As the Omicron variant continues to sweep across the country, the Seattle Pacific University COVID-19 Decision Group decided to move classes to remote learning until Jan. 10.
“We are strongly encouraging all students, faculty, and staff to take a COVID-19 test prior to returning to campus, if possible, and we strongly encourage everyone to get the recommended booster shot,” the decision group stated in an email sent out to students on Dec. 29.
Other local universities such as Seattle University and the University of Washington have also announced delays to in-person courses, with UW delaying until Jan. 10 and SU until the end of the month.
As students began online classes, professors prepared to teach their courses in an online modality. However, the transition to online coursework is not new to many faculty members.
Dr. William Purcell, professor of communication and chair of communication and journalism, recognized some of the positive aspects of starting classes online.
“The benefit [of online classes] is that I will be able to see my students’ full faces for the first week. It was a little frustrating last quarter when I could only recognize students by their eyebrows,” said Purcell.
Purcell also said that though he needed to rethink and revise the syllabi, he was confident students would adapt.
“SPU students have been great throughout the pandemic. I know they will roll with the punches,” said Purcell.
With professors revising their coursework to adapt to the university’s decision, some students are returning to campus and making plans for the change in modality.
Liberty Estrella, a second-year psych-neuroscience major, supports the decision to move online for the first week of classes, if not the quarter.
“I support the week-long, and even possibly quarter-long, move to online because I work in a field that involves COVID-19 vaccine research and public health,” said Estrella.
Estrella hopes that cases of COVID-19 slow down so students can return to in-person learning.
“As someone who struggled really badly with maintaining grades and mental health during online classes, I’m hoping for things to settle down so that we can return to in-person because I found fall quarter to be really enjoyable,” said Estrella.
Cade Huston, a fourth-year political science major, believes that the decision to move online for the first week of the winter quarter is one of optics.
“I find it quite silly. The dorms will be open and Gwinn will be open, but not the classrooms? Seems radically inconsistent and just about optics,” said Huston. “COVID isn’t deadly for our age range. More people die every year from suicide in our age range than COVID.”
Huston described that he is not worried about the Omicron variant as he returns to campus, but is instead eager to do so, saying that people have been locked down for too long.
“I’m paying for quality education, not Zoom university. I also am not worried about Omicron as it is even less deadly than the regular variant, which is already not deadly to college students,” said Huston. “To the students who are worried, they should be able to do their stuff online. But those of us who want to live our lives shouldn’t be forced to do online.”
Emma Engel, a fourth-year physiology major, supports the decision to remain online for the first week of the winter quarter.
“I am for the decision, as I think it’s smart with the rise of Omicron,” said Engel. “I don’t know how much a week is going to help though, and honestly, I think going online for the quarter wouldn’t be the worst idea, just because of how contagious Omicron is.”
Engel said that while she enjoyed being in person for classes during the fall quarter, she misses the flexibility of being online.
“To be honest, as much as I missed seeing everyone in-person during online school, I really liked how it allowed for more flexibility for me personally and I kind of found myself missing it fall quarter,” said Engel.
While the modality of classes for the remainder of the quarter may be unsure as of this moment, the decision group has ensured that classes will resume in person on Jan. 10.
The university will not be offering COVID-19 testing or vaccinations, but students are encouraged to use testing facilities in their areas.
Students who are symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19 are advised to not come to campus and instead contact the SPU Health Services Office at 206-281-2231.
Students can find vaccine requirements and FAQ’s here.