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EDITORIAL: Rutgers made right call for Spring 2021

Most students will not be back on campus for Rutgers' Spring 2021 semester. While this is disappointing, it is a safe decision. – Photo by Benjamin Chelnitsky

Rutgers University has announced their plan for the Spring 2021 semester, according to a University-wide email.

“As I mentioned in my October 8 message, the New Brunswick academic units have been working closely with my office to determine which courses can be taught safely in-person with social distancing protocols in place. In consultation with the faculty and my academic leadership team, I have made the decision that all New Brunswick schools will offer limited in-person instruction for Spring 2021 – primarily courses that require physical presence such as lab research, studio courses, and clinical instruction,” according to the email. 

In essence, the plan is to continue the predominantly digital learning model that we have stuck with since March.

This is obviously disappointing news for a lot of students. Many of us may be in compromised or difficult home situations, and even for those who are not, the prospect of another semester not on campus is daunting and demoralizing.

But this is the best scenario from a public health perspective. As we know, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases are rocketing across America — our nation just recently garnering a total of 10 million cases since the crisis’ onset.

“The United States reported its 10 millionth (COVID-19) case on Sunday, with the latest million added in just 10 days, as most of the country struggled to contain outbreaks in the third and most widespread wave of infection since the pandemic began. Case reports have soared in the last week, shattering records. The seven-day average of new cases now exceeds 100,000 per day, far more than any other country. The United States accounts for (approximately) one-fifth of all reported (COVID-19) cases in the world, a total that has passed 50.2 million,” according to The New York Times.

While the public health-based decision is a good thing, the way that the decision was disseminated was not. Schools received emails at different times, the administration communicated with a lack of clarity and also, to top it all off, notified us after on-campus housing applications opened. But despite that lack of clarity, this was the right call.

We understand that you may not want to hear this right now, but the situation has only gotten worse since this semester began. It takes a lot of time to plan and enact an in-person semester, and administrators simply do not have time to wait and see if the situation improves between now and January — which is only two months from now.

The safest and most sensible route is the one that Rutgers took, and it should be commended for that. 

This especially proves the case when considering New Jersey’s current COVID-19 outlook. While we have been in a decent spot for a few months now, cases are creeping up, with Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) even stating that restrictions could be reimposed soon.

“Murphy on Sunday announced an additional 2,043 cases of (COVID-19) and four new deaths, as he urged residents to continue to take the pandemic seriously. Murphy has said New Jersey is entering the second wave of the virus and that new restrictions were likely to be coming soon, but he has not disclosed details,” according to NJ Media Advance.

Luckily, we have been resilient to this thus far. We will have almost two semesters of online learning under our belt since the onset of this pandemic, and another semester is not going to be impossible to complete. We have learned, hopefully, to balance home life with learning and staying on top of our commitments.

Northeastern University has a list of tips for online students. If you are still struggling with digital learning, click the link and take a gander. They recommend regimenting your schedule despite online learning’s fluidity, as well as creating a study space.

“Set up a dedicated learning environment for studying. By completing your work there repeatedly, you’ll begin to establish a routine. Whether your workspace is your kitchen table, a library or the corner booth in a local coffee shop, it’s important to determine what type of environment will work best for you,” according to Northeastern University Graduate Programs.

We are not here to pretend this is a great, wonderful development. And there is no doubt that us students expect Rutgers to increase the quality and availability of its remote resources.

Additionally, some of us live in compromised homes, with parents or circumstances that impose on our safety. Rutgers should recognize the danger, mental or physical, that some of its students face in this remote setting and do whatever they can to open in-person safe spaces that follow state guidelines, such as its libraries or student centers.

But like in so many other aspects of this pandemic, sacrifices will have to be made for the greater good. Putting online learning in the context of saving lives helps make it feel more worthwhile.

We can and will make it through this. For those who are partying or generally disregarding the pandemic, understand that you are not only endangering people with the virus, but also you are endangering them by extending them into compromised situations longer than they have to be.

By looking toward the opportunities that digital education creates rather than the ones it takes away, this becomes more bearable and, for some, even beneficial. Stay cool, stay collected and remember that things will be alright eventually.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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