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Universities across Michigan rethinking fall plans as COVID cases rise on several campuses

(Abby Haywood/ The Collegiate)

By Sabrina Edwards

With thousands of students moving back to Michigan campuses for the fall semester, COVID cases are on the rise at many universities across the state, inspiring many schools to reevaluate their plan of action for the upcoming school year.

While many colleges have plans to deal with COVID, every plan is different. Some schools, like Michigan State University, are going virtual while others are trying to hold onto in-person classes, while still offering hybrid and virtual classes.

Central Michigan University has seen an increase in cases since the beginning of the fall semester. The school has 117 COVID cases currently.

Rachael Yadlowsky, a 23-year-old photojournalism major at CMU who transferred to the Mount Pleasant university last fall from GRCC, is noticing a lot less people on campus.

“With the rise in cases, being on campus – it’s a little scary.” Yadlowsky said. “Especially since I live with my parents who are both over 60.”

Rebecca Colby, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering student at CMU, feels differently about attending classes on campus.

“I currently feel pretty comfortable,” said Colby. “My school has made a lot of changes to make this possible.”

While students are noticing others wearing masks on campus, CMU is currently dealing with spikes due to many students gathering at large parties, off campus. The city has issued a public health emergency order limiting the size of social gatherings to no more than 25 people at outdoor events.

“All institutions in Michigan and throughout the U.S. are working with local community stakeholders to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. “A key variable will be the extent to which students exercise proper safety precautions, especially when they are off campus.”

Maddy Yetman, a global studies and social impact major is noticing the same thing happening in off campus apartments at Grand Valley State University.

“I moved here the first week in August and there were a ton of parties,” said Yetman. “Move in day for my apartment complex was last Friday and we saw parties packed to the door and we tried to avoid people the best we could.”

While Yetman is taking classes in person, she feels GVSU will be making a switch to virtual learning.

Much like CMU, Western Michigan University, is planning on returning to in-person instruction up until their Thanksgiving break. The final weeks of classes as well as exams will be held virtually. Western is also offering different means of instruction for those who don’t want to be on campus.

Rachel Millet, an 18-year-old engineering and applied science major was thankful that WMU announced different methods of instruction early on before signing a housing agreement. She chose to take all online classes this semester, while living in Boston.

“The thought of spending $10,000 plus to live on campus with no in-person classes seemed insane to me,” said Millet. “I wanted the college experience, but I know no one is going to get that this year.”

The Western Herald, WMU’s student newspaper, published an editorial asking the college to cancel in-person classes. With the high likelihood of schools having to shut down, The Herald stated that it was “disrespectful of students’ finances” to reopen, collect room and board, just to close again.

While MSU has moved instruction online this semester, the dorms are still open. Although it’s being handled differently than it has been in the past. Undergraduate students are being asked to stay at home if possible, unless there’s other extenuating circumstances. With classes starting next week, uncertainty is still in the air.

“It’s very hard to tell what’s going to happen next week when classes start,” said Tessa Osborne, a journalism major at MSU who transferred from GRCC. “I’m going to live on campus. I’m glad that I still get to move in because I was really worried that they were going to completely shut the dorms. I am a little bit concerned still because I don’t know what dorm I’m living in yet.”

Oakland University is freezing tuition costs to aid students financially as well as implementing safety procedures to re-open safely this fall.

Journalism major, Matthew Scheidel, another GRCC transfer student, said he feels comfortable attending class on campus at Oakland.

“Oakland is really pushing to try to make it so they can be open for the whole semester,” said Scheidel. “They’ve implemented a lot of things. Face masks are required. They’ve even gotten a bio-button. It’s supposed to track COVID-19 symptoms.”

While many schools are pushing for in-person instruction, if cases continue to rise on campuses it is likely that Michigan colleges will be forced to go completely virtual this fall. 

“Universities are well poised to contain the spread of the virus on campus,” said Hurley. “A critical factor will be the extent to which all stakeholders in the broader campus community work to collectively mitigate the spread of the virus among the off-campus population.”


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