Students speak out as Point Park shifts back to in-person classes, raise concerns about health and safety

New coronavirus cases on campus have already been reported for the 2021-2022 academic year


(Photo Credit: Rachel Nash)

Written By Tia Bailey, Co-Features/A&E Editor

The Fall 2021 semester has kicked off, with classes being completely in-person. Students no longer have the option to take classes remotely, although COVID-19 is still going strong.

For the 2020-2021 academic year, students were able to choose whether they wanted to take classes in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid fashion. This semester is the first since COVID-19 vaccines have been widely distributed, and all students are required to be fully vaccinated unless they apply for one of the exemption reasons. But some students said they believe that does not mean things are safe to go completely back to normal.

“What is supposed to happen if there is an outbreak?” Kari Dettorre, a senior multimedia major, asked. “The Delta variant is extremely contagious, even for vaccinated individuals, and I hate to say it, but it feels like only a matter of time before it reaches our campus.”

According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), the Delta variant is “two times more contagious” than the original strain of the virus. Additionally, fully vaccinated individuals are able to spread the Delta variant to others.

“It seems irresponsible and especially unfair to students that are high-risk,” Dettorre said.

Students and faculty alike have had issues with online classes, as technology has presented some difficulties. However, some students would rather deal with technological issues, rather than risking their health.

“As hit-or-miss as remote classes can be, I’d rather take those risks than pretend nothing bad can happen and blindly march forward,” Ray Hazenstab, a senior broadcast production major, said.

Hazenstab said he felt just as engaged in online courses as he does in-person.

“It feels like we’re staring down a plan where it’s not if it fails, but how,” he said. “ A wave of classes being reshuffled if not cancelled is one thing. This has already led to headaches across the board, especially for those who were close to graduation. But that’s not even the most dangerous aspect. Rather, it seems like Point Park gambling on there being no way the virus storms through campus.”

Meghan Fitzsimmons, a senior sports, arts and entertainment (SAEM) major, feels like her ability to see her immunocompromised friends and family has been taken away from her.

“Being on campus every day worries me,” Fitzsimmons said.

She and a few other students have emailed faculty about the lack of remote options but have yet to receive a response.

“I wish the school would communicate with us and explain why they aren’t giving us the option to attend remotely,” she said.

Breakthrough COVID-19 cases, combined with taking away the option for remote classes, has raised students’ stress, even if they have gotten the vaccine.

“I think not having remote classes will hurt campus life,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve already seen the dashboard. Kids have tested positive and are in quarantine, and I don’t think that will change if every student is on campus every day. With the lack of options, I believe that we’ll be forced to move completely online before the semester is overdue to Delta being more infectious and threatening.”

According to the CDC, the Delta variant “causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms” of the virus. The Point Park campus dashboard, which tracks COVID-19 cases on campus, has already shown 7 cumulative positive cases of COVID-19 identified — 2 residential students, 4 commuters and 1 employee — within the first week of in-person classes.