IU President Michael McRobbie announced Feb. 24 that the fall semester would return to mostly normal operations, including in-person instruction for most classes. Some students voiced optimism and concern regarding the decision, with some citing public health concerns and others eager to return to the classroom.
McRobbie said the university’s testing data shows that mitigation efforts, such as masking and social distancing, led to positive results this far in the spring semester. IU’s positivity rate was 0.2% for the week of Feb. 14. He also said the ongoing rollout of COVID-19 vaccines will allow IU to return to normal operations this fall.
“I saw it as a positive sign that the world is moving forward again,” freshman Caroline Smith said. “I’m so over Zoom. I can’t express how tired I am of looking at a screen all day and how in-person classes accommodate my learning style so much better.”
Smith transferred from Butler University at the beginning of the spring semester and rushed a sorority virtually a few weeks ago.
“I’m hoping that my pledge class will all be able to live in our chapter house together and really start to get to know each other,” she said. “Personally, I was just beyond excited to hear there are plans to start cautiously moving back towards a normal college experience.”
Junior Destiny Chamorro was not as thrilled with the news, citing public health concerns.
“I think testing has to continue,” she said. “There are so many kids coming from all over the world.”
Chamorro said she has concerns that students are evading their mitigation testing by requesting exemptions even if they aren’t applicable to them. IU allows students to apply for mitigation testing exemptions, namely if they are tested regularly by their employer or will not be available during a week of testing.
“It’s so easy to get out of that,” she said. “I actually live in Indianapolis. They still sent me the request to get tested. I was easily able to say ‘No, I can’t do it.’ They didn’t even follow up.”
She also said that with many students opting to stay home for the academic year she does not believe mitigation testing data from this school year is strong enough to determine whether a more normal fall semester is feasible.
“If you look at the campus population, it’s nowhere near what it normally was, even like two years ago,” she said. “You can’t say ‘Oh, we’re doing a great job at social distancing and testing’ when you haven’t had a full population of students to test those theories on.”
Owen Rogers, a graduate student at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said he’s very content with IU’s decision.
“Most of the people I’ve talked to in my course are excited to get at least one year of in-person instruction because we’re in a two-year program,” Rogers said. “We’ve had this first year pretty much all online.”
McRobbie’s announcement did not address whether it would be mandatory for IU students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, as the university mandated with the flu vaccine last semester. IU is in the process of developing an on-campus vaccine site that could open as early as this month.
“I don’t see a problem with mandating a vaccination,” Rogers said. “But if the university does mandate a vaccine, they need to also take steps to make sure everyone can get one.”