Students and Faculty Share Their Thoughts on Returning to Campus Fully In-Person

by Kiersten Thomas, Staff Writer

After Manhattan College has decided to require vaccination and conduct classes fully in person, students and faculty share their thoughts on returning to campus and their experience learning and teaching remotely. Interviews were conducted before MC’s decision to require masks indoors. Interviews compiled by Kiersten Thomas.

Juliette Cazzari, Junior

Communications major with a concentration in public relations

What is your opinion on the decision to be back fully in person?

I personally love the decision on going back to in-person classes. I feel that I did not do my best mentally when I was taking classes fully remote. I think the jump from online to fully in-person is difficult for some students, so I do think the option to be online should still be offered. However, I know that I will perform better with in-person classes and I would get more out of my time at Manhattan College by living on campus.

What was learning remotely like for you?

Learning remotely was difficult for me. Although my grades either stayed the same or improved, it was mentally draining to constantly be staring at a screen without any in-person social interactions. I am fortunate enough that I was able to receive the vaccine and I feel comfortable returning to campus.

Are there any concerns about coming back given the COVID variants?

I do have some concerns about the other COVID variants and the vaccine’s ability to fight them. I feel that MC will most likely have to return to a mask mandate eventually as the semester progresses. However, I still am optimistic and grateful to be back in person.

What are you looking forward to this semester?

I am looking forward to meeting new people, seeing my professors, and having a more ‘normal’ college experience.

Thom Gencarelli, Ph.d

Founding Chair and Professor of the Communication Department

What is your opinion on the decision to be back fully in person?

I think that it [education] works better when we are in the presence of one another when we’re together in that place … I’m happy that we’re going to be back the way we always did things … but I don’t think we’re back to normal yet … This is still happening, and I really worry that we’re going back into this, and it may all blow up again and I worry about that for my students and I worry about that for the institution.

How was teaching remotely for you?

I had two classes where I was perfectly comfortable with being remote, but I thought that the third class I should come in and that was because the third class was studio television production, and we needed the studio, we needed the equipment, we needed to work together as a crew, and the students needed to learn what they were expecting when they signed up for the class … I wound up doing all three classes remotely … I think, for the communication department, and those of us who are interested in communication and media, we learned some things about remote education, virtual education, online education that reinforced what we had suspected would happen. I think we learned some things that we did not necessarily anticipate.

What challenges did you not anticipate?

When I’m doing it [teaching] through this means, this medium, these devices, these apps, I’m fighting against all of the other things that my students come to see as the purpose and point
of this means, this medium, these devices, these apps and all of the ways in which there are so many things that are so much more interesting than what we’re doing … well, even beyond that, in a class of thirty people, I was seeing ten of them, and a bunch of black screens.

Are there any concerns about teaching fully in person given the COVID variants?

I think I’m going to go in wearing a mask and I’m wearing a mask, not because I’m worried about myself, I’m wearing a mask, not as a political statement, I’m wearing a mask because I care about other people. Even though I’m vaccinated, even though I’m asymptomatic, I could be a carrier … so, at the same time, I think when I’m in the room with people, I’m going to have to take it off … so I’ll take my mask off while I’m talking but other than that I don’t know what else we can do and what we should do and I think, again, we’d have to think of each other and respect each other and try to realize that we are all in this together.

What are you looking forward to this semester?

I’m looking forward to it working. I’m looking forward to beginning next Monday, and ending in December, and we get through it without any more calamity, we get through it without any more, just any more experience of what has been so unfortunate for everybody involved in what is the Manhattan College community.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am certainly done with sitting. I [am] lucky to have an office at home where I can close my door and do my work … but that is not my work life as I wanted to live in and that’s been it for every single thing I do, whether it’s teaching my classes, meeting with students, doing my research and writing, conferences, everything has been sitting in front of this damn screen, and looking at myself, which I really don’t like either.

Chelsea Fedigan, Junior

Business Analytics major

What is your opinion on the decision to be back fully in person?

