SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WRBL) – Since the beginning of the fall 2020 college semester, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan for schools to stay open was simple – if schools reach over 100 cases of Coronavirus within a two-week window, the school will be forced to go virtual.
Large schools like Syracuse University – with a student body of almost 25,000, have had a tougher time staying open.
“This is a public safety issue,” said Syracuse Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie, in a message to students before the fall semester.
The importance of in-person learning affects different students in different ways. Syracuse University houses the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, one of the country’s leading journalism programs. Students in the Newhouse School say that they feel like virtual learning hurts them more than others.
“Most students can learn online in the exact same way that they can in the classroom,” said Rob Flaks, a senior at Syracuse University studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism.
“Us journalism students…we need to be in the field, with cameras, reporting in-person. It’s impossible to learn via Zoom,” said Flaks.
Some journalism students, especially underclassmen, decided it was better to save their money and stay home.
“I can’t validate paying 70,000 dollars to be online. I’d rather wait to know I’m getting the best experience possible,” said Jack Vanderberg, a sophomore studying broadcast media.
Syracuse University students that work in other fields haven’t felt the need for in-person classes as much as those studying journalism at SU.
“It doesn’t make a difference for me,” said Reed Weisman, a senior studying economics, who is taking four virtual courses this semester.
“Whether I’m sitting at my desk in a lecture hall or I’m sitting at my computer, I’m still learning the same way,” said Jared Denny, an English major who also has only one in-person course.
SU administration has pointed to those who require less hands-on learning as a large part of the coronavirus outbreak that sent SU student’s online last fall.
“We must all work together to stay on campus,” said Haynie.
The University created a comprehensive plan dubbed the Stay Safe Pledge, a University proposal required to be signed and followed by all students attending classes in person. The pledge requires students to limit gatherings, as well as wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. They say they created the Pledge to ensure that students that need to be on campus can stay on campus.
“People who don’t need to be in the classroom care a lot less about the way they act in their day-to-day lives,” said Flaks.“Everyone needs to commit to working together to ensure those who need to be here, stay here,” said Flaks.
On Feb. 19, 2021 NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the 100-person threshold will be lifted in favor of a 5% positivity rate.
Now, Syracuse needs to hit 880 cases within the two-week mark to go fully virtual. That threshold has given students an aura of confidence for the spring.
“It makes everyone feel better. We need to be here,” said Vanderberg.