PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Brown University officials on Tuesday laid out plans for the upcoming school year, which include efforts to reduce the number of students on campus and offer both in-person and remote classes.
The school will follow a three-term calendar, university President Christina Paxson announced, in which undergraduate students will be on campus for two of the three terms (fall, spring and summer).
“It reduces the density of students on campus at any one time,” Paxson said during a virtual meeting on Tuesday. “It makes it possible to give all students single rooms.”
In addition to single rooms, on-campus students will be clustered into small “pods” to make it easier to identify who needs to be quarantined should a person test positive for COVID-19.
Paxson said all students will be tested upon returning to campus and required to participate in random testing to help monitor for community spread of the virus. Residential spaces will be set aside for those who need to isolate and quarantine.
The expectation is that sophomores, juniors and seniors will return in the fall, according to Paxson, and first-year students will arrive in the spring and continue into the summer. She also said that first-year students can take one fall course remotely for credit, free of charge, while orientation and mentoring opportunities will be offered remotely.
“Although I am deeply disappointed that we can’t welcome our first-year students to campus in the fall, we simply don’t think that it is safe to have all undergraduates on campus simultaneously,” Paxson said in her announcement.
In-person classes will be limited to 20 students, Paxson said, and any classes larger than that will be taught online.
All students will also be given the option to take courses remotely, whether they’re living on campus or not, and faculty members will have the option to teach remotely.
Some Brown students said they feel the remote learning experience is no match for learning in the classroom.
“I’m a little concerned about motivation to continue going to classes online,” Sophie Ahn said.
“Your learning is hindered,” Yara Doumani said. “We learn just as much as the faculty as we do from our fellow peers. I think without a space, a healthy space to be able to have communication with each other, conversations, debates, challenge each other … that’s a big part of my learning experience and why I came to Brown.”
Adding widespread testing and virtual learning options also comes at a cost; students will have to pay full tuition.
The students who spoke to Eyewitness News called the plans the best possible outcome but still had concerns about the on-campus experience, like how dining halls will be closed in favor of “grab and go” meals and vending machines. They also said they want to ensure that decision who attends during which term will be done in a fair and equitable way.
“Hopefully, the university will take into account family situation, income, visas,” Doumani added.
When it comes to extracurricular activities and events, Paxson said those will be shaped by the reduced capacity of spaces, social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, and other health protocols.
She also noted the Ivy League is expected to announced a decision Wednesday regarding fall athletics.
Read Paxson’s full announcement here.