Now that Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are increasing their distribution, Queens College (QC) is preparing to return to in-person instruction this fall in a limited capacity. After transitioning to distance learning over a year ago, QC President Frank Wu is optimistic about reopening and is actively involved in strategic planning to resume in-person operations. In the Spring 2021 President’s Message, he stated, “The current plan is to return to in-person instruction in Fall 2021. Our plans are being made for a mix of online and in person that will allow our students to have a campus experience.”
President Wu has made it clear that he is aware of the pandemic impacting students in different ways, including housing needs, family priorities, vaccination status, and will consider alternatives as appropriate. QC will take into consideration what students want, need, and deserve. As President Wu said, “We want to find out directly from you. What is it that you see Queens College becoming?”
The voices of the student body will go a long way in determining the course of action adopted by the college. The QC Office of Institutional Research sent out a survey for QC students to provide anonymous feedback regarding their stance on on-campus services and course offerings for the fall semester. Questions included their preferred method of instruction, willingness to be tested for Covid-19 (2-3x per week) to be allowed on campus, interest in getting vaccinated, and travel methods to and from campus. Feedback will be used to help QC administrators know what the students want for the fall. Alan Yeow, a senior East Asian Studies major, commented, “I think QC reopening in the fall is mixed for me. On one hand, it’s good to finally be on campus physically for the first time in over a year. On the other hand, there’s the concern of mass-spreading the virus easily (though constant testing should mitigate the problem to a degree).”
Although the fall semester will be mostly in-person, QC’s digital footprint will be larger than expected, and many campus activities will be held virtually. In the Statement on Fall Operations, President Wu explains that his goal is to allow all students who wish to be on campus to have the ability to do so. Part of this plan includes having online, in-person, and virtual instruction. Currently, large lectures will remain online while science labs, seminars, and studio art courses will be mostly in-person. All other courses are expected to be hybrid. Students may also have the opportunity to rotate through in-person classes on some days and attend their course asynchronously on other days. Additionally, students may be able to choose to take classes online or mostly in-person as part of the QC’s HyFlex pilot strategy. During the QC State of the College Address, President Wu mentioned that students may be more inclined to attend their 8 A.M. lecture online rather than waiting for the bus and trekking through the snow to get there. Others will want classes on campus so they can reconnect with old friends, meet new ones, and use campus facilities. President Wu emphasized the importance of strategic planning to offer classes in every format.
The health and safety of our college community is the top priority for President Wu, who will continue to follow guidance from authorities including the federal government, New York State, and CUNY central. Should their recommendations change throughout the year, QC will respond accordingly. As students prepare to return to campus, QC is making every effort to protect our community. Any person in the college community who may have been exposed to COVID-19 is encouraged to file an exposure report at the coronavirus campus liaison. QC will follow appropriate safety protocols to address the matter. As of now, social distancing and mask-wearing will be required on campus. The pandemic is still a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of our community, so while we prepare to return to campus students, faculty and staff must stay vigilant. CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodriguez stated, “Our primary objective, now and moving forward, is to ensure that the reopening of our physical classrooms prioritizes the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff above all else.”
While the plans for the fall semester are still being finalized, the spring and summer 2021 semesters will remain virtual. Additional information will be released in the coming months regarding fall opening plans which may change as new information is gathered. Until we can overcome this hurdle, continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, and avoid large crowds. President Wu put it best: “We have been tested. We have survived. Now we must help our students thrive.”