Students expressed a mix of apprehension and disappointment, but a tentative acceptance in another in-person COVID-19 semester at the University of Maryland.
This university announced on Jan. 7 the spring 2022 semester would begin in person with required booster vaccines and KN95 masks for classroom settings. The omicron variant broke nationwide records in the number of cases, leaving many universities across the country starting their spring semesters online.
Maya Narayanasamy, a senior computer science and economics major, said she thought COVID-19 numbers would still be high until early February. Because of this and how about 90 percent of winter classes were virtual, she said she thought this university would have moved the first two weeks of classes online.
“I was definitely very hesitant coming in at first,” Narayanasamy said. “With everything happening at the end of last semester with omicron and commencement getting canceled, things like that, and the rising cases, at first I was a little concerned.”
Narayanasamy said she still thinks COVID-19 is a “big concern,” but she is reassured the university hasn’t seen a big spike in cases. Additionally, her professors are accommodating and getting better at hybrid learning, she said.
Transfer student Kyle Geary, on the other hand, isn’t concerned. There are social distancing regulations and new masking regulations with KN95s, which Geary noticed students are following well.
However, Geary acknowledged that apprehension seems to be a part of life with COVID-19.
“At this point, there’s always a bit of nervousness no matter where you are,” Geary said. “I feel about as safe here as I would anywhere else.”
But when it comes to how well students are handling masking, senior psychology major Holly Liposky has some other thoughts. Liposky has been a resident assistant since her junior year. Liposky currently lives in Easton Hall but lived in Elkton Hall last year. A lot of her job is enforcing masks in the dorms, but she said it’s exhausting because some students don’t listen and get upset about the enforcement.
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“It was hard, these freshmen are coming on the campus for the first time and into the dorms for the first time, and the first thing they hear from us is put on the mask,” Liposky said.
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Senior environmental science and policy major Jackie Quinones also noticed some inconveniences coming back this semester. Quinones said the reduced number of chairs and socially distanced tables at Stamp Student Union can be bothersome and makes it hard to find seats.
“They needed to think about that better if they were gonna have everyone back on campus eating as normal, especially for those who live off campus who just can’t go home to eat,” Quinones said.
Dining areas aren’t the only places students feel are falling short. Liposky felt there was a lack of initiative on the university’s part for trying to keep students safe. Last semester, a resident in her building tested positive after HEAL hotline business hours. The resident couldn’t reach HEAL and couldn’t move into quarantine housing until the next day.
“There wasn’t anything that they could have done to keep everybody else safe and keep the privacy of that resident safe as well?” she questioned. “That was very disappointing.”
Despite the masks and unreliability of certain services, Liposky said she feels comfortable on campus because she is fully vaccinated and has received the booster. But in her last semester of college, she has some fears with her upcoming graduation in the spring after seeing what happened with winter commencement.
“Everything like that was a big blow and made me realize COVID has taken a lot of my college [experience],” Liposky said. “I don’t want it to take my graduation too.”