I definitely think it’s time that we’re fully in person. I was a little surprised when they didn’t offer any remote classes, because I know some schools have done the hybrid and certain classes are remote. I was a little surprised about that but I was planning on living on campus regardless. I would have appreciated the option for remote classes but I can understand why they want everyone back on campus, it’s totally understandable.

What was learning remotely like for you?

It worked really well for me actually. I think all of my professors handled hybrid classes really well and they made sure that they were interacting with remote students as well as the in person students. So I had a really positive experience with it. I think if anything it made it easier to go to office hours or to be more interactive with people and even breakout rooms. I know that it’s not like everyone’s favorite thing but I thought that it was just an easier way to communicate with people.

Are there any concerns about coming back fully in person given the COVID-19 variants?

I’m really happy that I saw, I think 85 percent of students are fully vaccinated, I’m surprised that they’re not requiring masks indoors, I was planning on doing that regardless, but I guess it would make me feel like 100 percent safe if they did require masks indoors. So I’m a little concerned about that but I’m making my own decisions to protect myself.

What are you looking forward to this semester?

I’m really excited to just see everyone in person again because since I was remote all last year like I would do Google meets with my friends and stuff like that, but it’s just been so long since I’ve seen everyone in person … I think in person classes are going to be more interactive hopefully than remote classes so I’m just excited for the conversations again.

Michael Grabowski, Ph.d

Chair and Associate Professor of the Communication Department

What is your opinion on the decision to be back fully in person?

The good news is that as long as people are vaccinated, the rates of transmission and the rates of illness are much, much lower. So I suspect that we will be a population that does not get sick as much as the surrounding community, we have to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated to beat this virus, but in the meantime, we’re taking precautions and I’m recommending that people mask up when they’re together indoors for a long period of time.

How was teaching remotely for you?

Most of our classes were taught remotely. I had two rules. For the pandemic, the number one rule above all else was to keep people alive and so we wanted to make sure that we prioritize the safety of the students and especially before vaccines were available, we were very concerned about that, and then of course, the second rule under that rule was to try to provide the best education we could, considering the circumstances.

What difficulties did teaching remotely pose for you?

I’d say the most difficult part of doing this is a lot of our work, especially in production, it’s hands-on and so trying to convey that information over a screen proved to be challenging. I ended up building a three camera studio in my home office and so I was able to do live demonstrations through that so that helped a bit, but not being able to help students work with equipment was challenging.

What are you looking forward to this semester?

I’m looking forward to seeing people … just seeing people on campus is just such a joy … we’re here for students and I’m glad we were still able to offer education last year, but seeing heads and shoulders and screens and sometimes just letters, sometimes people will turn off the cameras on the screen. That was just so disheartening and so to have people together, working together in the same space, that’s going to be a real joy for this year.

Megan Amore, Sophomore

Communications major

What is your opinion on the decision to be back fully in-person?

I think it is a good idea to be back fully in person though with the rise of new covid variants, anything being “back to normal” is a bit nerve wracking. I think it is important to be all together as a community, as long as there are measures to keep everyone safe, and I am excited for that to happen after being remote all of last year. I do feel more comfortable and safe coming to campus and learning in person knowing that the college required vaccination.

What was learning remotely like for you?

Learning remotely was challenging but I didn’t mind it. Sometimes it was tough to stay focused but my professors did everything they could to make remote learning feel normal and inclusive. I am looking forward to in person classes but I will definitely miss being able to wake up five minutes before class, turn my camera on and be ready without having to even leave my room.

Are there any concerns about coming back given the COVID variants?

New covid variants have definitely raised some concerns for me, and I’m sure for many others but I trust there will be enough safety measures on campus to feel protected, and knowing essentially everyone on campus is vaccinated eases most of my concerns.

What are you looking forward to this semester?

I am looking forward to so much this semester! Though it will not be my first year of college, it will be my first year living on campus so I am excited to get involved in things, meet new people, and really become part of the Manhattan College community.