As the omicron variant rapidly spreads, more colleges are adopting policies to discourage—or in some cases ban—students from being on campus in January. Generally, the colleges that are acting start up the first week in January. Institutions with later starts tend to be waiting to decide.
DePaul, Harvard and Stanford University students won’t have in-person classes the first weeks of the semester, those universities announced; Pennsylvania State University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the U of Southern California are considering such a move. The Universities of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and at Chicago announced that they will start the spring semester online due to omicron. Some students will be on campus, being tested, during some of this period.
At UIUC, this rule is to allow time to meet a COVID-19 testing requirement. The first week of class (Jan. 18 to 21) will be online. In-person instruction will resume Jan. 24. The schedule at Chicago starts earlier, and so the first two weeks of classes (Jan. 10 to 23) will be online. Exceptions will be made for health science classes and other classes that must meet in person.
“This is not how we expected the spring semester to begin; however, if there is any consistency to COVID-19, it is its unpredictability,” said a letter to the campus from Michael Amiridis, chancellor at Chicago, and other administrators.
Kean University will “transition to predominantly remote work and classes effective Thursday, December 23, 2021, through Sunday, January 30, 2022,” the university announced. The spring term begins Jan. 18. Gallaudet University announced that the first two weeks of spring semester classes will be online.
Northwestern University also announced instruction would be online for the first weeks of January due to omicron.
“During this period, all classes and co-curricular campus activities will be remote. This wellness period will enable students to settle back into our highly vaccinated community and allow the university to identify and address positive cases to minimize spread. We encourage students to avoid large indoor social gatherings,” said a statement. All campus dining during that time will be “grab and go.”
Oberlin College will finish the fall semester in January, with all students having the option to take their classes online. Oberlin’s fall semester didn’t start until Oct. 2 this year. Students have a break from Thursday through Jan. 2. Because of the omicron variant, the students will have the option of taking the last three weeks of the semester online. Classes for the semester end Jan. 24.
“Currently we are not experiencing the same spread of COVID that some campuses across the country are experiencing, but as we all know from our past efforts, we benefit when we are proactive,” said Carmen Twillie Ambar, the president, in a message to the campus.
Smith College announced Monday that its three-week January term would be mostly online.
“Interterm courses will be held as scheduled. We strongly encourage instructors to move to remote instruction whenever possible. We expect most interterm classes will meet remotely most of the time,” said a letter to students and faculty members from Kathleen McCartney, the president, and others. “Students whose interterm classes will meet remotely are strongly encouraged to remain home rather than return to campus for interterm.”
The college also announced that employees who can do their jobs remotely would be encouraged to do so during the first three weeks of January due to omicron.
The letter closed, “We want to acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant uncertainty in our lives, both personally and professionally. We have all been asked to adjust our plans and behavior repeatedly in response to changing risks and guidelines—and we understand how frustrating this has been for everyone. Nevertheless, the Smith community has been resilient, even during the most challenging of times. Let us continue to support and care for one another.”
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