David Wilson, president of Morgan State University in Baltimore, has not sugarcoated plans about reopening its campus in 2021.
“Make no mistake about it, Morgan is open for business,” he said during a recent town hall meeting.
While many college leaders have been focused on important relaunch strategies for the fall academic year, Wilson boldly has set his target a bit sooner – a return to a more traditional campus atmosphere in July, its second Summer Session.
“Our business is student success, which is why it is imperative that we bring our entire Morgan community back to campus,” he said. “This summer marks the beginning of a return to our traditions, a return to our normalcy and a resocialization, culminating this fall with vibrant university life befitting a National Treasure.”
Wilson’s statements piggybacked on bold predictions he made in early February, that Morgan State’s community would see in-person instruction, a more engaged Student Center and a much more vibrant campus by the summer.
Based on vaccine rollout timelines, it appears that Wilson and his team will get their wish and be able to do it safely. The state of Maryland is opening up its pool of eligible COVID-19 vaccine candidates to ages 16 and over on April 27, according to Gov. Larry Hogan. By July, it is expected that about 75% of individuals in the U.S. will have received doses of one of the vaccines.
The unpredictably of the virus and its increasing variants cannot completely ensure those plans will come to fruition, but Morgan State and others can be much more confident about those decisions than they were a year ago – now backed by vaccines, strong testing measures, assurance of campus protocols such as distancing and masking, very few outbreaks and decreasing spread within communities.
“I’m hopeful that this will be the last semester of wholesale virtual, online, or distance education, and the last semester of mass teleworking,” Wilson told students in the letter in February. “Of course, we remain mindful of the wellness and safety of our entire campus community, and our return to Fair Morgan will be contingent on vaccinations having reached herd immunity—the prospects of which are indeed promising.”
Ready to come back
Students aren’t the only ones who have been pressing for a full campus return, according to Morgan State officials. In a survey sent out to faculty members, they also want to be back in classrooms and lecture halls provided that precautions are taken. Because of the flexibility and the success of online instruction, the university said it will allow for some remote learning to take place moving forward.
And thanks to its success in combatting and controlling virus spread, Wilson officially announced that Morgan State will hold two in-person commencement ceremonies on May 14 and 15, including one for students who missed out on graduation during 2020.
Wilson also doubled down on his university’s commitments during the pandemic, which is still adversely affecting students and families.
- Because of a $40 million donation from philanthroper MacKenzie Scott, Morgan State has boosted financial aid for some 6,000 students.
- It also halted tuition prices for the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters.
- It has increased testing on campus and will continue to do so, and it has been a beacon in the city of Baltimore along with several other institutions in helping with vaccine rollouts, which will help minimize potential spread in communities surrounding campus.
Several other campuses across the nation have joined Wilson in proclaiming their colleges and universities “more open for business” during the summer.
The University of Florida and University of South Florida are both planning to offer expanded in-person summer options for students, as well as a nearly full slate of traditional face-to-face courses in the fall. Lamar Community College in Colorado has remained open throughout the pandemic but with hybrid classes. In the summer, its “entire campus will be open, in-person and active” president Linda Lujan told the Lamar Ledger. Some like Connecticut College are offering shorter virtual summer course sessions – so students can maintain jobs – before they attempt to fully reopen in the fall.
Most institutions, including fellow historically Black college and university Morehouse College, have gotten on board with attempting to replicate a traditional campus look for the fall – with increased in-person learning and students residing together in dorms – although some in harder-hit areas of the country such as California have been reluctant to get too far ahead in their plans.