As another semester of online schooling winds down and students prepare to return to the Hilltop, anticipation for the upcoming fall semester could be characterized as cautious optimism.
The latest update from Interim Provost Tyrone Cannon, in an email earlier this month, stated the University would “move toward a primarily in-person fall term.” This new information came in tandem with the publication of the fall 2021 course list. The new curriculum features an expanded schedule, including Saturday classes and courses which start as early as 7 a.m. and end as late as 10:30 p.m.
Cannon said these changes were necessary in order to meet current San Francisco Department of Public Health guidelines surrounding social distancing.
Though sophomore politics major Jada Commodore understands the need to expand course timetables, she’s concerned how this expanded schedule will impact student attentiveness, especially among those who need to work or commute to class. “I’m going to need all these self-proclaimed morning people to take one for the team because we all know how hard 8 a.m. classes already are, but 7 a.m.?” Commodore questioned. She said she does believe USF can have a full traditional return to campus if the University requires coronavirus vaccinations. “I just think we wouldn’t need to wake up early or stay [out] late if only the University says, ‘You need to be fully vaccinated to come back.’ I think it’s avoidable,” she said.
Though a growing number of colleges and universities are stipulating that all students and faculty be fully vaccinated in order to return to campus, USF does not currently intend to do so. The University has cited differing speed and success levels of vaccine rollout in different areas as the main reason why vaccination will not be required to return to the Hilltop this fall. Currently, per Cannon’s April 1 update email, USF “strongly encourages all who are able to get a vaccine to do so.”
International student Erica Divinagracia, who lives in Manila, Philippines, is one student struggling to get access to a coronavirus vaccine. “I’m pretty excited to be back, but I’m still scared. I think my number one thing is when I would be getting the vaccine since the distribution in the Philippines is not as fast,” she said. In addition, further financial costs, the stress of finding an apartment, as well as the recent spike in Asian hate crimes are complicating her decision to return to San Francisco.
Incoming residential adviser (RA) and junior kinesiology major Jared Bague expects everyone to try and remake what they left behind pre-pandemic. “To be honest, I’m also trying to recover what I had lost since this is going to be my last year and I think everyone else will try to do the same. But we also have to realize that coming back to campus in this modified environment will need some patience and understanding,” he said.
The April 1 University update did not announce any further definitive health and safety policies for the fall. Still, many including Student Housing and Residential Educational (SHaRE) officials said they expect dorms to be filled, along with announcements of more detailed campus protocols once San Francisco releases public health mandates which will reflect the pandemic’s danger level at that time of students’ return.
Philosophy professor Rebecca Mason expressed that faculty faces challenges in putting together next fall’s curriculum given continued uncertainty. “This is going to be a transitional period, and if we want to be safe, it’s going to be inconvenient, but we have to be accommodating,” she said.
Fall courses will be offered five different ways. Aside from in-person, remote, and online modalities, USF plans to implement a hybrid method, where classes don’t meet on campus every session or where students rotate in-person and online shifts each week. In addition, there will be hyflex instruction, where class sessions are offered both remotely and in-person.
For nursing sophomore Frances Talino, any in-person class is a welcome experience after a limited year that has hindered many in the School of Nursing. “It’s been weird since not everyone has had clinical experience at all,” said Talino.
The announcement of the return to campus gave the freshmen class some needed good news after most spent their first year of college at home. Freshman biology major Drew Love said he is eager to finally see the Hilltop and San Francisco, as the Michigan native is still yet to climb the Lone Mountain steps. “I think for a lot of first-years, we’ve now kind of figured out what the whole college education is like, but we’re really excited to finally be at campus and get this other part of USF that we haven’t experienced,” he said.
For all the latest official University information and updates about campus guidelines and next fall, visit USF Together.
Miguel Arcayena is a junior politics major, Deputy News Editor, and a General Assignment Reporter at the Foghorn. He covers COVID-19-related campus news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.