This is Part 1 of the 'Reopening Series'. Check back here or follow @LIUBKNews for when Part 2 and beyond come out!
Quickly approaching the middle of August while awaiting official final plans from LIU regarding COVID-19 and safety, many students remain skeptical about a safe Fall semester experience.
A SurveyMonkey poll released by the LIU-B Faculty Senate last week highlighted many concerns students have, from class sizes to the campus experience. One question in particular raised some major concerns, considering there are no easy solutions to it.
The majority of the almost 1,300 LIU students surveyed agreed that they would NOT be comfortable walking around the narrow hallways of LIU. When asked, “I feel safe walking in hallways with other people,” 729 students (57.14%) responded with ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree.’ That is a major contrast compared to only 307 students (24.49%) who leaned ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’.
For returning students, they are well aware of how narrow some hallways are. A CDC-recommended 6-foot safe social distance is impossible for numerous key thoroughfares.
Many know about the narrow hallways of the Humanities building from floors 2 to 9. No two people can travel in opposite directions while keeping a safe distance. Luckily, there are four ‘sides’ to most of those floors, so setting up one-way travel may be feasible and help with social distancing.
Such a plan is unfortunately not possible for most other problematic hotspots. All of the high-traffic bridges between buildings, especially between the Humanities and Pratt buildings, are barely six feet wide without traffic. How will they be safe if social distancing is not possible?
When travelling between the Pratt and Metcalfe buildings, the same problem arises. The area near Enrollment Services and the LIU Promise offices is prone to high traffic all day, and would be difficult to keep social distancing a majority of the time.
One student wrote, “Passing each other in the halls, as well as taking public transportation, will increase risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
From one concern to another, LIU Brooklyn’s classrooms are generally small, while having some lectures and workshops where students are packed in. Even though LIU on multiple occasions addressed the goal of shrinking student capacity in classes, that has not swayed students’ preferences of remaining online for the Fall 2020 semester.
In the same SurveyMonkey survey, one question asked, “I would prefer attending lecture classes that are…” And an overwhelming majority of students replied with ‘fully online.’ A whopping 65.77%, or 809 out of 1230 students shared the same idea. Other schools, including Harvard University in Massachusetts and Rutgers University in New Jersey, have chosen the all-remote route this fall.
Only 19% of students surveyed said they would prefer to be, “split into groups that rotate on a weekly basis, with some students face-to-face with masks and physically distanced, and the rest of the students online.” Only 15% preferred all in-person instruction with the proper safety and social distancing protocols.
One student surveyed wrote, “How will [students] be fit into classes? And, with the large number of students that were fit into classes last year, would we have a higher quantity of lectures to accommodate all the students without breaking social distancing?”
Speaking of social distancing, another potential COVID hotspot may be in the mostly narrow elevators across most LIU Brooklyn buildings. One question in the survey raised the potential safety concern in elevators. When LIU students were asked, “I feel safe taking elevators with other people,” a whopping 70.35% said they would NOT feel safe, when compared to just 16.95% who would.
Returning students know the frustration of long elevator wait times, oftentimes exceeding five minutes, especially in the Humanities Building. And most of the time, students would pack into tight spaces to get to their selected floors.
That simply can not happen in COVID times, and having all students return with in-person classes will certainly cause problems with packed elevators, crowded hallways, and full lectures.
Having blended learning, like most NYC public schools are attempting, would allow for classes to still be 2+ times a week, but in-person instruction would only be once a week or bi-weekly. Even if that is the case, only time will tell if that will alleviate crowding concerns across hallways, classrooms and elevators.
Another student brings up an interesting point: “If we can’t dine in restaurants why would we be able to learn in a school? Also, the health commissioner [Oxiris Barbot] just resigned because of a lack of care and urgency. I love school but I love LIFE and being alive more.”
Despite NYC public schools having either remote or blended learning, more parents are opting for remote learning. All CUNY colleges have chosen an entirely online fall semester, well in advance. Time is ticking, and out-of-state students from 35 states (under Cuomo’s quarantine mandate as of August 14) as well as international students need to arrive at LIU by the end of next week to achieve the 14-day quarantine to participate in face-to-face Fall classes when the semester starts September 8.
LIU was supposed to hold a virtual Senate meeting with official final plans regarding LIU’s Fall 2020 semester and safety, but that has been postponed to a later date. Stay tuned to Seawanhaka for more details regarding LIU’s reopening plan, including Part 2 and beyond, and follow our social media @LIUBKNews across all platforms!