It’s going to be a bumpy ride
There was never any doubt that the cover story for this issue would be about the extraordinary measures that universities have been taking over the summer to prepare for the return to classes this fall. Note that I didn’t say the “return to campus” as this won’t be the case for many students and instructors. Following the urgent, unceremonious termination of all on-campus activities in March due to the worldwide pandemic, most universities have opted for class instruction to be offered primarily online this coming semester, with limited in-person activities. As our cover story recounts, exactly what that means from one university to the next depends on the current conditions in their local communities, the dictates of public health authorities, and the particularities of their respective campuses and the programs they offer.
Much uncertainty remains, as universities continued to flesh out their plans right up to and beyond the date that University Affairs went to press. Among the many questions that won’t be answered until classes resume include: How many incoming students will defer their studies until next year? How many international students will show up? Will students who went home for the summer return to their university towns or study from home? Will those students who do decide to live on or near campus strictly adhere to physical distancing and other public health guidelines? And, most importantly, what happens if there’s a serious second wave of COVID-19?
I believe that university professors, administrators and frontline staff have diligently prepared as best they can for what lays ahead, but there will be many unforeseen bumps along the road. As one university president remarked, “it will be a fall term unlike any other.” And we’ll have to do it all over again for winter 2021.
There is much more to read in the current issue – including, improbably, a feature on study abroad. As difficult as it to imagine at this point, students will once again travel internationally someday to further their studies, and when they do universities need to be prepared to assist them when things don’t go quite as planned. Like, say, a pandemic.