Though it is only the halfway point of the spring quarter, it is accurate to say that the decision to hold all classes remotely for the entirety of the quarter was the correct one. Had Drexel University continued standard operations, there is no telling how much more of a problem COVID-19 could have caused. Seeing the success that this alternative Zoom-based learning system has had, I support the decision to also hold the summer quarter online.
It is better to decide on one reliable course of action and stick to it than to have an unreliable option backed up by a secondary option. If Drexel were to decide to make a return to the typical way of face-to-face classes and reopen all campus facilities for the summer quarter, it could potentially be fine. But it is unlikely that COVID-19 will have subsided enough by the summer to return to normal operations. From a pure safety and precautionary standpoint, Drexel has clearly made the right choice.
The summer quarter is also the slowest quarter at Drexel, as freshmen are away on summer break and seniors have graduated. I could see someone using that as a basis to argue that it wouldn’t be as dangerous to return to normal operations for the summer. The issue I have with that argument is that Drexel is not the only source of people in University City. If the University City campus were its own isolated island, then perhaps I could see a return to normal operations, but that’s not the case. There are many neighboring communities that surround University City campus, and those communities interact with Drexel students on a regular basis, so the risk of students and people of those communities being exposed to COVID-19 would rise if things were to return to normal.
While I am in agreement with Drexel’s decision, I do want Drexel’s COVID-19 Task Force to be very cautious going into the fall quarter. If there is a return to normal operations, it could prove to be quite a chaotic experience. Because students were forced to vacate Drexel’s residence halls at the end of last quarter in preparation for the virus, and they probably won’t be able to return to the halls in the summer, they will most likely make their return at the beginning of the fall quarter.
Normally, all the freshmen are moved in before the other students return from the break between the summer and fall quarters, but the number of students that will potentially be returning at the beginning of the fall is going to be more than it ever has been during my time at Drexel. Rather than just the freshmen from the previous year who have been on summer break returning, every other class of students will be returning to campus as well. While I imagine that the overall number will be roughly the same, the difference is that everyone will be compressed into moving in at the same time.
In the past, many students would remain on campus in their residence halls during the breaks between quarters, as opposed to going home, so there would naturally be a smaller number of students returning to campus at the start of a new quarter. Drexel will most likely be able to handle the larger influx of students, but it is still something that could easily cause problems if the necessary preparations are not made.
The alternative would, of course, be to have the fall quarter take place remotely as well, but that could cause many problems. It is important to respect the threat of this virus, but at the same time, it is equally important to allow students to return to the normal college experience at the earliest time possible. The fall quarter is also the quarter that sets the tone for the rest of the school year for Drexel students, so having it taught remotely would be more detrimental than the spring and summer being taught remotely. That experience would also be very bad for incoming freshman students as they would not be able to partake in the festivities of Welcome Week, something that many of them look forward to for good reason.
When the fall quarter comes, the virus may still be prominent enough to make continued remote learning the most optimal decision. That said, I don’t envy Drexel’s job of having to make that decision. The safety of people’s lives always comes first, and if the experience of the fall quarter has to be sacrificed in order to achieve that safety, then everyone should be willing to adhere to that.