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Vaxxed and Back in Class

Story by Nica Lasater

Finally, the moment everyone — students, professors, and administrators alike—has been waiting for since Spring 2020: BU is back to normal.

Well...sort of.

Last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption to typical life it brought, students were able to learn from any place, any time thanks to the implementation of the Learn from Anywhere education model. And learn from anywhere they did.

Some students made the tough decision, due to safety or financial concerns, to stay in their home city or state (or country, in the case of international students). They attended classes virtually or took the semester off school.

Others used the flexibility of the LfA model to their advantage, traveling with a group of friends or family members to a new place where they took classes remotely.

Still others remained on campus and participated in a hybrid model of school, attending class some days in person, and some days via Zoom from their dorm rooms or apartments.

This fall, thanks to widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, everyone is back to learning and living on campus which is operating under “near-normal” conditions (or at least that’s the goal, according to Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore).

The most significant change is that the LfA model is no more, meaning all students must attend class in-person. Even if a student preferred to attend virtually, the option is not available to them; professors are no longer allowed to record lectures.

Kamila Cuevas (CAS ‘23), who transferred to BU in the middle of the pandemic, commented on the difference between this fall and the past year.

“This semester has been kinda overwhelming compared to last because I’m not used to seeing so many on campus,” she said. “Being around lots of people and going to class and clubs in person is definitely a better experience, but it has definitely taken time to readjust to.”

While students seem to generally agree that this change has improved their quality of learning, there is one population to whom this has proven to be detrimental — the students who, despite being vaccinated, test positive for COVID-19.

Ashna Mitta (QST ‘24) is one student who recently contracted the virus and, despite having minimal symptoms, was stuck in isolation for 10 days. This meant missing about 11 class periods, multiple chapter meetings for her professional fraternity, and the entire audition process for her acapella group.

“I wasn’t too sick, which I’m thankful for,” Mitta said. “I think the worst part is the stress of not being able to go to class and then also, being thrown right back into social and school life once you’re out.”

Regarding the academic support received during this disruption, she said, “Most professors told me to look on their sites, but only a few actually reached out to me personally.”

There is one exception to the no Zoom rule for this semester. Some language classes including introductory language courses where proper demonstration of pronunciation is necessary, and all ASL classes in which facial expressions are critical for communication, will be operating virtually this semester due to the complications that wearing a mask brings.

“Doing ASL on Zoom is strange because there is a bit of a delay from the professor to the interpreter actually translating,” said Cuevas, who is currently in ASL 1. “I do wish we could have it in person, but due to the importance of facial expressions, it would not be feasible to wear a mask and be in person.”

Mask-wearing is one of the conditions that students must follow in order to be allowed on campus.

Other conditions for health compliance include being vaccinated, which is mandatory for everyone with the exception of people unable to do so due to health or religious reasons. In these cases, documentation must be provided to explain why an exception should be made. As of now, 97.1% of students are vaccine-compliant according to the BU COVID-19 Data Dashboard. Faculty are 99.4% and staff is 94.3% compliant.

Students must also complete regular symptoms surveys and get tested at least once a week, which is less frequent than was required in the past year.

Thanks to these health requirements, Cuevas said she feels safe going to class, although she still worries about the possibility of contracting the virus.

“It is kinda stressful being jam packed in a lecture hall especially when so many kids are getting sick and still coming to class because there are no lecture recordings,” she commented.

This learning environment — including testing, mask-wearing, and the occasional bout of COVID anxiety — is the most near-normal BU can be. And it’s a huge improvement from Spring 2020.


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