When we left Case Western Reserve University at the end of 2021 it would have been hard to imagine this sort of start to the semester. With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, CWRU administration decided to move classes online for the first two weeks of classes. However, while we acknowledge the need to move to remote instruction in order to mitigate the spread of the variant, the return to online classes may have plummeted students’ spirits and the disorganized responses from the administration haven’t made this transition seamless.
To start off, as essential as COVID-19 testing is, the university hasn’t made it easy to acquire one. While CWRU may have set up vending machines with COVID-19 tests around campus, those machines have been found to not always function properly or are empty for too long. If machines are consistently broken or empty, then students and faculty have to hunt for a test from other vending machines across campus or trek all the way to the Robbins Building for a test (which isn’t available after 3 p.m. or on weekends). Though students also had to take surveillance testing the first weeks of the fall semester, we had more accessible testing sites and locations. That level of accessibility should be available for students throughout the semester; faulty vending machines shouldn’t be acceptable.
The overwhelming amount of information that the university seems to be hurling at us at an unrelenting pace hasn’t made the transition any easier. Over the break, we were told that classes were going to be online the first two weeks, and since then, we have been barraged with emails detailing changing guidelines and protocols. For example, we were told classes are remote but nothing about how and when students were required to return to campus during this period. Then, weeks later and only a few days before classes started, we were told that we were required to return to campus by Jan. 10. While the reasoning behind returning to campus is understandable (with the goal to reduce case rates and prevent extended times in isolation for students in the middle of the semester), we should have been told of it sooner. It is unreasonable to expect students to return to campus during a remote learning period when given a three-day notice. While certain information, such as testing protocols on campus, can be everchanging due to the nature of COVID-19, other information isn’t as variable.
Something else that has us all on edge is the possibility that remote instruction will last for even longer than the two week period. CWRU is certainly assuring that a return to in-person instruction is likely, especially given the fact that certain organizations’ meetings are allowed in-person and campus buildings are open during this two-week period. While we can’t blame the university for taking action during this dangerous wave of infections, CWRU does have a reputation for telling us important information at the last minute. With this track record, if we do have to continue courses online, we most likely won’t know until right before classes are supposed to start back in person, making many feel anxious or worried about how the rest of the semester will go.
The university could have handled this remote period better, whether through more consistent messaging and information, a better testing structure or even sympathy towards students struggling with this remote transition once again. However, despite CWRU’s fumbling at the beginning of the semester, there is still hope that we will go back to in-person courses. As we go into the new year and semester, it is important to remember that we all are struggling a bit with this unsure stage of the pandemic and college; however, we can hold onto that hope that we will get through this together.