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Some college students uneasy about starting fall term during pandemic

A PSU spokesperson said the majority of classes will be taught remotely in the fall. Still, students say the uncertainty has been frustrating.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Colleges and universities across the area are ironing out fall plans. But some students say they’re uneasy about the start of fall term during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details for each school vary, but in general schools like Portland State University, Oregon State University, and the University of Oregon are looking at offering a combination of in-person, online and hybrid courses.

At PSU, a spokesperson said the majority of classes will be taught remotely.

Still, there is uncertainty and some students say it has been frustrating.

“Right now the school hasn’t really told the student body what classes will be online or will be in person,” said Motu Sipelii, the PSU student body president.

PSU won’t have those details until August 10. Sipelii said he’s personally in favor of having classes online. But for many students, online learning hasn’t been a good option.

“I guess a lot of students were unable to meet the demands of the teacher,” said Sipelii.

He said some professors’ expectations are too high, especially since some students don’t have good access to the internet or maybe they’ve moved home and the time difference is an issue. For some students, there may also be a language barrier

“A lot of them they weren’t able to get access to tutoring centers,” said Sipelii of distance learning during the spring term when the pandemic began.

In addition, students may have lost jobs due to the pandemic. The mental stress of that, combined with a shifting and unfamiliar learning model has been difficult for many students.

Another concern he and others have involves students who may be risking exposure to the virus because they have to take public transportation to school if their class is one that’s in-person and needed for them to graduate.

“It’s a commuter school so most of the folks have to travel on campus to attend their classes,” Sipelii said.

Katherine Petersdorf is one student who may have to commute. While in some ways she’s excited to get back to school, she’s also uneasy.

“I’m a little worried thinking about being on public transit and being in class just because my spouse is diabetic. He has autoimmune issues. So, it’s a little scary,” said Petersdorf.

Credit: Katherine Petersdorf
Katherine Petersdorf and her spouse

She said she’s also unsure about how she and other students will juggle classes, a capstone project, an internship and a job all done remotely. 

In her experience, she said sometimes those commitments will have schedule conflicts, and one party may not be as understanding.

Then there are the dorms. PSU has said it’ll allow students to live on campus. On the PSU website, it says students will stay in single rooms, with social distancing and face masks in public areas. 

Still, Sipelii, who’s worked in student housing before, is concerned, especially about incoming freshmen. He said he doesn’t believe they will stay socially distant from one another.

While Sipelii understands the pressure colleges and universities face to keep students safe, he’s still worried about how the pandemic will affect both students’ schooling and mental health, with all the changes coupled with social distancing.

He said at this point, he didn’t feel confident going back to school in the fall.

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