This kind of regimentation is the trade-off university officials are asking in exchange for the resumption of classes on the storied campus in Charlottesville known as “Grounds.”
U-Va. officials, as expected, announced that the school plans to offer online, face-to-face and hybrid classes to the 24,000 students when the fall term starts in late August. Students have been essentially shut off from the campus since in-person teaching was canceled in March when the public health crisis intensified.
Students will be able to take a full schedule of classes, whether in Charlottesville or elsewhere, U-Va. officials said. Those who live on Grounds will be put into doubles, as usual, officials said, and they will be allowed to choose roommates in advance. Other elements of school life will gradually resume.
“We are planning for fall sporting events to be held on Grounds, and student athletes will be hearing from coaches about steps that will allow them to train and compete safely,” U-Va. President James E. Ryan and other officials wrote in a letter to the community.
Officials emphasized that public health rules are not optional. “Every student, faculty, and staff member who will be on Grounds this fall will have to meet certain health and safety requirements designed to keep members of the UVA and broader community safe,” they wrote. “Students and their families will receive details about these requirements over the summer and will be asked to agree to them as a condition of returning to—and remaining on—Grounds.”
They added: “Anyone sharing a classroom, lab, dining hall, lounge, or other common space will need to maintain a six-foot distance for any contact longer than 10 minutes.”
How these rules will be enforced at U-Va. and elsewhere remains to be seen. Skeptics wonder how students who crave social life can be persuaded to wear masks and avoid partying. But many universities in recent days have announced cautious — and still fluid — plans for reopening campus.
The University of California at Berkeley said Wednesday it will offer housing to 6,500 students in singles and doubles, and it will have a mix of in-person and online classes. Students moving into Berkeley’s residence halls “will likely be required to undergo COVID-19 testing immediately prior to returning to campus and/or upon arrival to campus and will be expected to isolate for 7-10 days after arriving on campus,” the university said.
U-Va. plans to offer a sweetener to help students make the most of a challenging school year: Undergraduates will be allowed, at no extra charge, to take courses in January and in the summer. Those will be in addition to the university’s regular offerings in the fall and spring semesters. The topics of these additional courses, the school said, will include the science of pandemics, racial justice and analyzing the 2020 election.