Back to school: What should students expect?


Maggie Willard

After one month of remote learning, classes are back in person as of Feb. 1.

After a month-long wait, students finally prepared to make their way back to campus on Feb. 1 for the transition from virtual to in-person classes.

On Jan. 24, campus communications sent an email to the campus community regarding the return to campus on Feb. 1. The email, from Britt Rios-Ellis, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, and Glenn McIntosh, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer, discussed COVID-19 policies and preventative measures OU is taking as classes commence in-person.

OU’s vaccine mandate remains in place. Students should upload their vaccination status to the Graham Health Center (GHC) Secure Patient Portal. However, if students uploaded their vaccination records last semester, they do not need to repeat this step — but is encouraged if they received a booster injection. For students with approved vaccine exemptions, the weekly testing policy remains the same.

Similarly, OU’s masking policy remains in place. Masks are required in all indoor facilities at all times with the exception of actively eating or drinking. The university is offering KN95 masks along with other 3-ply disposable and reusable cloth masks for students and faculty at three different on-campus locations: the Oakland Center Welcome Desk, CSA Service Window and the Food Pantry.

Rios-Eliis is looking forward to students returning — stating that as a higher education administrator, she is dedicated and committed to the transformational process that students go through during a positive higher education experience.

“I’m just really excited to see folks back. I just want to underscore that. We’re waiting, we’re really happy to have folks back on campus and I think I just want to thank the student population for protecting themselves, helping each other, protecting each other and protecting your staff and faculty as well. We really are all in this together,” Rios-Ellis said.

Although the administration has expressed their excitement about students returning to campus, some students don’t seem to reciprocate those feelings — especially with so much uncertainty ahead.

Cameron Schneider, a senior majoring in business and marketing, said he is disappointed about the return to campus, especially after the initial postponement from Jan. 18 — noting the back-and-forth causes a lot of disappointment and confusion for students.

“I’m fine with the return to campus, but I wish it would have remained online. I’ve been skeptical that we are actually going back, especially since they moved the date from earlier this semester,” Schneider said. “I still have a feeling they’re going to send an email the day before saying: ‘Actually, we’re staying online.’ I’m really not too pleased about going back, especially after a month.”

Matt Wesolowski, a senior majoring in communication, expressed similar feelings about the return to campus in terms of concern and uncertainty.

“Honestly, I feel [the return] has some risks but also some benefits. I have two in-person classes this semester and it has been a bit annoying. I am concerned with the fact they waited this long to send us back. I think they should either keep us all home or let everyone go if they want,” Wesolowski said.

“I had all online classes last year, so I was used to it. The issue was that I found out super late and almost went to my first class in-person. I feel that it was not a necessary thing. If people were really so scared of going to class, they would email the school and work something out.”

As of right now, according to Rios-Ellis, the university is officially moving ahead with the plan to return to campus with COVID-19 safety precautions in place. She encourages students feeling apprehensive or anxious about the transition to reach out to faculty or counseling services for help, and emphasizes that we are all in this together.