January 3, 2022
Remember the start of the fall semester, when college presidents spoke about how their institutions could resume normal operations?
Fast-forward to the last weeks of December, and it’s clear the pandemic isn’t close to being gone. Omicron, a variant of the coronavirus, has spread in the United States and is now the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 found here.
Many colleges, especially those where the winter quarter or spring semester begins today, are adjusting their academic calendars. Some colleges are holding a few weeks of classes online, and some of those colleges are discouraging students from returning to campus. Other colleges have delayed the start of their semesters. Some are switching the start of the semester to online only. January terms, in which students study one subject for a few weeks, have largely gone online. Some colleges announced their decisions before Christmas. Other announcements came on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Some colleges are sticking with their original plans, and are winning praise and criticism for doing so.
Many colleges, including those that are making other changes and those that aren’t, are requiring students and employees to get booster vaccine shots or to wear masks in most buildings on campus.
Changing Format of Instruction
DePaul University announced early in December that it would offer the first two weeks of instruction, which starts today, online. University officials cited the early start date.
Harvard and Stanford Universities announced a few weeks later that all classes would go online—Harvard for three weeks and Stanford for two.
“Please know that we do not take this step lightly. It is prompted by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country, as well as the growing presence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant,” Harvard president Lawrence S. Bacow and other administrators wrote to Harvard students. “It is reinforced by the guidance of public health experts who have advised the university throughout the pandemic. As always, we make this decision with the health and safety of our community as our top priority.”
Other institutions that announced online plans include the California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Illinois State University, Temple University and Universities of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at Chicago.