What steps Illi­nois uni­ver­si­ties are tak­ing to bring students back to cam­pus this fall

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY CLARE PROC­TOR, STAFF RE­PORTER cproc­tor@sun­ | @ce­proc­tor23

End­ing in-person classes be­fore Thanks­giv­ing break and liv­ing alone in dorms will likely be the new nor­mal at many col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in Illi­nois this fall.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave per­mis­sion for them — as well as K-12 schools and com­mu­nity col­leges — to re­open this fall if they fol­low state guide­lines that in­clude manda­tory face masks, so­cial dis­tanc­ing and mon­i­tor­ing students’ symp­toms.

Be­yond those ba­sic guide­lines, in­di­vid­ual schools are de­vel­op­ing their own re­open­ing plans, with pre­cau­tions rang­ing from re­mov­ing doors in of­fice build­ings to test­ing ev­ery stu­dent liv­ing on cam­pus.

Most col­lege cam­puses plan at least some face-to-face classes, with many cour­ses at least par­tially or com­pletely on­line.

“Hy­brid” has be­come a new buzz­word in higher ed­u­ca­tion, said Illi­nois State Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Larry Di­etz. The term de­scribes classes meet­ing both face-to-face and on­line.

But how many classes will meet in-person or on­line at each cam­pus re­mains in flux. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s new rule that in­ter­na­tional students can’t stay in the coun­try if they’re tak­ing only on­line classes could lead to more tra­di­tional classes. How­ever, some schools have said they could roll back in-person course of­fer­ings if the pan­demic wors­ens.

Al­ready, Loy­ola Univer­sity an­nounced Mon­day that it was scal­ing back re­open­ing plans and said most classes will be on­line un­less they re­quire face-to-face in­ter­ac­tion, such as for lab work or re­search.

Illi­nois State ju­nior Ethan Kos­berg is go­ing into the fall se­mes­ter with reser­va­tions about how long in-person classes will last. Kos­berg, a his­tory and po­lit­i­cal science ma­jor, is tak­ing five classes this fall; two are on­line-only.

“My big­gest worry would be that on, say Sept. 15, there’s a huge out­break and ev­ery­one goes home,” said Kos­berg, 20, ISU’s stu­dent body vice pres­i­dent. “Then it’s like, what was this all for?”

ISU and many other Illi­nois col­leges plan to hold fi­nal ex­ams on­line so students don’t need to re­turn to cam­pus af­ter Thanks­giv­ing. But Kos­berg said it’s much harder to fo­cus on ex­ams from his bed­room in Springfiel­d, Kansas.

Loy­ola, North­west­ern and the Univer­sity of Chicago also will end in-person classes be­fore Thanks­giv­ing break.

At U. of C. and the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago, new students get pri­or­ity for en­rolling in on-cam­pus classes. Roo­sevelt Univer­sity — which is re­serv­ing most face-to­face classes for labs, stu­dio classes and clin­i­cals — is al­low­ing firstyear students the chance to sched­ule two or three in-person classes.

“Be­ing able to be on cam­pus for at least one class dur­ing your first year is such an im­por­tant part of build­ing com­mu­nity,” said Wasan Ku­mar, a se­nior and stu­dent body pres­i­dent at UIC. “It’ll be some­thing that stays with you for the rest of your life.”

On-cam­pus hous­ing

Uni­ver­si­ties are also grap­pling with how to ad­e­quately as­sign on

cam­pus hous­ing, with most students tra­di­tion­ally hav­ing one or more room­mates. Un­like pre­vi­ously, no Roo­sevelt stu­dent is re­quired to live on cam­pus this year be­cause of the pan­demic. At North­ern Illi­nois Univer­sity, Columbia Col­lege, the U. of C. and Loy­ola, all dorm rooms will be sin­gles. Some Loy­ola students might have to live at the Hamp­ton Inn next to cam­pus, though the univer­sity is still fi­nal­iz­ing those details.

Los­ing that typ­i­cal dorm life ex­pe­ri­ence also means los­ing how students typ­i­cally build their col­lege com­mu­nity, said Sal Carfagno, a ju­nior study­ing health care ad­min­is­tra­tion at Loy­ola.

“When I was a first-year stu­dent, dorms were the place to be, where I made a lot of friends,” said Carfagno, 20, of Lin­wood, New Jer­sey. “By the end of the year, we had a big group of friends. For me, dorm life was very ben­e­fi­cial to my growth at Loy­ola.”

This year, in­stead, in­com­ing fresh­men will try to de­velop that sense of com­mu­nity through things like vir­tual meet­ings for stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions or clubs and on­line ori­en­ta­tion — Carfagno said the univer­sity wants to make this ex­pe­ri­ence “as unique as it can be.”

Sin­gle rooms also will be sta­tus quo at North­west­ern, though students can opt for a room­mate. The univer­sity is encouragin­g students who live close to cam­pus to con­tinue liv­ing at home, though their fi­nan­cial aid pack­age will be re­duced ac­cord­ingly, said North­west­ern spokesman Jon Yates.

With Chicago’s new travel or­der re­quir­ing a two-week quar­an­tine for trav­el­ers from COVID-19 hot spots, students com­ing from out­side of the state or coun­try might be re­quired to self-iso­late, de­pend­ing on the re­stric­tions in place come fall. The U. of C. and North­west­ern have both said they’ll fol­low quar­an­tine guide­lines, if still in place.

Some schools have re­leased poli­cies crack­ing down on guests in dorms. Guests will be al­lowed only in dorm com­mon rooms at North­west­ern this fall. At DePaul, even other DePaul students won’t be able to en­ter dorms that aren’t their own; ISU will fol­low a sim­i­lar pol­icy.

At UIC, Ku­mar said he still isn’t sure where he’s liv­ing this fall.

Ku­mar is from north sub­ur­ban Skokie; with three of his four fall classes com­pletely on­line, he’d have to com­mute to cam­pus only twice a week if he lives at home.

Still, “I would love to be in an off-cam­pus apart­ment,” said Ku­mar, 20, who is study­ing neu­ro­science and pub­lic pol­icy. “It’d be nice to stay some­where with my own in­de­pen­dence.”

Large ta­bles of students catch­ing up over lunch or din­ner will likely be a thing of the past on most cam­puses this fall, re­placed with grab-andgo meals and so­cially distanced in­door seat­ing. Many cam­puses will re­quire students liv­ing on cam­pus to have a meal plan.

ISU will keep its din­ing halls and dorms open even af­ter Thanks­giv­ing to ac­com­mo­date students who must re­turn to cam­pus for rea­sons such as clin­i­cals or a job.

“We have a signed con­tract to provide ser­vices to students who want to stay with us,” said Di­etz, the school’s pres­i­dent. “Some students don’t have a place to go. This is their home.”

Test­ing, safety and so­cial­iza­tion

Schools in­clud­ing North­west­ern, the U. of C. and the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Ur­bana-Cham­paign will of­fer test­ing to students, fac­ulty and staff. At North­west­ern and the U. of C., ev­ery stu­dent liv­ing in a res­i­den­tial hall will be tested for the coro­n­avirus when they ar­rive to cam­pus, as well as through­out the year.

All North­west­ern students — re­gard­less of where they’re liv­ing — must have a neg­a­tive COVID-19 test be­fore attending in-person classes or on-cam­pus ac­tiv­i­ties.

And students liv­ing off cam­pus will be ran­domly tested, ac­cord­ing to guide­lines re­leased last week.

A touch­less tem­per­a­ture screen­ing will be re­quired for any­one ac­cess­ing Roo­sevelt’s cam­pus. Columbia doesn’t plan rou­tine test­ing be­cause of Chicago’s test­ing avail­abil­ity, though the school will se­cure test­ing if a sit­u­a­tion war­rants it.

Greek life will also look dif­fer­ent this fall, with some schools turn­ing to vir­tual re­cruit­ment and min­i­mal so­cial events. El­lie Che­line, ISU se­nior and Pan­hel­lenic Coun­cil pres­i­dent, said soror­ity re­cruit­ment, which typ­i­cally in­volves 500 to 600 students, will take place on­line in mid-Septem­ber.

“I ac­tu­ally think it will push val­ues-based re­cruit­ment,” said Che­line, 21, a fi­nance ma­jor. “It takes the su­per­fi­cial things out of the process. It’s go­ing to be re­ally good to have deep con­ver­sa­tions.”

She said students in Greek life will be able to fo­cus on phi­lan­thropy and bond­ing with other mem­bers, de­spite not hav­ing typ­i­cal mix­ers and for­mals.

DePaul se­nior Gis­selle Cer­vantes plans to care­fully bal­ance her so­cial life and health when students re­turn to cam­pus this fall. Since she’s im­muno­com­pro­mised, Cer­vantes, 21, said she isn’t sure yet what her so­cial life will look like, though she plans to fol­low state and city guide­lines with “more pre­cau­tions on top.”

“A lot of students are in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion as I am, hav­ing all on­line classes but still mov­ing back to apart­ments,” said Cer­vantes, who’s also stu­dent body pres­i­dent. “I’m wor­ried there’ll be an in­crease in cases be­cause of peo­ple do­ing things on their own time.”

For Cer­vantes, go­ing to school in a pan­demic means miss­ing out on the spon­ta­neous run-ins on the way to class, though she said she’s look­ing for­ward to be­ing back on the cam­pus she con­sid­ers home.

Di­etz, pres­i­dent of ISU, ad­mit­ted the univer­sity has “no au­thor­ity” over off-cam­pus land­lords and thus can’t en­force so­cial dis­tanc­ing poli­cies at off-cam­pus par­ties. In­stead, ISU has been work­ing with these land­lords on a mar­ket­ing cam­paign re­mind­ing students to be safe and re­spon­si­ble.

Carfagno, the Loy­ola stu­dent, turns 21 in a month. He rec­og­nizes he won’t be able to cel­e­brate his birthday the way he ex­pected to. But when he re­flects on how the univer­sity is han­dling plans for the fall, one word comes to mind: “Grate­ful.”

“It’s not go­ing to be per­fect, not go­ing to be com­pletely what it was a year ago to­day,” Carfagno said. “But I wouldn’t want to be any­where else in this time.”


In plan­ning for students’ re­turn in the fall, Loy­ola Univer­sity is plan­ning to end in-person classes be­fore Thanks­giv­ing break. The school also an­nounced Mon­day that most of its cour­ses would be on­line.

How COVID-19 will re­shape our re­gion, its econ­omy and ev­ery­day life. Read more at sun­­mal.


Sin­gle dorm rooms will be the norm at North­west­ern, though students can opt for a room­mate.


A touch­less tem­per­a­ture screen­ing will be re­quired for any­one ac­cess­ing Roo­sevelt Univer­sity’s cam­pus.


The Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago is giv­ing new students pri­or­ity to en­roll in on-cam­pus classes.

Gis­selle Cer­vantes

Wasan Ku­mar

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