Fall opening plan elicits joy from some students, leaves athletes in the dark


Photo: The Berkeley Beacon Archives

Students moving out of their dorms in March 2020

By Aaron J. Miller, Print Editor

When then freshman Olivia Lusk left Emerson’s Boston campus in March, she was disappointed her first year—and maybe even her next one—was threatened by a looming pandemic. So, Lusk could not contain her excitement after the college announced Wednesday afternoon that its U.S. campuses will reopen for the fall semester.

“My initial thought when reading the email was ‘Oh my god, we’re going back,’” Lusk said in a phone interview from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “It has been one of my biggest fears to see what the fall semester was going to look like especially because the school was going back and forth [with the expected time of the announcement].”

The college’s announcement to reopen under a revised schedule evoked a slew of reactions from students located all across the world. The plans bring everyone back to campus by September—as normal—but closes on-campus housing Nov. 25, after which all finals will be taken remotely. 

Lusk, a writing, literature, and publishing major and book blogger looking for an internship in the fall, said she is most excited to return to the Boston campus because of the in-person learning experience.

“Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” Lusk said. “[The plan] still gives the in-person contact I imagine a lot of performing arts students need. Granted, I am a WLP major so my [classes] could be more online heavy than someone who is taking a movement class, but genuinely this is the best outcome because I know a lot of students who struggle with online classes—I am one of them.”

Anthony Rodriquez, a senior WLP major from Buffalo, New York, said Emerson seems to have followed the trend set by other colleges in the Boston area in handling the pandemic during the upcoming semester, so the announcement did not surprise him. 

“Making sure that students don’t come back [after Thanksgiving] because flu season is around that point is a smart move to make sure not everyone is traveling at the same time to reduce risk,” Rodriquez said in a phone interview.

Rodriquez applauded the college for its decision which he said accommodates not only students but also faculty and staff. 

“I think they did a good job with not only making sure they heard what students and faculty wanted, but staff wants, what workers need, such as facilities, dining hall workers, and other positions,” Rodriquez said. “For me, it’s not only about the students, but it’s also about the safety of other workers at Emerson so I am happy they took everything into account. Hopefully, this plan could evolve, also.

The college’s announcement lacked a number of details, including any sort of timetable for fall athletes, who normally arrive on campus two weeks before other students. 

J.P. Rios, a junior from Mexico City, Mexico, and a goalkeeper for Emerson’s men’s soccer team said he and the team are still unsure of when the fall 2020 season will begin. He said he is focusing on his fitness to be prepared for what the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference—the governing body of most of the college’s sports—decides.

“We’re still waiting for what the NEWMAC decides, so I think the plan is to return on the same day as originally planned,” Rios said in a phone interview from Mexico City. “We’re supposed to get there Aug. 19 and if everything goes according to plan we’ll still be [on campus] earlier than all other students.”

Rios said the change of the semester schedule does not affect him too much because he is only leaving two weeks earlier than expected. 

“I would rather everything be back to normal but I understand that it’s not going to happen,” Rios said. “When I was reading the [announcement] email, I thought it was pretty much the same as before. We’re only going to be missing two weeks of classes and it’s as close to a normal semester as possible.”

Incoming Student Government Association Executive President Claire Rodenbush told The Beacon that while she’s happy students will be able to return to campus in the fall, she’s concerned about the lack of clarity surrounding the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“On one hand, I am glad we get to return to campus in some capacity,” she said in a phone interview. “On the other hand, there’s a lot of things [the announcement] still leaves unanswered—mainly financially, which I’m sure is the biggest question on everyone’s mind.”

Rodenbush said she thinks she can use her position as executive president to push the administration to be more transparent with students. 

“What I’m hoping to do is, if I can’t get all the answers to the questions I have, push for complete transparency with these decision-making processes… because I know one of the biggest worries among students that I had talked to before this announcement was made was that lack of knowledge,” she said. 

Now that the college has announced its tentative plan, Rodenbush hopes there will be more communication about future decisions. 

“I think seeing general reactions [on social media] to me would prompt them to want to be more open,” she said. “For lack of a better response, I think the administration has a moral obligation to keep students in the loop about decision making involving the fall semester.”

Charlie McKenna contributed reporting.

This story was updated at 9:20 p.m. on June 11 to correct the location of Olivia Lusk during her interview. She was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, not Minnesota as the story previously stated.