Almost exactly five months after being told they would finish the spring semester virtually to avoid the spread of COVID-19, students finally returned to revive the campus with in-person learning.
Following an early training period for new faculty and staff, new international students and student leaders, multiple required sessions thoroughly informed the entire student body on the health and safety adjustments to campus life in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with other new precautions, everyone quickly became familiar with the “Four Ws,” namely, wash your hands, wear your mask, watch your distance, wipe your surfaces.
Samantha Veira, a senior journalism and mass communications major, said she hopes everyone will do whatever they can to make sure the student body can stay on campus. “I’m even more excited to be back to school this year after last semester was cut short,” she said.
In order to protect health and ensure we can complete the semester on campus, the University set responsibility expectations both for the individual students and for the faculty and staff. On entering class, students are to show their “green screen” indicating they passed their daily self-check that monitors temperature and symptoms. Everyone is also expected to wear face coverings indoors and maintain reasonable distancing outdoors.
Leah Phiri, a junior business administration major, said she thinks it’s good that BJU is following CDC guidelines. “In a university like Bob Jones where you have a lot of people, especially a lot of people indoors, it might be too much of a risk without these kinds of precautions,” she said.
All buildings have regulated socially distanced seating, and the sizes and locations of gatherings are adjusted and updated to allow for proper distancing. To comply with health guidelines, some classes have moved to larger classrooms or have split into multiple sections. Faculty are also making sure their class material is available online if they or any of their students are in isolation or quarantine.
Many colleges expected an impact on their fall enrollment with some students taking a gap year or enrolling in online courses instead of returning to campus. Despite speculation on COVID-19’s effect on this year’s academic enrollment, BJU has over 2,500 students with an enrollment comparable to last year.
Taylor Wright, a freshman nursing major, said, “Even though [the safety protocols] are inconvenient, I think they’re vital to the college staying open.” Wright said she thinks the guidelines are harder for returning students than freshmen. “For us freshmen, it’s all new [anyway],” she said.
Christian Murray, a sophomore premed major, said although he does not personally agree with every change, the new rules are relatively simple and easy to follow. “It was easy to adjust to the new environment by simply implementing a few small additions to my normal life,” he said.
Now, Bob Jones University has successfully completed its second week of classes, and optimism continues to extend beyond the student body. Dr. Brent Cook, a professor in the School of Religion, said Christians are never called to despair in the face of difficulty. “With Spirit enablement, each semester has the potential to be better than the last,” he said. “This semester is no exception.”