An announcement regarding plans for the Fall 2021 semester was recently released by Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy in a University-wide email detailing the decision and some of its specifics. Rutgers students shared their thoughts on the plans and the upcoming return to campus.
“I am excited. Remote learning has been hard to adjust to, and it would be great to be back on campus,” said Tasnim Quayum, a School of Engineering sophomore. “While many organizations and groups have been trying to keep the Rutgers spirit alive over Zoom, it isn’t the same as being in person.”
Stephen Hu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, also said he was excited to go back to campus, despite only having one and a half semesters remaining at Rutgers.
Some students, like Samantha Luk, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said they were disappointed that there would not be a complete in-person return. Luk said she agreed this was the right direction for the University given the circumstances.
“I think hybrid is a good decision because it kind of gives you a ‘best of both worlds’ situation,” Luk said. “There is that flexibility (and) people have more choice … It’s important that we not only look out for ourselves, but we need to look out for other people.”
Quayum said that the timing of the decision was appropriate and gives people the chance to figure out their living situation and overall plans for next year.
While University President Jonathan Holloway discussed the important role that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine will play for the fall semester, and urged the public to get it, the vaccine will not be required in order for students to return to campus in the fall.
Both Luk and Hu said that they believe the vaccine should be made mandatory by the University.
“Rutgers already mandates other vaccines, and this one shouldn’t really be an exception,” Hu said. “Of course, that’s contingent on the vaccine being readily available to college-aged students — if it becomes unreasonable to expect students to get the vaccine in a timely manner, then that’s the reality of it. I don’t think that’ll happen though.”
Luk said that while she was apprehensive about the decision, there would be an added layer of safety if people got the COVID-19 vaccine.
While New Jersey has administered approximately 1.8 million vaccines as of yesterday and COVID-19 cases are trending downward, according to the New Jersey COVID-19 Dashboard, all three students said that a complete in-person return may not be feasible.
“The disease is just too out of control right now and with new strains coming out, it seems like it will be a while before large gatherings will be safe, which are unavoidable when dealing with a school that is as big as Rutgers,” Quayum said.
Luk said that while she would love to be fully in-person in the fall, it is unrealistic since the U.S. is still trying to get the pandemic under control.
Hu said he wants the University to make sure people are getting vaccinated as well as ensure that people are constantly updated regarding public health information. Additionally, he said that he hopes that students returning to campus in the fall follow this information and take it seriously.
“I would like to see Rutgers really emphasize and improve (COVID-19) testing in the hybrid semester. By doing so, it will hopefully help keep us all safe,” Quayum said. “Smaller schools have been able to mitigate the spread on their campuses through strict testing that occurs often. To keep a school of our size from having an outbreak, it is important that we do the same.”