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The fate of fall semester has yet to be determined by the University.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

A few weeks ago, Penn’s student body was thrown into a tailspin over an email sent by Penn professor, Max Mintz, speculating that classes would be taught online for the fall 2020 semester due to coronavirus concerns. While the university was swift in shutting down any speculation­ about the fall semester, we cannot afford to ignore the questions raised by Mintz’s email. COVID-19 has ushered in a level of global destruction never before seen. It would be naïve of us to act as though the questions raised in Professor Mintz’s email are irrelevant, or that they bear no weight on our future plans. They do. 

Like it or not, COVID-19, has permanently changed everyone’s future course. We cannot act as though there is no need to reconsider future plans. As infection rates fluctuate, testing remains inadequate and scientists hint at a second wave, the future has never been more uncertain. Professor Mintz’s email reminds us of the importance of preparing for uncertainty in uncertain times. How do we keep a clear head? How do we avoid panic? But most importantly, how exactly do we prepare?

While no university has publicly canceled on-campus classes for the fall at this point in time, Professor Mintz gave us all a reality check. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a chance that remote classes will continue during the fall 2020 semester.  While not a reason to lose all hope of a return to normalcy, as we continue to register for classes, we must be sure to consider all options. 

Whether it's figuring out which classes are best suited to an online setting, thinking about potential gap year plans, or wondering how financial aid and tuition will be adjusted for an online semester, we must consider the possibility of having to make those decisions. With many of us feeling the burn of canceled internships, postponed graduations, complicated distance relationships, and suboptimal living situations, hoping for the best is not unreasonable. Yet, ignoring the very real precariousness surrounding COVID-19 will not eliminate the possibility that the timeline for social distancing and isolation may be protracted. 

It’s okay to be scared and still make contingency plans. It’s okay to be frustrated with the ways in which Penn has often left us in the dark and it’s okay to be worried about the future. But don’t feel angry at Professor Mintz for suggesting that classes may be online in the fall. They may well be. Chalk it up to the pandemic, stay inside and come up with a Plan B.  

AGATHA ADVINCULA is a College sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y. studying Health and Societies. 

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