As of last week, the proposal to adjust the Fall 2020 semester schedule that was announced on June 15 was approved by Southern’s Board of Trustees, according to board member Franklin Farrow. The official decision confirms the elimination of mid-term break and will end in-person instruction at Thanksgiving break, followed by two weeks of distance coursework through various methods to complete the semester on December 11.
As stated in the email sent out to students that outlined the new policies for the upcoming semester, this plan reduces travel to and from campus and sends students home during the predicted increase of COVID-19 cases. According to Farrow, the school will continue to communicate any updates with faculty, students and their families.
“We’ll continue to communicate like we already are doing now, whether that be through email or the student portal, so that families and students can anticipate their travel plans and parents can prepare for their children to be back sooner than once expected,” Farrow said.
In regards to the pros and cons of the schedule change, Farrow said he does not foresee any challenges. He said that the workload will be fairly the same, just condensed a bit sooner in the sense that students will not be traveling back and forth between breaks.
“Some might say, it’s more efficient. It’s a little bit less troublesome if you’re wrapping up, or if you’re a student who’s actually graduating in December and it makes it a little easier,” Farrow said. “You’re not going back and forth.”
According to Farrow, each department will decide how they conduct finals week online. He said that each department will individually have to come up with what their version of those last two weeks of the semester will look like.
“Some departments may say, ‘Hey, I want you to write a paper and turn it in.’ Or others may say they want to do an online test, but that’s still to be determined,” Farrow said. “Some may want to still have a lecture online, but it is our intent and purpose that when you go home for your Thanksgiving break, you don’t come back.”
However, in an Instagram poll directed to Southern students conducted by the Accent, 165 users voted in favor of the decision to end in-person classes at Thanksgiving break, while 130 said they were against the schedule change.
According to the results from the response dropbox that allowed users to share their opinions, majority of those in favor of the decision cited health precautions and unnecessary travel as means for their support, while majority of those who voted against the new schedule cited their concerns about another online finals week as their means for disapproval.
Sophomore English major Ronn Agustin said that he is conflicted with how he feels about the schedule change, as he sees the health concern, yet does not want to miss out on the on-campus experience during finals week.
“I understand that it’s for safety, but for the people who enjoy the facilities and atmosphere at Southern, it’s a shame not to have access to that,” Agustin said. “The library seems to be the only place I’m able to focus to study.”
According to senior business administration major Alise Hirsch, she said that she is in support of classes moving to distance learning after Thanksgiving break because it’s the safest option considering everyone’s health.
However, she said she doesn’t think it is fair to charge full tuition when students will not be getting the complete full-tuition experience.
“Last semester when we moved to online classes it was difficult to get one on one assistance from teachers and my WiFi was in and out so I struggled to “attend” classes via Zoom meetings,” Hirsch said. “I also can’t help but to think of the struggles that others may have faced who don’t have access to a computer or internet connection at home. And for that reason, it is not the same experience.”
Currently, no news regarding tuition for the upcoming school year has been announced.
While students have expressed concerns for finals week and tuition costs, senior clinical psychology major Chloe Bastajian said that she would much rather do two weeks online at home over an entire semester.
“I’m concerned that they may do the same for second semester and send us home at spring break again, and in that case I would rather be at school so that I can have a May graduation,” Bastajian said. “But I support the decision to change the schedule for Fall semester because I think it’s a good way to limit the chance that corona will spread rapidly on campus.”