On Thursday, March 4, Rowan University’s administration made a splash with its landmark announcement looking ahead at the fall 2021 semester. In a message to the Rowan community, President Houshmand wrote, “I am confident Rowan University will be fully open this fall and ready to welcome students to our vibrant, fast-growing campuses.”
Houshmand has also expressed that he expects that classrooms, labs, recreation facilities and residential buildings will once again be busy and full of activity and that we will return to in-person classes and activities.
It has now been one year since circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic made an impromptu and urgent switch to an online format necessary for public health and safety at Rowan. Now, Rowan’s administration officials say, we may finally be nearing the end of this metaphorical tunnel.
“We’re watching every bit of data,” Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Anthony Lowman emphasized, “and every bit of information we have gives us reason to be optimistic.”
Although Houshmand and senior Rowan administration officials are expecting a return to in-person classes and activities, Lowman assures students that Rowan wants to be able to provide options for everybody.
“We know that there are gonna be some people that want that distanced learning environment,” Lowman said. “We’re going to be able to accommodate.”
Wellness Center Director Scott Woodside notes that this announcement will most likely not mean a full return to business as usual. Isolation resources will still be available to support students that need them, and there will continue to be virtual opportunities and experiences, Woodside told us.
“We will likely continue with some practices of limiting some indoor spaces,” Woodside said.
Despite the changes we may see in the fall, regular testing is also expected to continue. Woodside estimates that it is “most likely [that] residential students and other higher-risk groups will be required to test on a regular basis.”
Student responses to this announcement have been a mix of cautious optimism, relief, excitement and concern. Many students also reported that they were not surprised by this announcement, that they were expecting this to be the case.
Senior liberal arts and elementary education dual-major Michael Giuliani said, “I’ll believe it when I see it, but I hope that things will be better next year.”
“Although I am excited to be back on campus,” Ariana David, a sophomore majoring in exercise science, said, “I am a bit worried because we are still in a pandemic, and I know others will not follow the rules, risking others’ safety.”
For some students, the motivation of this move by Rowan’s administration was a subject of skepticism. When asked what their reaction to this announcement was, one student, speaking anonymously, said, “[the university] needs a reason to charge full tuition.”
Despite the reservations and criticisms, there are many things students are excited to be able to do again if the campus returns to an in-person format. Sophomore political science and international studies dual-major Rory Newman looks forward to having club meetings in-person again.
Junior accounting major Naseer Jefferson said, “I’m excited to be able to host in-person programs again! That’s what I missed most about clubs and what I wish I could have experienced as a first-year RA.”
Dr. Jody Manning is a professor of history at Rowan. For Manning, safety has to come first, but as long as everyone follows precautions, Manning looks forward to returning to an in-person format.
“I’m actually very much looking forward to going back to the classroom because a lot of time is spent in communication and emailing [now],” Manning said. “All of these things take more time than a face-to-face discussion.”
A survey run by Sociology Department Chair Dr. Harriet Hartman established many key findings of Rowan University during this pandemic.
For example, only 37% of respondents indicated that they felt they were succeeding in online classes as they were in in-person classes, and 60% indicated that it was harder for them to set aside time for schoolwork with virtual learning.
Lowman emphasized that the University continues to be fully committed to students and addressing their concerns and needs. Students who want to report any questions or concerns are encouraged to reach out to the Dean of Students’ Office, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, to make sure they are heard.
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