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Students unsure about a full return in fall but overwhelmingly oppose continuing remote learning, new Setonian poll finds

Seton Hall students appear to be divided over whether or not they will be able to return to campus in the fall, according to a new poll conducted by The Setonian.

The poll, which ran from May 8 to May 17 and sourced responses from 104 Seton Hall students, found that 44% of survey respondents were unsure or did not have enough information to be able to say whether or not they think in-person classes would resume in the fall 2020 semester.

Buildings remain closed on campus as the global pandemic continues to rage on. (Nicholas Kerr/Editor-in-Chief)

As to whether or not they would support a continuation of remote learning in the fall, 70% of respondents said that they would dislike Seton Hall continuing with the practice in the fall, while 96% said that they would oppose a tuition hike if remote learning were to continue.

The survey data comes as colleges and universities across the country continue to struggle with figuring out how to administer classes and deliver the best student experience possible in the midst of a global pandemic.

Last week, California State University, the country’s largest four-year public university system, announced that classes at its 23 statewide campuses would proceed primarily online, with limited exceptions for in-person instruction.

At a Board of Trustee’s meeting announcing the decision, chancellor of the California State University system Timothy White cited forecasts by public health officials that a possible second wave of COVID-19 could sweep the country in the fall as part of the reason for the decision.   

“Our university, when open without restrictions and fully in person, as is the traditional norm of the past, is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity with each other on a daily basis,” White said. “That approach, sadly, just isn’t in the cards now.”

In a Monday appearance on MSNBC, White also warned that the California State system was planning for the possibility that the Spring semester may also have to proceed online.

“We are anticipating another bump in the pandemic’s expression in California in the summer,” White said. “But then there was a fairly significant one forecast in the November time, which coupled with influenza could create a very serious health challenge for the university and for the state, and then we're expecting another bump in 2021 so this is not a four month or six planning window, we're actually planning out for a couple of years.”

While testifying before the Senate last Tuesday, the nation’s leading immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci alongside other public health officials, put down the idea that treatments or a vaccine would be ready by the fall 2020, adding that testing capabilities would likely determine if students will feel safe returning in the fall.

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“The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate reentry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far,” Fauci said. “The drug that has shown some degree of efficacy was modest and was in hospitalized patients.”

According to an analysis of colleges and universities by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 68% of colleges are planning to reopen in the fall, with Seton Hall listed as one of them.

“We look forward to welcoming students and the entire community back to our campuses as soon as safely possible. The more comprehensive our planning, the greater our ability to effectively anticipate any outcome,” University President Dr. Joseph Nyre said in a May 6 statement announcing the establishment of two groups tasked with opening campus in the fall and contingency planning, respectively.

Nicholas Kerr can be reached at Find him on Twitter @nickdotkerr. 


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