The second semester is underway, and as students prepare to move in at the University of Colorado Boulder, they are left wondering how the university will be adjusting as the pandemic continues to rage across the state.
The first semester was a whirlwind, carrying with it a high number of student and faculty COVID cases, strict pandemic protocols and unexpected responses to conditions at hand. Students and staff were forced to make tough decisions, causing uncertainty for what lies ahead.
“Seeing how everything went last semester with the constant change I feel like nothing is set in stone,” commented first-year student Addisyn Ibrahim. “Not having expectations might make it easier to cope with all the change, but that doesn’t mean it still won’t be a challenge.”
CU Boulder initially started the fall semester with a set of precautions and approaches, some of which held their ground and some which quickly dissipated. One such precaution was required weekly COVID tests for students. These tests began successfully but were not heavily enforced, and many students began to skip their appointments or not set them up altogether. Isolation spaces also filled rapidly, forcing students in Williams Village dorms such as Darley North to move out of their rooms.
Students are now wondering about any shifts for spring. With the presence of the virus, current campus life is already very different from a typical year. Classes remain at least partly remote, social gatherings are diminished, and opportunities for involvement and community are lowered.
Despite some students’ efforts to make the most of their school years amidst the pandemic, a question lingers — is it worth it to stay at Boulder this school year? Logan Standard, a first-year student at CU Boulder, holds these worries.
“I am super excited to be back, but also am a little apprehensive,” Standard said. “I’m nervous that we’ll get sent home again or go back online, and with those shifts, it’s so hard to justify the cost.”
Along with financial worries, Boulder students have concerns about their social lives. During the fall semester, a campus-wide shutdown occurred, with a set of strict rules. One rule regulated social gatherings, and only allowed students to only be with one to two others at a time. Another rule majorly cut down on where students were allowed to go on-campus — dining halls switched to takeout only, the gym closed, and campus buildings other than dorms weren’t accessible. These regulations, along with other strict rules, created trends of loneliness and isolation, and many students chose to move back home instead of staying on campus.
This semester, no announcements have come out regarding another shutdown, but students are still apprehensive.
“If another shutdown happened it wouldn’t be good for students already deteriorating mental health,” said second-year student Kelsey Schuster. “We already have to sit inside all day and do online school. Not being able to leave our houses to even go on a walk would be terrible just like it was last time.”
The university did however decide to lengthen winter break, giving students and staff an extended amount of time off-campus. Campus members left Boulder in late November and are just now beginning to return. Although this long break was difficult for students, it may help prevent a future shutdown later spring semester. As students begin to return after almost three months at home, the excitement and relief are high.
“Honestly being at home so long was tough, especially when other colleges were going back on campus,” first-year student Justin Hoppin said. “I’m just glad to be back. We’ll see how this semester ends up going.”
The university has continued to provide detailed updates about the spring semester through weekly interactive webinars, which can be found here. Webinar sessions are held each Tuesday at noon and will continue throughout the entire spring semester. These sessions are a newly implemented resource and have been helpful to students and parents in staying up to date with Boulder’s approaches to the virus.
Last Tuesday, staff announced an on-track return to campus and the implementation of hybrid classes.
“We made a point to learn the lessons of the fall semester and apply them to (the) spring semester,” said Senior Vice Provost Katherine Eggert. “We are excited to get going with the semester and continue with our teaching and learning on campus.”
The university is actively working to approach the spring semester differently than the fall semester. Changes have been made, ranging from early vaccine availabilities for staff, increased encouragement for testing, and other precautions. As the CU Boulder community approaches the spring, their biggest hope is that student spirits remain high and COVID-19 cases remain low.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Bailey Diamond at Bailey.Diamond@colorado.edu.