Although Penn has invited all students back to campus this fall, some students who are concerned about their health and social lives are choosing a virtual semester.
On June 25, Penn announced its plans for a hybrid fall semester with remote and in-person instruction. The University also outlined preventative methods to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as contact tracing, testing, and restrictions on social gatherings over 25 people. Some students, however, are not satisfied with the plan.
Rising College senior Lisette Del Pino said she does not feel safe going back to campus in August. The Student Campus Compact would be impossible to enforce, she said, unless the University was excessively involved in monitoring student life.
The Student Campus Compact will generally be on the honor system, Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé previously told The Daily Pennsylvanian, but there will be consequences for those who stray from the Compact's expectations. Director of Campus Health Ashlee Halbritter told the DP that students exposed to the coronavirus will be asked to quarantine themselves, but will not be forced to do so by the University.
“I feel like the institution is doing everything it can without turning it into a sort of dystopian police state. You can't control everyone all the time,” Del Pino said. “I see it all the time. I’ll drive around my neighborhood and people are throwing parties.”
Del Pino said she is more concerned about uncertain long term effects of COVID-19.
International students have expressed concerns about travel restrictions and obtaining visa appointments in time for the fall semester, as well as the rising infection numbers in most states. Rising College junior Angelina Wu, a former circulation staffer for the DP, said she will stay home in Chile this fall and take all of her classes virtually instead of traveling back to the U.S. for a semester.
“Due to the situation in the States right now, I feel like it’s safer for me to be here,” Wu said. “And plus, I don’t know if I’ll have to be quarantined upon my arrival.”
Rising College senior Delia Chen, a former multimedia staffer for the DP, said she has not made a definite decision about whether to return yet, but she started thinking seriously about staying home in Maryland when she learned that most of her classes would be online.
Chen said her social life was the primary reason she would consider returning to campus. She expressed concern, however, over the effect Penn’s health measures would have on her ability to interact with her friends and other people on campus.
“Right now it’s hard for me to understand how much of the community I will be able to interact with,” Chen said. “If it ends up being that we’ll be holed up in our apartments all day and not really able to interact with people, I think it makes a lot of sense for me to just stay home.”
Rising College sophomore Rebecca Hennessy is also undecided about whether to move back to campus. She said her social life will not be the same, and believes it will be very hard to see people other than her roommates.
Hennessy, a member of women's a capella group Penn Sirens, said the pandemic has affected the group's ability to practice and perform.
“We’re participating in virtual Convocation which is really exciting, but we’re not going to have our typical show,” Hennessy said. “Our show got canceled in the spring, and now it’s very unlikely that we’ll have an in-person show in the fall.”
Rising Wharton and Engineering senior Alyssa Furukawa said she did not have problems with remote instruction in the spring, and therefore plans on taking a fully online curriculum from her home in California for the upcoming semester.
“Virtual learning isn’t a pain for me,” Furukawa said. “Since a lot of my classes are online, I’ll just stay home and not risk it.”
Like Chen, Furukawa said the inevitable lack of social activities and on-campus events due to Penn's coronavirus reduction measures helped her decide to stay home.
She said she hopes to return to campus for the spring semester, especially if COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have dropped or if a vaccine is developed and distributed by the start of the second semester.
“I’m hoping that the situation globally is better. I just thought with basically no clubs, no in-person class, it really wasn't worth it for the fall,” Furukawa said. “But if there's some better middle ground in the spring, I think I would definitely want to come back for my final semester.”