Hope for a ‘Normal’ Fall Semester
It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down society and forced us to change the way we live our daily lives. But with the prospect of a vaccine that could lessen the effects of COVID-19 or even prevent it, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel in regards to the pandemic and the possibility of return to normalcy. Here on campus, with the prospects of a vaccine available to the public, there is a possibility that a completely open campus for students and staff could come in the fall of 2021, but this would require wide participation in getting the vaccine that fights against the coronavirus.
Regarding mandatory vaccine requirements for students, President Timothy Trainor said, “Yes [students will have to get the vaccine]. That is our current policy with exceptions made for those with medical conditions precluding them from receiving it. There will also be exceptions allowed for religious reasons.”
Trainor also added, “There have been a few parents and students raising concerns about the vaccine requirement. We will continue to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccines as we all learn more about these in the coming months and will adjust policies as appropriate. I have not received concerns about being open in fall 2021 as we have demonstrated we can do so this year.”
Concerning what will happen regarding an open campus next semester, Trainor concluded saying, “I expect the campus to be open with few restrictions depending on the level of the vaccine rollout completed by then. We expect our employees to get vaccinated by the end of April and students over the summer.”
There is also the view of Residence Life and how the office will cope with a completely open campus. Associate Director of Residence Life, Jamie Chong Brown, said, “Our office is certainly excited about the full reopening of campus for the fall semester.” The office is optimistic that the return to campus plan outlined by the Mount Safe Teams will help everyone get back to another “new normal” this fall. They will be working closely with the Mount Safe Teams and continue to follow state and local guidelines. Brown remarked, “We are hopeful that most students will be vaccinated by August, which means more can gather safely.”
Brown also stated that their plan right now is to reserve a small number of on-campus spaces for quarantine/isolation. They are still discussing how occupancy policies might change, but for now, they are planning to revert mostly to the pre-pandemic limits. “We will continue to adapt based on the changing regulations. Like many of our students, we understand how living on campus is an essential part of the college experience, so we are eager to do all we can to return to normalcy,” he added.
The Office of Admissions will be focusing on the new class of students that is arriving in the fall. Eric Danielson, Director of Admissions, said that they are excited about returning to something a bit closer to “normal” at the Mount – a lot of their recruitment is focused on getting prospective students and families to visit the campus and to speak with the rest of the campus community. Being able to have, safely, larger groups on campus and more opportunities to meet with current students, faculty and staff is a big part of how the office shows off the Mount. Also, as the rest of Maryland opens up and vaccines become more available, they will be able to resume their travel to local high schools and college fairs which also helps them connect with families.
“Our hope is that we can continue to increase the number of visitors and that next semester can resume the excitement level of a ‘normal’ semester at the Mount so that we can showcase that for the class of 2026. We also have many students who assist us throughout the cycle – giving tours, hosting overnight visits, speaking on panels at events, working in our office - and that has been more difficult this year as many students are studying remotely or have been busier because of the added stress of this year so we are looking forward to our whole team being reenergized for fall 2021,” Danielson stated.
With vaccines becoming mandatory for students and staff on campus, it will give everybody the hope that normal is around the corner. But with more than a month to go in the current semester, it is still very important to wear a mask and to maintain social distance.