by, Caroline McCarthy, Assistant Features Editor
The Manhattan College community is facing a Spring semester riddled with COVID-19 case spikes in the NYC area, strict social distancing regulations and the continuation of hybrid learning.
According to an interview with The Quadrangle at the end of the Fall semester, director of Resident Life Charles Clency estimated 150 to 200 remote students would return to campus for the Spring semester. With this rise in on-campus living and spike in COVID-19 cases throughout New York City, the school implemented additional rules and regulations to ensure safety for students and faculty.
The official statement released by Jaspers Return announced a “phased reopening” consistent with the New York City COVID guidelines.
The email wrote, “Our phased reentry to campus plan will be one that is underscored by a commitment to the health and safety of our campus community while continuing to pursue our core mission to provide a contemporary, person-centered educational experience.”
Some regulations mirrored the Fall semester, such as to be admitted into any school building students and professors must fill out the Daily Symptom Tracker on the Glance app and wear appropriate personal protective equipment. A student may only attend class if they can show a green pass and wear a mask.
In addition, students underwent mandatory rapid testing after arrival on campus. Contrary to the Fall, returning Spring semester students were mandated to provide a negative PCR prior to their return with an additional rapid test after arrival.
Students who reside in states bordering the NY area only were required to submit the two tests, one 7 days prior to move-in and one conducted by Manhattan College, while students traveling from farther states were expected to produce a PCR test 3 days before traveling and then placed in a three-day quarantine by hotels provided by the school.
One student coming from Virginia, Catherine Feeley-Leetz, had an extended stay in hotel-quarantine due to her misunderstanding the rules of the PCR test.
“I thought that [the email] read you have to get tested and then submit the test three days before leaving,” Feeley-Leetz said. “But it’s actually get tested three days before.”
This misunderstanding turned a three-day quarantine into full ten-day isolation for Feeley-Leetz, who is set to return to campus sometime this week.
Feeley-Leetz recounts that returning to campus for the Fall semester was a more vigorous process since the PCR test was not an option. Students from red states were required to quarantine in New York for 14 days before moving in, regardless of PCR results.
“Virginia got put on the New York state list 10 days before I was leaving,” Feeley-Leetz said. “So I had to leave really fast so I could stay in quarantine because I didn’t want to be quarantined in the dorms.”
Feeley-Leetz stayed with a family member for her New York quarantine in the Fall, but students without this option were required to stay in isolation housing on campus for the entirety of their quarantine. The Spring offered the alternative of submitting PCR tests three days prior to traveling to provide a more convenient approach to limiting interstate contact between students.
Students residing on campus from states bordering New York faced their own difficulties with the move-in process. While waiting for results from the school-administered test, students were mandated to quarantine in their dorms with the exception of going out to pick up food.
Junior Isabella Campbell moved into Lee Hall on January 22 after giving her testing sample at Smith Auditorium, but was notified of an invalid test after an employee mishandled her sample.
“I received an email saying that my sample was dropped [in the lab],” Campbell said. “That was the day I was supposed to receive my test results.”
Until a new test was administered and a negative result was found, Campbell stayed in her own extended quarantine.
“I feel the regulations have gotten a lot stricter because cases are not getting any better,” Campbell said. “A lot of people didn’t really follow the rules last semester so I think that’s why they got stricter.”
Despite the change in restrictions, there are more opportunities for in-person learning this semester. Professors teaching in-person courses submitted a negative COVID-19 result prior to their return and are eligible for random testing.
Most professors are apt to teach their courses in a hybrid-style learning environment, with some students attending online and some physically in the classroom.
Bridget Chalk, Ph.D., is a professor of English at the college who has seen an array of students opting to choose in-person classes over the remote ones.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag for me,” Chalk said. “One of my classes is mostly in person and the other two are evenly divided but maybe a little bit more in person.”
Chalk recounts that these variations are very similar to how her classes were attended in the Fall. Though Chalk prefers in-person teaching and feels it is more engaging for students, she feels hybrid classes are essential for student’s schedules and health.
“There is something good about being together in a space to me,” Chalk said. “I like to be making gestures and standing up so I was very happy to be in the classroom. But the experience was compromised by the conditions of hybrid teaching.”
Chalk feels it may be better to have all remote or all in-person sections in order to optimize the experience.
“It would be nice to have all remote sections or all in-person sections,” said Chalk. “The hybrid is important for people’s schedules and to fulfill requirements and everything but I don’t think you can optimize teaching in hybrid where you could optimize the remote experience or optimize the in-person experience.”
Despite these obstacles, the Manhattan College Spring semester is off to a promising start with a reported 1585 tests administered. Of these tests, four positive results were recorded with 481 results pending. These results show Manhattan College is well below the positive COVID results of New York City as a whole, with the college averaging at 0.07% positive cases and New York City averaging at 5.4%.
“We were quite successful in keeping outbreaks suppressed [in the Fall] and the community transmission was lower,” Chalk said. “I hope that everything is going to work again. I’m not sure what else they could do. It seems perfectly safe to me.”