Binghamton University has begun planning for a “near” normal campus experience for the upcoming fall semester.
BU President Harvey Stenger announced at a Student Association (SA) Congress meeting Tuesday night that students can expect a safe and gradual return to mostly in-person instruction for next semester as well as the resumption of co-curricular and curricular activities.
As it is normal procedure for campus administrators and department chairs to plan the classes that will be offered for the upcoming semester, the University plans for both undergraduate and graduate courses to return to in-person instruction for the fall semester.
Although the administration is still in the planning stages for fall 2021, more information will be available soon. Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations at BU, spoke briefly about the importance of offering in-person instruction for student engagement and participation in academics.
“We do plan on having a full slate of in-person classes,” Yarosh wrote in an email. “In-person classes are the crux of what we do and are an integral part of our learning environment. We know that students do better when they are in class and living among their friends. Therefore, we are planning that you’ll be able to interact meaningfully with the campus.”
During the SA meeting, Donald Nieman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, stated that the University is not planning on accommodating students who plan to be fully remote next year unless the course would normally be offered virtually.
“We really believe that it will be safe for people to be on campus and offering courses in the BingFlex mode is very cumbersome for students in the classes as well as for faculty members, but we have made it work,” Nieman said. “It is not an optimal situation, so we are not planning on continuing that.”
Logan Blakeslee, a senior majoring in history and an Off-Campus College Council (OC3) SA Congress representative, questioned whether refunds for housing will be available should there be a spike in COVID-19 cases during the fall semester.
“I do not have an anticipation that we will have a large number of positive cases next fall semester,” Stenger said. “I believe that we have passed the peak this semester and that we will maintain at this low positive rate for the rest of the semester. My anticipation is that students, faculty and staff will get vaccinated over the summer.”
With an increase in the availability of vaccines, the University does not anticipate having to send students home. However, plans may need to be adjusted to reflect the uncertainty of current times and refunds will be sent out if the situation arises.
Additionally, the reopening of physical classroom spaces plans to prioritize the health and safety of the BU community by continuing surveillance testing during the fall semester and maintaining some social distancing practices.
SA members also questioned whether the University would be making efforts to track the vaccination status of returning students. As of right now, there is no information on whether BU will be required to track vaccination status, but the University plans to encourage students to upload vaccination records to the Decker Student Health Services Center. Additionally, the University is determining whether they will have the ability to distribute vaccines to students before the end of the spring 2021 semester. To gauge student vaccination status information, BU is considering sending out a survey.
Torrey Jacobson-Evans, a freshman majoring in business administration, has only taken remote classes during his time at BU but is looking forward to learning how the transition will work.
“I’m excited to return to in-person classes next semester,” Jacobson-Evans said. “Being a freshman, I don’t know exactly how different in-person class is going to be compared to online, but I’m optimistic about it and am looking forward to seeing how it goes.”