[Opinion] Universities should be prioritizing in-person learning


As seniors confirm where they are attending college for the 2021-2022 school year, many wonder if they will be able to attend their universities in person.

Numerous colleges have released details about their plans for incoming freshmen. While some colleges are committing to in-person learning, others have advocated a mix of in-person and online instruction.

Seniors are looking forward to a relatively normal college experience and being able to attend their classes in person is a crucial part of getting that normalcy.

The biggest game changer for the incoming college freshman is the COVID-19 vaccine.

With the mass production of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine and the lowering of the age to vaccinate down to 16 years old across the U.S. for Pfizer, vaccinations are becoming more accessible. However, in BIPOC communities there is a large disparity in accessibility and trust in the vaccine.

Many colleges, such as American University and Emerson College, have released recent statements that to attend their universities in the upcoming school year, it is a requirement to get the vaccine. This is to keep both faculty and students safe, but to also increase the likelihood of having full in-person learning. With herd immunity, it also gives a possibility of lessening spacing restrictions in dorm living and in classrooms.

While this is a step in the right direction, colleges need to address the fact that many of their students might be unable to get fully vaccinated by the time the 2021-2022 school year starts. Students shouldn’t be denied their college education, which is often expensive, due to being unable to get their vaccine whether it’s because of distance, lack of vaccines available to them in general, or parental pressure.

Offering vaccinations on campus before students officially start their new semester, would ensure that all students and faculty will be taking correct safety measures. This would eliminate the main challenge of getting the vaccine, which is accessibility.

Some question whether colleges have the legal authority to make this vaccine a requirement. Although, there’s no federal jurisdiction stating that there can be no vaccine requirements, so colleges are in full legal right to do so.

Other colleges are leaving the decision to get vaccinated up to their students, but this creates an uncertainty of whether it’s safe to be fully in-person for teaching and on-campus housing.

While vaccinations increase the hope of mass in-person learning across colleges, this does not mean that students and facilities should not be required to still properly wear face masks and have hand sanitization available to them.

All high school seniors deserve the opportunity to have in-person learning for their first year at college, while still following CDC guidelines.