What will return to UVM look like for students, faculty?

Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 4:34 PM EDT
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The University of Vermont Monday announced plans for an abbreviated fall semester with students on campus this fall, but how exactly will that look?

Even though it's summer and the UVM campus is mostly empty, many across the university community are looking forward to a return to in-person learning this fall. That includes incoming first year student Mira Hockenhull, who took a campus tour with her mother, Erica, on Tuesday. They say finally being on the Burlington campus is beautiful after what has been a challenging college acceptance experience.

"Very stressful," Hockenhull said.

"Very frustrating," added her mother.

They say most of that stress comes from not being able to experience the school while it's full of students. The recent high school grad also has a lot of questions about what's next. "I don't know exactly what it's going to look like," Hockenhull said.

"We would like our students back. "I am encouraging all of our students to come back," said UVM president Suresh Garimella. The plan was created by a group of more than 50 faculty members, staffers and students. "We laid out this framework -- it's not the last word. We are going to keep adding to it in the next few weeks."

That framework includes basic coronavirus hygiene and mask requirements, but it gets tricky when it comes to daily operations. Officials are still figuring out housing and say they are looking into getting more options for students. They plan to offer in person classes, but those who do not want be in person will have a chance to stay online.

"For those students that are immune-compromised or afraid to be on campus or afraid to be in class, we will have enough online options, the remote instruction type things that they can take," Garimella said.

"We don't feel reassured that faculty are going to be safe," said Julie Roberts, president of the UVM faculty union. She says the administration has not done enough outreach to faculty. "We have not been involved in the planning and we are just not convinced that the University in general is taking all of these complications in mind."

As for students like Hockenhull, she says if all of her classes are online she would take a gap year. "As long as I have the on-campus for at least some actual classes, then I'm okay," she said.

UVM officials say enrollment for the fall is up for in-state students, but down for the higher-paying out-of-state students, who make up about 73% of the student body. Garimella in November pledged a tuition freeze, but with the school expecting an estimated $26 million less in tuition, other budget cuts are expected in the coming weeks.

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