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Graphic by Kattie Corte.

On Friday, March 12, a year after Saint Peter’s University transitioned to fully remote learning, President Eugene Cornacchia sent out an email announcing the school's “plan to return to primarily in-person operations for the Fall 2021 semester.” 

Many students have mixed feelings about the university’s plan to re-open its doors. While some are looking forward to returning, others are more hesitant about being on campus once again.

Biochemistry major Oshane Anon, an international student from Jamaica who is living on campus, said he’s “happy [to return] if the plan could be executed safely.” 

Although Anon has been taking a few in-person labs this semester, he said this past year has been challenging and that he really misses “the feeling of actually sitting in a classroom.”

“It's hard to say if it's the right decision … this depends on the events that take place between now and the start of the Fall Semester, but for the most part, I do feel safe [to return],” said Anon.

In addition to in-person learning, the university plans to resume in-person events and activities. In the upcoming weeks, in-person campus tours for accepted students and potential applicants will also commence. 

Cornacchia also stated that over the past year, 10 classrooms in the McDermott and Pope buildings were upgraded “to allow for Hy-Flex (hybrid flexible) learning.”

“A renewed campus awaits you … renovations have been ongoing and will offer significant enhancements to our facilities,” Cornacchia said. “We plan to blend in-person and online learning more effectively as we move forward.” 

Junior criminal justice major Janet Ocotitla is eagerly looking forward to returning and said this past semester has been “a mix of various emotions, from easy to hard and boring all at once.”

Ocotitla believes that in-person classes motivated more interaction than online ones.

“Nobody likes showing their face on camera, including myself, and it sucks having to stare at black screens for most of the day,” she said.

Ocotitla added that she feels safe to return, “as long as all CDC recommendations are put into practice and people at school follow them.” She also expressed that she misses the simple interactions of having other people around.

Junior communications major John Cermak said that as much as he wants to return to in-person classes, he does not feel “safe enough to return just yet.”

Given that the SPU community was recently informed of 23 students who tested positive for the virus, Cermark said he can't say for sure if it's the right decision to return.

Regarding the recent renovations, Cermak said “they sound nice on paper, but I didn’t see any safety benefits (mitigating the risk of viral transmission) listed with them. I hope [there are], since the virus is still a prominent threat.”

The renovations include a new global finance lab in the Frank J. Guarini School of Business; a modernized multi-use arena, called the “Run Baby Run” arena, in the Victor R. Yanitelli, S.J. Recreational Life Center; and a six-story, suite-style residence hall with a view of the New York City skyline that will open in late 2022.

At the beginning of the year, Dean of Students Travis Whisler announced that all students and employees are required to complete the “Cura Personalis Contract.”

“This is an agreement that we need you to sign to acknowledge that you understand the guidelines that have been put into place to help keep the Saint Peter's University community healthy and safe,” said Whisler.

The contract is an electronic Google Form that can be accessed and completed through a Saint Peter's University Google account. The safety policies include the required use of masks in all buildings throughout campus, practicing 6 feet social distancing and  frequently washing hands.

The contract also states that all students must agree to be vaccinated if they wish to reside on campus once the vaccination is readily available to the public. 

If in-person classes resume in the fall, vaccination could be required of all students, including commuters, to ensure everyone’s safety. 

Whisler emphasized that “following these safety guidelines and policies will help protect you and others.”

Although senior Rickea Bell will not be returning for the fall semester, she hopes everyone’s safety is taken into consideration. 

“It’s disappointing; no one anticipated graduating under these extreme circumstances, but... health is and should be the priority, after all,” said Bell. “I just hope there’s some sort of compensation for the experience we probably won’t get to have.”

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