Amid new COVID-19 Strains like Omicron, is a Vibrant Post-Covid Campus Possible?

Photo by Sara Alouh

Photo by Sara Alouh

Sara Alouh, Writer

Nearly two years after the first cases of COVID-19 and its first shutdown in March of 2020, UM-Flint is finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

After reporting vaccine mandate compliance rates of over 90% for students, faculty and staff, the UM-Flint Reopening Committee made the decision to fully remove the Health Screening Stations at campus building gateways. 

The Reopening Committee co-chaired by Dr. Julie Snyder, dean of students, has been overseeing the changes to UM-Flint’s COVID-19 response. 

“Our goal is to keep the community safe … by using public health mitigation strategies [and] the vaccine mandate,” said Snyder. 

With the exit of gateways on November 1st, campus is now mostly open. However, there are still a few amenities that are currently closed or restricted, such as the Riverfront gym and the Recreation Center sauna. 

There are precautions still in place to try to prevent an outbreak. Students, faculty, staff and visitors are still required to wear masks indoors and complete the ResponsiBlue Health Screening before coming on campus. Unvaccinated students are also required to get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. 

It should be noted that while these precautions are in place, there is no enforceable way to prevent an outbreak. Currently, anyone can come into campus with no definitive way of tracking who was where. 

Even though campus is technically open, the number of students that were here in pre-COVID times have still not returned. 

“What I hope for is the return of people, so that we would slowly grow back the number of in-person courses, which means that the number of students who actually are on campus would grow. And we would see some revitalization in our co-curricular activities,” said Snyder. “The vibrancy, that’s what we would like to see.”

Many students share Snyder’s sentiments of wanting to bring back more students on campus. 

“I do want to be like back in the norm and just actually be around more people…being around different people and different ideas,” said Amiyah Simmons, a freshman at UM-Flint. 

Some students would also like to see the return of more in-person classes due to academic concerns. 

“I feel like I learn better and I do better in my classes when they are in-person,” said Jamilah, another UM-Flint student. “It’s a big distraction, being at home.”

However, not everyone is eager to go back to the system we had before. According to Shelby Newport, vice provost of academic affairs and co-chair of the Reopening Committee, online classes have come a long way since March of 2020. Faculty and staff have had hours upon hours of training in administering online courses and adjusted quite well with the change. 

“I think faculty are getting much more comfortable with the technology, and finding places that they didn’t know could be successful online,” said Newport. “I think that students are reporting that that flexibility in remote learning is allowing them to complete their degrees in ways that we didn’t have available to them before COVID.”