep students out of class, not even off campus, but out of class, doesn’t really change anything except making it harder to actually learn,” Gambino said. “And I think that’s not fair.”
Rosalee Banks, a junior criminal justice major, was surprised and slightly relieved when she saw The Temple News’s Instagram post about the university’s announcement, she said. Banks is fully vaccinated and plans to get her booster shot next week, but worries she might contract COVID-19 if cases at Temple surge, she said.
As of Dec. 23, more than 97 percent of Temple students and employees are fully vaccinated. There are 204 active cases of COVID-19 among students and employees, according to Temple’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Online classes are more accessible for Banks, who has immunocompromised relatives and doesn’t feel comfortable being in the classroom, she added.
“It’s a large school with people that go to a lot of different places, and bringing them all back in at the same time, it can be a risk,” she said
While Banks finds online learning to be safe and flexible, students like Manav Dasondi find it more difficult to learn and make friends, he said.
“If, God forbid, that leads to the entire semester going online, that just ruins the entire freshman experience,” said Dasondi, a freshman neuroscience cellular and molecular major. “Everyone tells me, ‘freshman year will probably be your most fun year,’ but that second half will just get ruined.”
Dasondi hopes Temple will resume in-person classes immediately after Jan. 21 as scheduled. He thinks the university should require students to get the COVID-19 booster shot so he can learn and study on campus and enjoy the rest of his first year at Temple, he said.
“I just want it to be back to normal,” Dasondi said. “I hope it doesn’t go entirely online because I really look forward to being there.”