Virtual semester v. In-person semester

(Jade McIntyre / Daily Titan) 

On Sept. 10, Cal State University Chancellor Timothy P. White announced that all CSUs would continue to primarily teach online in the coming spring semester. This decision was made in careful consideration of the current pandemic and the degree progression of a majority of CSU students. 

The news sparked outrage among students, with many feeling that the education was stolen from them. 

What many students seem to forget is that the nation is in a serious health crisis. Rather than risking the health of over 480,000 students and their families, virtual learning must be the norm in these circumstances.

Universities that have remained open or reopened this fall semester have allowed students to believe that the current pandemic is a thing of the past and ironically proceeded to blame students for the increase of COVID-19 cases on campus. 

At on-campus universities, students are attending in-person classes, hanging out in each other’s dorms and partying like nobody’s business, while several are paying the price for it. For colleges that remained open despite COVID-19 concerns, over 88,000 cases and 60 deaths have been reported since last spring, according to The New York Times

Students are old enough to make their own choices regarding social distancing, but on-campus colleges and universities must take a large portion of accountability for the number of COVID-19 cases on their campuses. 

While some students are experiencing difficulty managing virtual learning compared to in-person classes, it is understandable why they are upset about the chancellor’s announcement. Although the shift in education models can be overwhelming, it is important to note that roughly 35% of students had already taken online courses before the current pandemic, and over 150,000 CSU students participated in virtual classes in the 2018-19 school year. College online isn’t easy, but it is manageable and preferable for a large portion of students. 

But expecting all CSU students to have the resources and opportunities to complete online courses without difficulty would be classist and unrealistic. However, it would also be impractical to expect CSU campuses to adhere to the needs of all students and adjust tuition costs effectively in the span of a single semester. 

Cal State Fullerton is making an effort to help students attend virtual learning by offering semester long device rentals to applicable students. For those unable to rent a device from campus, several internet programs offer low-cost computers and Wi-Fi access for low-income students and families. 

For working students, online education often works better than in-person classes due to its flexibility. In classes that don’t require Zoom meeting attendance, online learning allows students to work as many hours necessary for their living situations and complete their college tasks on their own time. Additionally, it aids the same students who can’t afford to prioritize school over their jobs and who don’t have extra time to commute to and from campus. 

The nation is experiencing an incredibly difficult and scary time. “Facts” about COVID-19 are constantly changing. Misinformation spreads over social media regularly. The public hardly knows the entire truth about coronavirus and students must understand that online learning is the only logical option for continuing education. 

While the transition has been far from perfect, the CSUs are doing what they can to offer the safest and most effective means of education for their students. It’s important to remember that colleges have never before had to enforce such sudden drastic changes. The CSU system is not at fault for protecting its schools from COVID-19 risks this upcoming semester.  

That being said, there is nothing wrong with taking time off from school until it is safe to resume in-person classes. COVID-19 has stripped away any sense of normalcy from people’s lives and made it necessary for them to maintain their physical, financial and mental well-being, no matter what that looks like. 

The future is unknown, but one thing is certain: Changes such as online learning must be enforced to ensure the safety of college students and their families.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Cal State Fullerton offers 30-day computer rentals available four times a semester to applicable students. The CSUF Division Information of Technology has changed its procedures for long-term device rentals, offering semester-long rentals depending on students' requests. 

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