University President Ronald J. Daniels and other administrators announced in an email to University affiliates on Monday that Hopkins will offer in-person classes, research activities and housing in the spring semester.
“Our plans are shaped by your tremendous efforts to date to carry out our education, research and clinical missions safely, as well as the guidance of public health experts at Johns Hopkins and nationally and the best practices of those peer institutions that have successfully returned to campus this fall,” they wrote. “They rest on continued strict adherence to public health guidelines, significant de-densification of our facilities and a widening of our testing program and requirements.”
Daniels noted that the University will make a final determination on whether to carry out the plans in January based on various public health metrics.
Starting in January, free weekly asymptomatic tests will be available to all affiliates.
Undergraduate students living in both on- and off-campus housing will be required to be tested twice a week in the spring semester. Faculty, staff and graduate students who are facilitating in-person classes or have regular exposure to undergraduate students must get tested once a week.
Junior Amal Hayat, who is currently living in California, expressed support for the reopening plan.
“I’m very excited,“ she said. “When I read that the way that the reopening would happen was through biweekly testing, I was proud that Hopkins has decided that it will live up to its name as one of the premier research universities.”
Any affiliate who is spending time on campus will be required to get a flu vaccination by Nov. 20.
The registration process for the spring courses has been pushed back in order to allow spring plans to be finalized first. Course schedules were originally supposed to be released on Oct. 19 but will now go live on Nov. 9. Registration days have been pushed back by a week.
Returning to campus
Many students are planning to return to campus for a variety of reasons.
Junior Julia Burleson, who is currently living in India, noted the difficulty of navigating the time difference with Baltimore.
“My classes next semester will be a bit later than this semester, which is really the middle of the night here,” she said. “Especially with Daylight Savings Time and everything getting pushed back an hour, that would be really difficult.”
Sophomore Casey Levitt took a gap semester in the fall after the University decided to offer only online classes.
While she was planning to resume her coursework regardless of the opening plan, she was glad to see that Hopkins choose the hybrid approach.
“I really enjoy being out and finishing our spring semester online was not a good way of living for me,” she said. “I couldn’t have expected anything better — they’re cautiously optimistic, which I think is the right move. Opening regardless of the public health situation is would be irresponsible. It seems with the twice a week testing and other health protocols, this is as good at a shot as we have to do it. I’m very pleased.”
Sophomore Roseline Soriano stated that she will return to take advantage of labs for various science courses.
“Having taken a lab course this semester, it's super hard to do it without being in-person,” she said. “We have these world-class facilities that would make it easier to learn hard sciences.”
In the email, University leaders wrote that Hopkins is expecting 3,200 undergraduate students to be in Baltimore for the spring semester.
All first-year students who return will be housed in University housing. Sophomores can also choose to live in dorms. On-campus housing will offer single occupancy rooms with limited shared bathrooms.
It is unclear whether the University will require first-year students currently living in off-campus housing to move into dorms.
Freshman Rida Chowdhury appreciates that University housing will be available. However, she also worries that the actual demand for housing could surpass expectations.
“[Hopkins] being able to accommodate us and stay in dorms with low occupancy will definitely put some stress off of me. It’s ensured that hopefully I’ll be able to stay somewhere that’s safe,“ she said. “I don’t think they can say no to anyone who wants to return to campus. If more people than they predicted return, that could be a problem with high occupancy.”
Tuition and spring break
The week-long spring break in March will be replaced with five break days throughout the semester. The fall semester’s tuition reduction of 10% will not continue, and the undergraduate tuition for the spring semester will be $28,505, reflecting the increase in tuition from the last academic year.
Chowdhury stressed that students who do not return to campus would be paying for resources they cannot use.
“For people who are returning, the tuition makes sense because we can at least use the facilities,” she said. “But for people who choose not to return, I don’t see how that’s going to help them at all in any way because they will still be doing online classes and not able to use resources from the University while still having to pay the full price.”
Sophomore Lubna Azmi argued that the tuition reduction should remain in place.
“Tuition should definitely decrease. I really don’t think that we will be in-person, and it will definitely switch to all online given that COVID-19 cases are going up,“ she said. “It’s just an excuse to keep the money.”
Canceled spring break also drew mixed responses from students.
Levitt supports the decision but noted that the shorter breaks would prevent travel back home during the semester.
“Canceling spring break is probably a very smart decision. It’s kind of a bummer because I don’t live close to here, so I won’t be able to see family during that time. It doesn’t make sense to fly back to California for just one day,” she said. “Having five days throughout the semester will also be somewhat of a break, though.”
Soriano, however, believes that the measure would not prevent any student from traveling.
“People will still travel and take advantage of the one day the University is giving,” she said. “It’s not spring break, though, and it’s going to turn into a bunch of tiny fall breaks without the fun of spring breaks. It won’t feel the same.”
Chowdhury noted that a prolonged break could have benefits for students.
“We need a week of consecutive days to recuperate, detox and get that stress out. I feel like a day off in the middle of the week is not enough — fall break just went by so quick,“ she said. “Honestly, it could be nice to have a day off every two to three weeks. But, you know, with spring break, we’re used to having a week off, and it would feel so weird if it was just gone.”
Over the summer, the University initially planned to offer hybrid classes for those who return to Baltimore in the fall. However, Hopkins reversed course a month later and announced that the fall semester will be online-only, citing public health concerns.
Some students, like Hayat, are wary that this scenario will repeat.
“What Hopkins is doing is methodical and makes sense,” she said. “However, I’m most concerned that they will take back this plan as soon as January hits.”
Leela Gebo, Claire Goudreau, Michelle Limpe and Greta Maras contributed reporting to this article.