College Education in a COVID-19 Nation: A Comparison of University Operations

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By Noa Prados 

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly caused drastic changes in regard to the ways in which higher education institutions operate. From new mask mandates to remote learning and working, COVID-19 has impacted the lives of students and employees alike. Globally, students and instructors had to adjust to remote learning environments, which some institutions feel is the appropriate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Other institutions, like Baylor University in Waco, Texas, decided upon the continuation of in-person classes for their upcoming Fall semester. Fourth-year Baylor University psychology major Isabella Crocicchia explained Baylor’s response to COVID-19, mentioning that in-person classes are to be held for both fall and spring semesters during the 2020-2021 academic year, as of Sept. 28, 2020. 

Crocicchia mentioned Baylor’s option for students to waitlist for online classes, but explains “not everyone can do it.” Crocicchia clarified that students “have to get approved for online classes,” as long as their schedule can be easily transferred to a remote learning style. 

Interestingly, Baylor only accepts a limited number of students to make the transition to remote learning, as Crocicchia detailed that only a select number of students get their schedules approved for this transition. Crochiccia felt Baylor is approaching the pandemic effectively, with unique actions the university is partaking in to prevent the spread of the virus. 

She mentioned that in her classes, students must sit at least two seats apart from one another, and in some classes professors have large containers of disinfectant wipes for students to use to wipe down their desk and their belongings. 

Crocicchia felt that if there were one thing she would do differently regarding Baylor’s response to COVID-19, she would “not allow sporting events to happen, because proper social distancing obviously isn’t occurring at the football games.” 

Yet, this aspect of Baylor’s response is the only aspect Crocicchia would change if she could, as she feels her university has taken the proper measures to ensure its students remain safe and healthy, even with the reopening of campus operations and in-person classes.

While Baylor University’s approach to the pandemic involves resuming in-person classes for the Fall and Spring semesters, San Diego State University in Southern California has a differing approach, with similarities to most schools and other universities across the country. 

Fourth-year biology major Natalie Moghadm illustrated her experience at SDSU amidst the pandemic as somewhat disorienting. Moghadam explained, “Towards the end of [spring] semester earlier this year, they emailed us and told us Fall 2020 would be online with certain classes being on campus, but they hadn’t figured out that distinction yet.” 

Moghadam’s personal experience of life on campus coinciding with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic is much more hectic than that of Crocicchia’s experience. 

Moghadam detailed an email sent out by SDSU in the summer, which informed students about the various classes that would be offered on campus or via remote instruction for the now ongoing Fall semester. 

SDSU’s initial response to COVID-19 involved sending students living in on-campus housing back to their hometowns earlier in the year, but as Moghadam highlighted, some students later secured leases to return to San Diego for the fall semester due to a lack of clarity in regard to SDSU’s plan for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Moghadam explained, “A lot of people got housing just for the school to say classes would no longer be on campus,” meaning there is a significant number of students who are now stuck in housing contracts they do not need.

She felt her school should have come to a unanimous decision in terms of the response tactics to address the pandemic, rather than releasing numerous contradictory statements. Moghadam revealed SDSU sent out several emails that conflicted with one another “since their plans had changed so much.” 

Even now, Moghadam felt unsure about SDSU’s plans for the future, as her university’s response to COVID-19 was haphazardly conducted, with inconsistent administrative statements and simply a general uncertainty in terms of planning for the fall semester and beyond.

Institutions nationwide have surely had different approaches to COVID-19. Baylor University’s response to the pandemic involved resuming school operations as normal, as Isabella Crocicchia detailed in her personal experience as a Baylor student. 

While Baylor’s campus operations resumed as normal, Crocicchia noted various aspects of social distancing and attempts to slow the spread of the virus, such as mask mandates and socially distanced lecture hall seating. 

San Diego State University’s response to the pandemic completely differs from Baylor University’s response, as Natalie Moghadam recalled and explained her experience on campus before, during and after COVID-19 first became pressing. 


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