UMass students have concerns over reopening guidelines

  • Asha Nadkarni, a faculty member at UMass, talks about the university’s decision to open up the dorms this fall. Photographed Tuesday, June 30, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • UMass campus Tuesday, June 30, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nam Doan, a senior at UMass this fall, talks Tuesday about the university’s decision to open up the dorms. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Asha Nadkarni, a faculty member at UMass, talks about the university’s decision to open up the dorms this fall. Photographed Tuesday, June 30, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kush Verma, a student at UMass, talks about the university’s decision to open up the dorms this fall. Photographed Tuesday, June 30, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kush Verma, a student at UMass, talks about the university’s decision to open up the dorms this fall. Photographed Tuesday, June 30, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • University of Massachusetts student Xiaoying Fan talks Tuesday about the university’s decision to open up the dorms. Behind her is Lisa Jin, also a student. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2020 7:01:16 PM

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts students expressed mixed emotions on Tuesday about the option to return to campus amid mostly remote classes following the release of the university’s fall 2020 plan.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy announced Monday that all undergraduate students who had already reserved housing could choose to live on campus in the fall under strict public health guidelines, though most classes will be taught remotely. A small number of classes requiring hands-on work, such as labs, studio and performance courses, will resume in person, but no students will be required to return to campus.

For Xiaoying Fan, a rising senior, reopening dorms and remote learning are both worrying decisions for public health and educational reasons.

“People may start to get together” despite UMass’ restrictions, she said. “Social distancing is hard to keep.”

Likewise, remote learning poses its own difficulties, according to Fan.

“Efficiency is really down,” she said, as is motivation. “You just do the exams, do your homework, and that’s it.”

For those students who do choose to return to campus, Subbaswamy cautioned that “it is important to understand that life on campus during fall 2020 will not be anything resembling normal college life.”

Under the university’s rules, students returning to campus must sign an agreement stating they will follow measures such as social and physical distancing; no visitors allowed in residence halls; daily self-screening and reporting of possible COVID-19 symptoms; limiting social contacts; testing on demand; contact tracing; and staying within the immediate campus area except for work, including internships, and emergencies.

Kush Verma, a rising senior at UMass, had hoped to return to campus, but felt that Monday’s announcement was tarnished by the decision to hold almost all classes remotely.

“I wanted to be back on campus, but it doesn’t matter, because the classes are going to be online,” he said.

Verma said many students he knows do not want to live on campus because they can save money and live comfortably at home while taking remote classes. Those who do return will be “people who want to be here for the fun of it,” Verma said, or just wanted to be away from home.

But Ajey Gouda, a rising sophomore, said he was pleased with the university’s decision to welcome students back to campus in the fall, even amid the strict social distancing regulations.

“A lot of people cannot study back home,” Gouda said, noting that some need a college setting to stay on task.

But Gouda added that he is disappointed most classes will only be held in a remote capacity and without price adjustments to account for the loss of in-person learning. Gouda finds remote learning particularly disappointing as an international student.

“We’re already paying a lot for the experience and exposure,” he said, “and doing it online is a huge waste of money.”

While some students were dismayed by the emphasis on remote learning, Asha Nadkarni, an associate professor in the English department, said this aspect of the announcement came as a relief.

“I’m very glad that, except for a small number of classes, it’s going to be online,” Nadkarni said, adding that she did not want to see any students forced into the classroom.

But developing high-quality remote learning was also a challenge last semester, Nadkarni said, though she believes it is now the only way to keep students safe. Some students may also need to return to campus housing for their own safety, she said, noting, “their living situations at home might not be the best situation for learning.”

Staying at home is also emotionally stressful for some students, said rising sophomore Joseph Daniel Selvaraa, adding, “it’s actually pretty lonely if you’re just staying home a lot longer than this.”

Nat DeNigris, a graduate student in the astronomy program, also expressed doubts that the university’s social distancing rules are realistic.

“I don’t think there’s a safe way to have these students live in the dorms together in close quarters while still maintaining the safety guidelines,” DeNigris said.

As a teaching assistant, she added that keeping students engaged during online courses can also be a challenge.

Nam Boan, a rising senior, said that while he anticipates fewer students will return to campus in the fall, reopening the dorms is “not a good idea.”

Boan believes students will find ways to get around the university’s safety regulations, noting that throughout the pandemic, many Americans have been reluctant to sacrifice what they feel is their personal liberty and freedom in the interest of public health guidelines.

Lisa Jin, a rising freshman, said she thinks university regulations and testing capabilities will help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, though she has some concerns that an outbreak can still occur if students do not take the rules seriously.

“Currently, we’re seeing a lot of people not wearing masks and social distancing,” Jin said, adding that she hopes people will change their behavior.

“Everyone needs to be responsible for society and themselves,” she said.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy