Wilkes University announces plan to reopen campus with altered fall semester schedule

Dr. Greg Cant, Wilkes University’s newly appointed president, announced on Friday that classes will be held on campus in the fall. Cant expressed his understanding that “the campus is missing a piece of its soul when students are not present.” 

As a result, new plans are underway to safely resume in-person classes. The first change announced is the adjustment of the fall schedule. 

Students who are missing their classmates will see them earlier than expected with classes beginning on Aug. 24, a week before originally scheduled. Along with beginning earlier, the semester will be ending earlier, too. The last day of face-to-face instruction will be Nov. 25, with the following week reserved for finishing online assignments.

Vanessa Musto, a senior management major, responded to the announcement.

“I’m really excited that we’re going back to classes for the fall, but I think it’s a bummer we’re not getting our fall break or even Labor Day off,” said Musto. “I don’t quite know how effective it will be moving everything forward, but I’m just happy that they didn’t completely cancel the semester before seeing what transpires over the course of the summer.”

At least one member of the incoming first-year class is happy with the announcement. 

“After having most of my senior year ruined, it is exciting to know that my first year of college will still happen,” explained Elizabeth Cherinka, an incoming pharmacy major. “I was scared that I would miss out on being able to dorm. I already have my roommate, and it would have been really upsetting if I didn’t get to dorm with her and get the full college experience.”

Bringing students back to campus calls for additional layers of campus health and safety. 

According to Cant, additional protocols will be enacted that “emphasize screening and make testing available for students who exhibit symptoms throughout the semester.”

Students will be requested to practice social distancing procedures upon their return to campus. Frequent hand washing and/or the use of hand sanitizer will be expected. Maintaining clean spaces across campus and wearing face masks will be included in the transition as well.

Chris Lombardo, a second-year pharmacy student, is curious about the specifics of these protocols.

“In the coming weeks, I would like to hear about how Wilkes plans to enforce social distancing measures on campus and about how athletics will be affected. Since I run cross country, I’m interested to see if our schedule will remain the same,” Lombardo said.  

The potential for a second wave of COVID-19 is particularly concerning to health officials. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, expressed concern in April during an interview with The Washington Post

Redfield stated, “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.” 

If flu season corresponds with another outbreak of COVID-19, health-care systems across the country will be strained.

The increased precautions are put in place to keep students safe, but there are still risks associated with being on campus. Some students have concerns about returning to campus, despite the new safety measures.

“As much as I want to go back, I think it’s still much better if we stay online – only because with school it’s more crowded and it just won’t be the same ‘school experience.’ Also because flu season is terrible during the fall; the second wave of the virus will sky rocket,” said Rami Kazimi, a senior environmental engineering major. “I get that young adults are less prone to the virus, but coming home to family (members) who are older or have an illness already really isn’t fair.”

The mixed reactions and concerns from students regarding the fall semester echo the concerns Cant expressed in his email: “I hesitate to call this the new normal, because in some ways it feels anything but normal. We must all take reasonable steps to protect our health and the health of those around us. The fall semester will require our patience, creativity and resolve. But we will get through this together. And together, we will enjoy the full benefits of the Wilkes experience.”

The president’s office will be releasing more plans for the fall semester over the course of the summer. Updates can be found at www.wilkes.edu/fall2020 or through the Wilkes email system.