UVM students face decision for fall: On-campus or online?

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 12:16 PM EDT
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We are getting a clearer picture of what the fall of 2020 will look like at the University of Vermont. Students have a choice to return to campus or spend the entire semester learning remotely. Our Christina Guessferd explains why many might not go back.

UVM students got the email Friday morning that in less than two weeks, they will have to make a decision that will impact their future education.

While some students I talked to tell me they're glad the university is giving them options, others say they don't feel like they have enough time to make the critical choice.

"I was shocked but I feel like this was the best email we've gotten so far, like as in clarity, total clarity," said Nick Shannon, a junior.

Shannon says he's grateful UVM is giving students the option to either return to campus or learn remotely.

"I feel like I'm safe doing it. I worry about students who are vulnerable to it and professors especially," Shannon said.

"To be virtual, it's just not college to me," said Lilly Hall, a junior. "It's something completely different."

But rising juniors Lilly Hall and Connor Mulvihill say they worry students who choose to stay home will see their social and educational experiences suffer, demonstrated by what they witnessed during the spring semester.

"When we first started virtual classes, it was OK, but then it just kind of died off. I felt like everyone kind of lost motivation because it didn't really feel like we were in school," Mulvihill said.

"I feel like a huge part college is being in person, having discussions with people, which you just can't replicate in a chat room," Hall said.

And Hall says that's particularly true for students studying sciences like those in the nursing program.

In the email sent to parents and students, UVM explains regardless of which option they choose, students will be offered activities, programming and learning community connections to ensure that they feel included in the semester.

Those who opt to go back should expect some online elements to classes, but the students staying home can't go on campus at all.

Students must apply for the remote option by July 15.

Since Hall is from Wisconsin, she says that's too tight a turnaround.

"It's really frustrating, but also we know that this is every school in the country that's having to do this right now," Hall said. "Everything could be so different, so I don't even know. Right now, I can say that I feel safe, but come August if they're still planning to do in person, cases continue to rise and rise and rise, then I definitely wouldn't."

UVM is encouraging its students to return to campus in the fall if they can and feel comfortable. Students tell me they're looking forward to seeing how professors will adapt their classes to fit the new format.