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Students reflect on first week of in-person classes during COVID-19

| Monday, August 17, 2020

Notre Dame resumed in-person classes on Aug. 10, becoming one of the first universities to reopen after the academic shutdowns due to COVID-19 across the nation. As the school year kicks off, students reflected on their first week in this unusual semester.

Francine Shaft, a junior majoring in theology, appreciates the opportunity to be physically present on the campus.

“We are not only paying our tuition for our classes, we are also paying for our community, friendship and extracurricular activities,” Shaft said.

When it comes to learning, Shaft said she believes in-person classes are preferable to online classes, and holding in-person classes will keep students engaged.

Christian Matthew, a first-year engineering student, also thinks it is a good idea to have school on site in the early August.

“It shows how strongly the University wanted the community and traditions to still be a significant part of its students,” Matthew said. “With Notre Dame’s safety measures, development of knowledge and character of the students due to on-campus classes outweigh the negatives.”

While many students are ready for our semester to get rolling, a number of students have expressed their concerns.

“I am not very optimistic about the semester because new confirmed cases showed an exponential growth,” said Fangcong Yin, a sophomore computer science major, after he checked Notre Dame’s COVID-19 Dashboard. 

Edward DeWane, a senior math major, said he is also worried about the future. 

“It seems unlikely that we’ll be able to make it the whole way through without either having to get sent home or totally locked down,” DeWane said.

Some students are concerned about the inadequate enforcement of the new University policies regarding COVID-19 from this past week.

In the outdoor dining space, Shaft said she noticed people sitting together and eating with distances much closer than 6 feet. 

“People are distanced 6 feet to the sides, but they can sit directly in front of or behind others much closer than 6 feet,” said Caitlin Cunningham, a first-year neuroscience major. 

Yin also questioned the seating arrangements in classes.

“Many of my instructors did not require students to report their seat numbers at the beginning of class, and many students were able to even change their seat each time,” Yin said.

Furthermore, Yin also thinks the University should reconsider the filtration effectiveness of the cloth masks which were provided in the welcome kit.

Some members of the Notre Dame community have been unable to return to campus as well.

Ziyu Ren, a junior majoring in psychology, is taking all her classes online in China due to the travel ban.

“Due to the time difference, I cannot participate in the discussion in the class and missed the opportunities to make friends with the new students,” Ren said. “Also, when I watched the class recording, I could not stay as focused as I did at an in-person lecture.”

Even though online classes could be challenging, Ren said she still believes her learning experience is “quite good.” 

“All my professors now take notes under the projectors instead of on the blackboard for students online to be able to see and waived the attendance requirement for me with the consideration of the time difference,” Ren said.

Despite all the challenges and uncertainties that students are facing, many said they hope they can keep learning on the campus safely with their community until the end of the semester.

“I just really hope we are able to stay on campus,” Cunningham said, “and show the rest of them that reopening is possible.”

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