Should students return for the 2020 fall semester?

Sydney Bellon, Columnist

It’s fair to say that we are all living day by day, hoping for this pandemic to magically improve overnight. Now that we’ve all gotten a taste of virtual classes, it has become easier to see that classes from home are not something we want to do forever. Interaction is a key part of our college’s charm, and since the COVID-19 deadlock, we have all been missing out on what we chose Whitman for. This is the reason why many students are considering a wide variety of options for the next academic year, including a leave of absence or a gap year. Colleges all over the nation are concerned about the possibility that even incoming students may defer enrollment in classes. 

Some colleges and universities have already decided to make it official that they will not be returning in the fall. Among the choices available, students and faculty are hoping that it will be possible to join together again in the fall, even if that experience is changed slightly for safety. However, if this is not plausible with national restrictions, would it make sense to leave school for a semester or two until this all blows over? Personally, it is something I am on the fence about, but it is entirely understandable that students would want to preserve their college experience and wait to have in-person classes again. 

This is especially understandable from the perspective of graduating high school seniors who are choosing their colleges and planning for the fall. They have already missed out on pivotal high school memories, such as prom, sports games, theater productions and graduation. Could you blame them for wanting to maintain some semblance of dependability in these momentous occasions of their lives? While we’re dealing with the mixed messages from healthcare workers and various state plans compared to anything from the Trump administration, it is difficult to decipher where we will be by September and how realistic going back to school will be. 

My belief is that we should remain wary of jumping into one plan, only to lose options by reacting too hastily. There is still an entire summer to decide what the next academic year will look like for everyone. I’m sure incoming first years would not be exactly pleased to begin college with social distancing measures, but the rest of us already know that it would be better to have a sliver of the same communal feelings back than nothing at all. A leave of absence or deferment may be worth considering, but if you wish for the intimate community that Whitman is known for, physical distance together would be better than mere virtual interaction.