In light of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases rise around the country, the University announced on Dec. 22 that most Intersession classes have moved online and the majority of students will not be able to return to on-campus residence halls before Jan. 18. According to the University, in-person research and work will not be impacted by this change.
Intersession classes are scheduled from Jan. 4 to Jan. 21 with spring classes beginning on Jan. 24. University administrators noted in their email that the changes to Intersession policy do not impact plans for the spring.
“We are continuing our planning for our in-person spring semester, starting Jan. 24, and for normal research and other campus operations in the meantime,” they wrote.
Senior Jordan Adams noticed that most Intersession courses were online while attempting to register for a second course on the morning of Dec. 21. They expressed support for the changes in an email to The News-Letter.
“Making Intersession classes online is a good idea,” they wrote. “It doesn’t impact my plans for Intersession, but now I don’t have to leave home!”
Freshman Sabahat Rahman also supported the University’s decision in an email to The News-Letter, citing the increase in COVID-19 numbers following the holidays last year.
“Making Intersession classes virtual is a prudent move, especially given what happened last year after the holiday season,” she wrote.
The administrators noted that a specific set of Intersession classes will be held in person. Only students enrolled in approved programs will be permitted to return to on-campus housing before Jan. 18.
“We will maintain limited exceptions for Intersession courses for which in-person experiences are required or vital for students’ majors,” they wrote. “Undergraduate students will still be able to participate in on-campus research during Intersession, and Intersession study abroad program applications are being considered on a case-by-case basis.”
In an email to The News-Letter, Vice President for Communications Andy Green clarified that students who will be working and doing research on campus are eligible for on-campus housing but must register with Housing Operations.
In a follow up email, Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being and Interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger noted that students who are still residing on campus dorms can use limited in-person services, such as limited grab-and-go dining, until Jan. 18. However, they will not be able to have guests and cannot visit dorms they do not reside in.
Last week, the University reported a COVID-19 cluster among graduate students; according to administrators, none of the cases were linked to transmission in classroom spaces.
In an email to The News-Letter, the Hopkins Sit-In condemned the University for not moving classes online sooner.
“Moving all classes online should have happened immediately following the recent cluster,” it wrote. “However, it seems like the [U]niversity plans to continue in-person activities next semester provided affiliates get their booster by Feb. 1, which would be disastrous public health policy.”
Freshman Mariel Lindsay registered for three Intersession classes, all of which will now be virtual.
“I’m definitely disappointed about that because I genuinely feel like [I] don’t learn well in online classes[;] it’s just not as engaging,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
However, Lindsay supports the decision from a public health perspective.
“I understand their decision and I don’t want to get [COVID-19], so it’s a trade off that I'm willing to make,” she wrote.
Hopkins is not the only University to take such precautions. Harvard University recently announced that its operations will be remote for the first three weeks of 2022, and some schools within the University of California system are beginning their winter terms online.
The Hopkins Sit-in outlined additional actions it feels the University should be taking to promote safe public health conditions in Baltimore.
“In addition to pausing in-person activities indefinitely, [Hopkins] should be proactively providing N95/KN95 masks and free at-home test kits for the city, as a small part of the billions it owes the city in reparations, rather than investing in private police or an ice[-]skating rink during a pandemic,” The Hopkins Sit-in wrote.
University officials urged students who live off campus not to return to the Baltimore area before Jan. 18. For those in need of financial assistance to change their travel plans, Shollenberger pointed to the University’s travel assistance form and the COVID-19 Financial Aid resource page.
Sophomore Allison Lorentz was planning to return to Baltimore to complete Wilderness First Responder training for the Outdoor Pursuits club beginning on Jan. 12. In an email to The News-Letter, Lorentz noted that she does not yet know if the training is going to be held virtually.
“I do think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to switch to a virtual format just because so much of the training is hands on,” she wrote.
Lorentz is not yet certain how the switch to a virtual Intersession will impact her travel.
“I’m really hoping [my plans] don’t have to change because I’ve already bought my plane tickets, but if we’re not really allowed on campus until Jan. 18... I guess they’ll have to,” she wrote.
Though Lorentz understands why the measures are in place, she noted that it would still be disappointing if she is unable to complete the training this winter.
Adams raised questions about the University’s plans for the spring semester, noting that nearby Universities have made changes to their operations as a result of the recent COVID-19 spike.
“[The] University of Maryland, College Park canceled their fall graduation because of positive cases on their campus,” they wrote. “We might be looking at a return to increased restrictions in the near future and I wonder how the [U]niversity is planning to handle that possibility.”
In an email to The News-Letter, freshman Vikrant Mahajan explained that he prioritizes an in-person spring semester over an in-person Intersession.
“As long as we can have an in[-]person spring semester, [University administrators] can do what they want,” he wrote.
In their email, University officials emphasized that plans for the spring semester remain unchanged.
“We continue to look forward to an in-person spring semester, and we remain confident that our suite of preventive measures, including vaccination, testing, masking, gathering limits, and enhanced ventilation, will enable us to do so safely,” they wrote.
Laura Wadsten and Margery Chen contributed reporting to this article.