by, Megan LaCreta & Kelly Kennedy, Staff Writer & Asst. Social Media Editor
With registration beginning on April 6, students noticed something interesting while preparing their schedules for the 2021 fall semester: an abundance of in-person classes. After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, marked by online and hybrid classes, this move by the college seems to signal a return to normalcy.
In an email sent out to the Manhattan College community, President Brennan O’Donnell confirmed the school’s plans for a full return to campus-based learning.
“As the semester begins on Monday, August 30, 2021, courses will return to their regular mode of operation, and we aim to offer the full complement of campus activities that are so important to our Lasallian Catholic mission and our beloved traditions,” O’Donnell wrote. “We expect all students, faculty, and staff to be on campus, in-person. It is vital that we return to campus to provide students with the robust living and learning experiences that are a hallmark of the Manhattan College experience.”
Undergraduate courses are set to return to the in-person instruction model, while graduate courses, many of which were in an online or hybrid format before the pandemic, will revert to their normal mode of instuction.
The school will continue to follow CDC, New York State and New York City guidelines regarding protective measures and social distancing in classrooms, according to Provost Steven Schreiner. In the wake of the CDC’s announcement relaxing social distancing guidelines in schools from six to three feet, Schreiner also said he would expect classroom capacities to increase.
Both Schreiner and O’Donnell’s email cited the increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines as a reason for the college’s plan to return to normalcy. O’Donnell encouraged those in the Manhattan community to get vaccinated when they are eligible, though he emphasized that the school would not require vaccinations, unless recommended by city, state or federal guidelines.
The school currently does not have plans to accommodate individuals who do not wish to return to in-person classes by the fall semester. Shreiner cited vaccine availability and reaching herd immunity as the reasons behind this decision.
“We are not, we’re not making plans at this moment for accommodations because if the vaccine is available to everybody… we expect everyone to really have the ability to get immunity, if they want to,” Schreiner said. “And that alone is protective, even if I choose not to get the vaccine, that protects me.”
Schreiner also made it clear that the school is prepared to respond accordingly if in-person instruction once again becomes unsafe.
While a number of MC students are still remote, many students feel as if a return to fully in-person classes is a step in the right direction back to a normal college experience.
Arjun Jaswal is a sophomore civil engineering major who opted to stay remote for the spring 2021 semester.
“I picked to be remote because I felt like the virus was going to keep spreading and that students would be sent home,” Jaswal said. “I didn’t want to move to school just to be sent back home if the virus spread.”
Although he opted to stay home this semester, Jaswal states that he would have returned to campus during the fall 2021 semester even if remote learning was still an option.
Jaswal says, “I will be in class next semester even if remote learning was offered. I feel like I have missed out on a lot and want to get my college experience. I am less worried than I was a year ago because of the vaccine and now know I can go back.”
The idea of missing out on the “real college experience” is something that many students would agree on with the influx of online classes. Sophomore sociology major Grace Kalfatovic felt the same, and came back to campus in the spring 2021 semester for that reason.
“I was not on campus in the fall but I returned to campus for the spring because I missed my friends and hated online classes. I’m excited classes will be fully in person but I’m really worried about case numbers rising and us being sent home, like we came close to this semester,” Kalfatovic said.
With the accessibility to the COVID-19 vaccine and return to fully in-person classes, it seems that a return to normalcy is underway. Although, there is still the looming threat of the continuous COVID-19 pandemic over the plans for all students to be on campus.
“Behind the scenes, unbeknownst to the students during the registration, we have set up some things that would make it possible, if something really bad happened, we could go back to some sort of a HyFlex mode,” Schreiner said. “It’s not in our forward outward planning, but we will take everything we’ve learned over the last year, and make it part of our decision making and planning, if we need to go back.”
Because of this, all students and faculty are encouraged to get vaccinated in order to allow a return to campus. To help with the transition, there will be a portal to upload vaccination status in addition to the current testing portal.
“We will be creating a portal. So that when one gets a vaccination status of fully vaccinated, they can upload it just like you were uploading tests before returning this spring. You can upload your vaccination status, and that will help in the transition,” Schreiner said.
Above all else, Manhattan College is confident that the campus can return to some sort of normalcy with everyone back on campus for in-person instruction in the fall.
“Bottom line is to be fully in person next fall. With students, faculty, staff, everybody on campus, as we were in the past,” Schreiner said.