Here we are again.
Administrators finally revealed their long-awaited plans for the spring semester – we’re taking most classes online again. And in-person commencement events are canceled. Students and faculty are justifiably disappointed, and some have even signed a petition asking officials to reconsider their decision to halt in-person graduation. But deep down, we all know GW will not and should not reverse course. Extending remote learning for another semester is our safest option.
Some students may claim that the University’s decision came too soon. But even if the pandemic magically subsided in January, we still face the larger and even more daunting issue of distributing a vaccine across the globe. We needed the University to make this decision now – students need to figure out their housing plans, apply to spring jobs and internships and give their family peace of mind about their spring plans. It’s even more problematic for officials to leave us sitting on the edge of our seats.
We also need to remember that GW does not exist in a bubble. Had the University decided to open fully, adopt a hybrid model or even invite large groups of students back to live in residence halls, D.C. would be put at a higher risk. Just look at the students who decided to come back to campus and throw parties, infecting their peers. While it’s nice to think that all students are responsible with where they go and whom they expose, the reality is that the reintroduction of thousands of students from all across the country and the world would pose a serious threat to D.C. health and safety.
Up until the recent spread of the virus throughout the White House, D.C. had been doing a great job at regulating COVID-19 cases and remaining in phase three. Even with the possibility of a coordinated quarantine or subsequent tracking and tracing, inviting any large amount of students back to campus is a threat to public health. We saw how universities that brought their students back contributed to a spike in cases throughout their campuses and surrounding towns.
An online semester is not ideal – we knew this. But even though we’ll graduate in our childhood bedrooms and may not step foot on campus for a long time, the threat of the coronavirus is bigger than us and our pride. The pandemic isn’t going anywhere and the University made the right decision under the circumstances we’re facing.
Hannah Thacker, a junior majoring in political communication, is the opinions editor.