On Jan. 10, the Meredith College community received an email from the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) stating that classes would be delivered remotely from Jan. 12 to Jan. 14. This decision was made in order to improve safety on campus following the break, with the Omicron variant being more contagious than other variants. On Jan. 13, the ELT announced that in-person instruction would resume on Jan. 18.
When asked about why the decision was made, Dr. Jean Jackson, Vice President for College Programs, and Dr. Matthew Poslusny, Senior Vice President and Provost, said in a joint statement, “Waiting to start in-person instruction until [Jan.] 18 gave us more than two weeks between New Year’s Eve…and the start of in-person classes. In addition, we were also monitoring the availability of vaccinations and testing, knowing that [members] of our community were trying to schedule vaccinations, including boosters, and many wanted to test before returning to campus.”
They also stated, “While we could not reasonably change the start date of the semester to mitigate exposures over the holidays, we could change the delivery method.”
Students’ opinions about the start of the semester vary. Megan George, ‘24, said that she “didn't understand the reasoning behind the team's decision to begin with three days of online learning.”
“I learn much better in person and was very disappointed to hear classes would not be in person the first week,” George said.
On the other hand, Laurelyn Ponder, ‘22, said, “I wish I had more warning about the decision beforehand so I could continue isolation with my family than in the community dorms. However, I appreciate the [ELT’s] decision to reevaluate in-person [modality]...Starting online actually really helped my anxiety about the transition heading back into a crowded classroom.”
Dr. Jackson and Dr. Poslusny said, “If conditions warrant, we could go back to online classes for a period of time.” George said that “even if cases continue to rise, [she] would very much prefer to stay in person.”
“I would like to go back online if the cases continue to rise,” Ponder said. “Even though I am a senior and this is my last year, I’d rather be safe and locked down than be forced to go in person…We have the tools to use technology [for communication], socialization and education so why don’t we use it?”
Dr. Lori Brown, Professor of Sociology and Criminology, was given special permission from the Dean of Arts and Humanities to hold classes online for the first two weeks of the semester. When asked why she requested to do so, she said, “I am over 60, have my 83-year-old mother living with me and I am diabetic.” She does, however, believe that in-person learning is more conducive to student success.
“College students need more social interactions in an environment like a classroom where you talk to people as a routine part of your day,” Dr. Brown said. “However, many of the faculty and staff have high anxiety and health issues that make returning to face-to-face highly stressful.”
Dr. Brown stated that she is “sympathetic with the hard choices [the ELT] and others in the community must make, and [she hopes] students take this into account as they think about these issues.”
Dr. Jackson and Dr. Poslusny said that when changes to the college’s schedule are made, “the Marketing and Communications team drafts a message to go out to the entire community. Once the [ELT] has approved the message, it is sent out, typically the same day.”
By Freya Dahlgren, Opinion Editor