Hopkins hasn’t experienced a “normal” semester since fall 2019, and we return this spring with an all-too-familiar sense of uncertainty. Once again, we spent a break sorting through seemingly contradictory messaging from administrators which often brought more confusion than peace of mind. For example, although masking and testing requirements have been increased, Hodson 110 and Gilman 50 are packed with students returning for spring classes.
These inconsistent policies have students wondering if we should be ramping up for another semester of Zoom University.
Though several peer institutions began their semesters online in light of the omicron variant, Hopkins didn’t follow suit, instead leaving the decision to individual professors. While some have switched to Zoom, others are teaching courses with no virtual modalities.
Hopkins must standardize its policies surrounding online learning by ensuring students have the option to complete coursework or attend classes virtually. When public health guidelines aren’t clear, students are placed in the uncomfortable position of deciding whether to prioritize their personal health and safety or their grades in a class.
But we aren’t the sole victims of these contradictions: The greater Baltimore community suffers too. While the University claims to prioritize Baltimoreans when making COVID-19 policies, it is going to extreme lengths to keep its student body in-person without extending the same efforts toward its neighbors.
The health of the student body and the larger Baltimore community are directly connected, and the impact of our actions is not limited to our classmates.
Currently, affiliates have access to free, PCR COVID-19 testing with 24-48 hour return times at multiple sites across Hopkins campuses. Non-affiliates do not—this only reinforces the “Hopkins Bubble.” If Hopkins truly wants to protect our community, it needs to expand testing to all Baltimoreans.
Testing isn’t the only resource Hopkins needs to share. Earlier this month, Hopkins heightened masking protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines. While the new rules are understandable, masks cannot be reserved for solely Hopkins affiliates.
The pandemic is exhausting, and making sense of conflicting messaging adds to that. During these “unprecedented times,” the University must step up to support its community. It should start by standardizing classroom policies, communicating updates clearly and showing consideration for the city we call home.