Muhlenberg’s campus is open this spring, but will students return?

Amid a national surge in coronavirus cases, the College announces an in-person spring 2021 semester.

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Photo Credit: Ayden Levine '23

After a semester’s worth of gossip and theories surrounding the Spring 2021 semester plans, Muhlenberg students finally received an answer.

In a Nov. 11 email, President Kathleen Harring announced that all students would in fact be welcomed back to campus this spring. The new question is, however, as COVID-19 cases rise nationally and the college experience remains predominantly virtual, how many students will actually return?

According to the email, the decision was a culmination of months worth of planning to assess “the current testing availability, isolation/quarantine capacity, and community compliance with the public health measures implemented on campus. Our success this fall was due in part to the incredible effort of the students living on campus.” Guidance from local and state public health officials also informed the final determination.

The email recognized the rise in coronavirus cases throughout the country but assured students that this does not deter the confidence the College has in their decision to invite all students back this spring. 

“Our success this fall was due in part to the incredible effort of the students living on campus.”

Though, not less than 24 hours later, students received another email informing them that after two positive coronavirus cases, the College’s COVID-19 Alert Level had risen to Level 2: Moderate, and by Nov. 14, Level 3: High Alert. The High Alert measure is defined as a situation in which “there are many cases, including community spread with some likely additional, undetected asymptomatic cases.” 

Level 3 restrictions include a move to exclusively remote instruction, to-go only meals and a shelter-in-place order when not picking up food. 

The COVID-19 Dashboard for the week of Nov. 15 shows 11 positive cases out of the 252 students tested. 

So, how are students feeling about returning this spring?

“I want to go back, but if it’s constant shelter-in-place or too restrictive, or if we end up remote, I’m taking a gap semester. It’s not worth going or doing class if I am on lockdown the majority of the time,” said Kay Tari ‘24.

“I am planning on going back in the spring… As a theatre and dance double major, it has been especially difficult to learn on Zoom and find the appropriate space to be able to move.” said Emma Giordiano ‘23. “Even if a lot of my classes are online, I would have access to dance studio space and I would finally be around my peers again…I feel confident that the college is prioritizing our physical and mental safety with this decision.”

“Yes, if freshmen are still allowed back,” said Emily Orlich ‘24.

“I want to go back but with how so few cases occurred and campus locked down after two days of cases with so few people makes me worried it will be a week before leaving,” said Ryan Kaplow ‘23. 

“It’s not worth going or doing class if I am on lockdown the majority of the time.”

“I’m going back in the spring because I miss campus life. Even though I know this semester will be different, I think that it’s best for me to go back in terms of my learning style and spending time with my friends (safely of course),” said Diana Abrams ‘23.

“I don’t think it’s safe to go back to campus— I want to wait until a vaccine is publicly available,” said Jenny Moretti ’22.

“I feel as if I wasn’t the best student this semester, so it’s important to me that I go back in the spring,” said Paige Weisburg ‘22. “Nothing in COVID is for sure and while cases are on the rise now they may not be in February.”

Students have until Dec. 1 to decide if they will come back to campus, as the housing registration form is due then. In order to aid students and their families in finalizing their spring plans, the College will be hosting a series of informational webinars throughout the upcoming Thanksgiving break. 

The webinar schedule is below: 

  • November 19: Health and Safety/COVID-19 Policy
  • November 23: Academic Life
  • November 24: Housing/Dining
  • November 30: Special Topics (for example: co-curricular, athletics, study abroad/global education, digital pedagogy, theatre & dance, etc.)

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