We don’t know for sure what direction the country is headed. Despite the uncertainty regarding the presidential election, we do know that Hopkins has a (tentative) plan for this spring.
On Monday, the University announced plans to bring students back to campus for hybrid instruction. Of course, nobody — even the administration — knows for sure if we’ll be able to resume in-person activities, given that rising COVID-19 cases led Hopkins to move the fall semester online at the last minute. Although the daily number of new cases reached new highs yesterday, we appreciate having a plan at all in these uncertain times.
We cautiously support the University’s decision and sincerely hope to be able to welcome the Class of 2024 to campus for the first time this spring. While detailed procedures will not be available until early December, key changes are being made to tuition, spring break and COVID-19 testing.
Hopkins announced that the current 10% discount on tuition will not continue, but students in Baltimore will have access to resources like bi-weekly testing that seem to justify the increase. However, the increase will disproportionately hurt international students and others who are unable to safely return to campus. Hopkins will not require everyone to come back; any student who takes classes online this spring — which may be us all if we are forced online — should receive a discounted tuition.
Another controversial aspect of the proposed plans is the cancellation of spring break in favor of five “break days” spread throughout the semester. We’re concerned that many will use these days to catch up on school work rather than take time to destress. Ultimately, however, public health is more important than travel.
We applaud the University’s preventive measures, which include limiting shared spaces in residential housing and a robust testing and contact tracing plan. Mandatory free testing and daily symptom checks on the ProDensity app will likely catch an outbreak before it can become serious, and we hope that the University makes these tests accessible to students.
This fall, students living in Charles Village were ignored when they repeatedly asked for asymptomatic testing. We’re glad that Hopkins is embracing a broader testing program for this spring, but this should have been implemented months ago. As demonstrated by other universities, this would have been possible and effective.
Even without widespread testing, however, there has been minimal infection among students in Baltimore this semester. For the most part, students have embraced mask wearing and social distancing; if we continue to adhere to safety guidelines, with increased testing, the risk of an outbreak on campus is sure to be low.
Although we believe that the University’s plans for this spring could translate into a healthy and productive semester, we have concerns for what was left unsaid.
What will the grading system be this spring? Life on campus will resume, but many of the challenges we currently face will remain. Some students won’t have access to all resources; because of these inequities, letter grading should remain optional.
How will the hours and capacity of spaces on campus, like Brody Learning Commons and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, be reduced? Students will no longer spend entire days in Brody, but they should still be able to study in these spaces when needed. Administrators estimate that around 2000 undergraduates are currently living off-campus and expect 1200 additional students will move to Baltimore in January. We hope Hopkins addresses these concerns in their official plans.
Regardless of how the spring semester unfolds, we must abide by the health guidelines set forth by the University. We’re all too aware that the University could reverse its decision if there’s an outbreak in Baltimore, so it’s vital that we all wear masks, wash our hands frequently and get our free flu shots. With cold weather approaching and rising cases, these practices are more important than ever.
As tempting as it may be to go out and party, don’t. Seriously. Remember to practice what you post — rather than shaming others on social media for not wearing masks, take action. Consider forming your own social bubbles to limit contact.
We hope that administrators learned from their mistakes this fall and that they continue to update the Hopkins community on a regular basis. If it looks like we may not be able to come back, the University should be transparent and inform us as soon as possible.
That said, we’re cautiously optimistic. Perhaps the months spent longing for something fried from the FFC or a scalding hot latte from Brody Cafe will make 9 a.m. classes more bearable. Perhaps we will appreciate our campus in a new way.