The UC system’s announcement that the first two weeks of winter quarter will be online was met with mixed reactions. With some campuses like UCR heavily advocating for an almost completely in-person quarter, the news of two weeks online came as cases of the Omicron variant began to rise across the country. While the promise of only two weeks online eerily echoes the sentiment at the start of the pandemic in 2020, the UC can now act more responsibly and not repeat history by keeping a close eye on the cases and potentially proceeding to a hybrid environment accordingly.
Though the situation looks bleak, the UC’s choice to go online for at least two weeks was a smart move. It seems like enough time for people to recover from any potential exposure to COVID or other illnesses before heading back to campus. While it’s a disappointment to many students who were looking forward to a taste of in-person classes again, going online for two weeks and the new recommendation of getting the booster shot are both essential preventative measures to ensure campus safety. The opt for two weeks online is a step in the right direction, and the booster mandate even more so to ensure that in-person classes will be a possibility once the two weeks online period ends.
They should take into account, however, that the right choice might just be to go back in person as promised when the online period ends. The fact is that these “unprecedented times” are now precedented. Though UCR did have to deal with some student COVID cases last quarter, the hybrid model worked well for students who wanted to be in-person and for those who felt safer being at home. And although UCR’s ambitious desire to go fully in-person seemed great, the fact that a petition to continue offering hybrid options made its way around campus shows that some students don’t feel safe coming back to in-person classes yet. The UC system should ensure that after these two weeks are over, there are still options for those who do not want to risk going to in-person classes.
For the rest of students who are anxious to be back in classrooms again, the university shouldn’t plan to go fully online again either. At this point, the best thing that the UC can do is implement precautions when the student body goes back in person. It isn’t worth the risk of another year online that affects the mental states of every student. Seniors want to be back on campus and enjoy the last few months of the college experience while they still can. Newcomer freshmen want to sink their teeth into the college experience. The mental health crisis among college students during the pandemic has been well documented, with students feeling everything from Zoom burnout to increased rates of anxiety and depression. To go completely online again after college students were adjusting to being in person again could potentially lead to a greater slew of mental health consequences the university system isn’t ready to assist.
Though the fear is that the UC will ultimately shift all classes online, the UC needs to put its students first. Mandating the booster shot and continuing to advocate for students to practice individual safety precautions will ensure a safe winter quarter for all. Continuing to allow hybrid options on an open campus will be the best way to ensure students still get interaction while also having the choice of staying home or coming to campus, depending on what they feel more comfortable with. The UC must take these actions for the good of all of their students or risk another quarter of students feeling down.