Arizona State University welcomes back students to its campuses for the Fall 2020 semester, after six months of having vacant classrooms and empty residential halls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the university went fully online for the ending of the Spring 2020 semester, President Michael Crow announced in an email he sent on April 30 that the university plans for students to head back to campus for the upcoming Fall 2020 semester.
As the coronavirus sweeps through the nation, Arizona became the number one state for confirmed cases per capita in early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Arizona had its first COVID-19 case confirmed back in January 2020 and now the state has a total of 196,899 confirmed cases, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Due to these new circumstances, ASU adopted a plan, called ASU Sync, so students can choose between the option of attending classes in person or completely virtually via Zoom.
"I knew if in-person was an option that would be my first choice," Talia Massi, a sophomore ASU student, said. "I think I do better with an in-person format."
Many students, both in and out of state, chose to also move back into the residential halls, but this year it looked very different.
All students had to be tested before they could come back to campus which was a new requirement that was set in July.
Students also had to be wearing face coverings at all times during move-in to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
"It was different than freshman year, not the usual hustle and bustle," Massi said about move-in. "They set appointment times for us to move in and had stations to get our keys. So it went very smoothly."
After moving-in, students had to prepare themselves for the first day of classes which was August 20.
Many ASU classes had implemented social distancing guidelines where only 10 students at a time could be present in the classroom, ASU's Novel Coronavirus FAQ page states.
"I think the in-person quality was good, however, I think the Zoom class suffered a bunch because the professor seemed to prioritize the in-person students," Jeremy Sleeter, a sophomore ASU student said. "I can only think of one time in the hour and 15 minutes that she directly addressed the Zoom portion of the class."
Sleeter said that even though the professor had her mic on, she was mostly directing her attention to the students who were present in the classroom.
The decision of teaching in a classroom or remotely is ultimately up to the professor as many students have been receiving polls and emails about whether or not they will attend class in-person or are okay with remote learning for the whole semester.
However, there have been other alternatives to the ways professors have decided to handle teaching their classes.
Taylor Payne, a junior ASU student and Watts Residential College Student Leader, described the atmosphere of her in-person class experiences as "weird and odd."
While she and nine other people were seated 6 ft apart in the class, the professor was not present among them.
"In that class, the professor is also teaching via Zoom," Payne said. "When he was going through his syllabus, he was just a tiny little box."
Payne said that even though going to classes will not feel like it used to, she is hopeful that each class will still give her the same educational experience that she has had in the past.
As a Residential College Leader, Payne is living among freshmen who are receiving a different college experience this year.
Payne had lived in Taylor Place, the residential hall at ASU's Downtown Phoenix Campus, for the first two years of her own college experience where the lounges were full and dining hall food wasn't just takeout.
She describes the atmosphere of the dorms as "different" and "quiet," but she believes that the freshmen can still receive a great college experience.
"I had one student ask me 'Is there anything going on that's just not gonna be on Zoom?'" Payne said. "I don't know how to answer that, but I am hoping everyone will follow the rules so we can all stay safe."
Payne said that the only way things can feel somewhat normal is if everyone takes precaution in their daily lives, which can lead to having a hybrid set of activities that students, especially freshmen, could participate in-person.
With the state of COVID-19 changing every day, ASU is monitoring these changes and implementing new policies that ensure student safety, ASU's Novel Coronavirus FAQ page states.
"I think they're trying to walk the line between fully functioning and protecting students," Sleeter said. "But it seems like they're leaning towards trying to fully function despite the pandemic."
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