Students react to Fall 2021 semester announcement

Temple University will hold the majority of classes in person and most campus facilities will be open in Fall 2021.

Harsahej Anand, a freshman media studies and production major, sits in Founder's Garden on March 1. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Despite living on campus throughout his entire freshman year at Temple University, Harsahej Anand has only been in a classroom on Main Campus once. 

Anand, a media studies and production major, is excited for hands-on work if he has in-person classes in the Fall 2021 semester. 

“Zoom is all cool and stuff, like it’s cool to just log on, but it’ll never be the same as walking into the class and learning everything and like actually seeing your professor in person,” Anand said. “I’m very excited about that.”

Temple plans to hold the majority of its Fall 2021 classes in person with flexibility to adapt as needed based on changes to city, state and federal COVID-19 guidelines or restrictions. Students are looking forward to returning to the classrooms and hope Main Campus will feel more lively when they return in the fall. 

President Richard Englert said he expects residence and dining halls, academic buildings and recreational facilities to be open for the fall, The Temple News reported

The Fall 2020 semester transitioned to almost completely online classes only after active cases of COVID-19 reached more than 200 by Sept. 3, The Temple News reported. Campus facilities including Charles Library, the Howard Gittis Student Center, the TECH Center and residence and dining halls remained open.

Classes during the Spring 2021 semester are a hybrid of both in-person and virtual learning, with an estimated 13 percent of classes being held in person, as hybrid or through fieldwork, The Temple News reported. Students taking in-person classes, using Main Campus facilities or working on campus are required to be tested for COVID-19 at least once a week this semester.

Temple’s College of Public Health is currently vaccinating its students, faculty and staff that work in clinical settings for COVID-19, The Temple News reported.

Temple is working with the City of Philadelphia to develop a vaccination plan, and Englert views increasing vaccination production and distribution efforts as “reasons to be hopeful,” according to the announcement.

Steve Newman, an English professor and president of the Temple Association of University Professionals, said many faculty members hope to teach classes in person if it’s safe. He is still worried about COVID-19 risks in the fall and hopes Temple administrators will communicate with faculty members as they develop a plan, Newman said. 

“We would want to see what the lay of the land really looks like at the beginning of the fall semester,” Newman said. “We are, like the president, doing our best to be optimistic.”

Two vaccines are currently available in Philadelphia, one from Moderna and the other Pfizer-BioNTech, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine received FDA emergency-use authorization on Feb. 27, becoming the third vaccine in the U.S. to receive the approval, according to the FDA. 

The city is currently vaccinating those in groups 1A, which includes health care workers and long-term care facility residents and workers, and in 1B, which includes first responders and people 75 and older, The Temple News reported. Approximately 636 residents per 10,000 in ZIP code 19121 and 611 per 10,000 in ZIP code 19122 have been vaccinated as of Feb. 28.

Philadelphia could enter Phase 2 of the city’s vaccination plan by June, meaning the majority of people in Philadelphia could be vaccinated by the end of July, according to city health commissioner Thomas Farley, NBC reported. 

COVID-19 Vaccines in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is currently administering COVID-19 vaccines to residents in Phase 1A, which includes health care workers and long-term care facility residents and workers, and Phase 1B, which includes first responders and people 75 and older. Track how many vaccines have been distributed to North Central residents here. Residents who qualify for eligible phases can express interest and allow themselves to be contacted by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by filling out this form.

While Anand knows he’ll have to change some habits before returning to in-person classes, like going to bed earlier, he’s ready to step foot in Annenberg Hall next semester, he said. 

“The thing that’s going to keep me super motivated is, you know, just like getting up and trying to go to my classes and my major and actually learning about it more in person,” Anand added.

Anthony Gulemmo, a junior architecture major, misses the life and atmosphere Main Campus had prior to it closing in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Gulemmo feels in-person classes will be a chance to return to some normalcy and will improve students’ mental health by allowing them to connect with peers and professors more easily, he said. 

“It’s just a normal way of living and for a lot of people, it’s just an easier way to live really and it’s better quality of life to be in person, talking to people,” Gulemmo said. “A lot more natural conversation, as opposed to, you know, over the phone or on Zoom, something like that.” 

Anthony Gulemmo (left), a junior architect major, and Christopher Gulemmo (right), a freshman engineering major, sit at The Wall on March 1. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Christopher Gulemmo, a freshman engineering major and Anthony Gulemmo’s brother, said it’s been difficult for him to transition to college life while only taking classes online.

“The only thing I know is online, so it’s definitely difficult to retain the information,” Christopher Gulemmo said. “I think in-person will be like, a good change and hopefully it’ll happen in the fall.”

Having classes in person for the Fall 2021 semester will allow Christopher Gulemmo to hopefully get out of his room and meet professors and faculty, he added. 

Erin Wilson, a freshman visual studies major, wasn’t surprised by the university’s announcement and is excited to be in the classroom after having no in-person classes this year. She’s also excited to see what campus is like with more students, she said.

“This is my first time really here, and it feels pretty empty,” Wilson added. “I honestly don’t even know what to expert what a full campus is going to be like and look like.”

Wilson was planning to live off campus next year and hopes that with more in-person classes, students who live off campus will still be responsible if COVID-19 safety measures are still in place, she said. 

Active cases of student COVID-19 cases had spiked to 349 in September 2020, with most cases happening off campus, The Temple News reported.  

Zoë Tucker, a freshman journalism major, said the announcement hasn’t changed her plans to live in an off-campus apartment with her three roommates next year. 

Tucker, who lived at Morgan Hall South until Fall Break, is excited to experience a more lively campus environment, she said.

“My roommates and I had made the decision to stay here, and it was overall just kind of like, lonely on campus,” Tucker added. “That’s why I’m also looking forward to in-person classes starting, I’m hopeful that more people will be on campus.”

Residence halls closed for students on Nov. 21, 2020, the beginning of fall break, until they moved back in January for the Spring 2021 semester to prevent COVID-19 cases from rising if students traveled over break, The Temple News reported.  

Seeing more students return to campus this spring after most left in the Fall 2020 semester makes him excited about what campus life is like with more students living in residence halls, taking in-person classes and hopefully getting vaccinated for the Fall 2021 semester, Anand said.

“Since like, the vaccine is out now, people are getting more comfortable and going out a little bit, even though we gotta put our masks on, stay protected,” Anand added. “But it’s definitely cool to see Temple coming back to its original form.”

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