State of the University

President Sands delivering the State of the University Address, Sept. 6, 2019. 

For months, many students have waited in anticipation for an announcement from Virginia Tech regarding the university’s plans for the fall 2020 semester. Having had a spring 2020 semester that was cut short by the COVID-19 global pandemic, it was unclear if the upcoming fall semester was set to be impacted as well. While President Sands announced that students will be allowed to return to campus this August, there are a number of notable changes to be seen.

The academic calendar has not been altered, as classes are still set to begin Aug. 24 and conclude on Dec. 16. However, as students leave to go on Thanksgiving Break in November, they will not be returning to campus for classes, as the remaining days of instruction and final exams will be carried out virtually. 

In regards to on-campus housing for the upcoming semester, the biggest change to the way things will operate is that dorm rooms will be limited to two occupants per room. In previous years, students living in residential halls on campus have been in situations where rooms could have anywhere from one to four occupants. This upcoming academic year will only permit dorm rooms to have single or double occupancy setups.

In noting that rooms are limited this year more so than in previous years, there are concerns as to housing for a relatively large number of those seeking to live on campus this fall. 

“In fall 2019, our campus was home to 10,400 students,” Sands said in his most recent announcement to the university. “This fall, to create the best living situation, we estimate that we can accommodate approximately 9,100 on campus.” 

As of now, the fate of fall sports is unclear.Announcements regarding the fall football season are expected to be made in July. Decisions regarding the allowance of spectators into Lane Stadium should be seen around July 1, and decisions as to whether or not the season shall start on time or be delayed are to be expected sometime in mid-July. If players are unable to practice by mid-July, a delay to the start of the football season should be expected.

Regarding classroom-based learning, there are plans to gradually increase the number of classes offered in-person as the fall semester progresses. However, the vast majority of learning is currently set to occur online. The university is seeking to have at least one-third of courses to be held in-person, but should health-related restrictions ease up as time progresses, expansions as to what is offered in-person should take place. Classes such as labs and studios are some of the ones that will be prioritized for an in-person experience, as they tend to be more difficult than most to operate virtually. By July 13, decisions on how courses will handle their modes of instruction will be announced, with each course announcing how they intend to instruct this fall. 

Precautionary measures beyond social distancing and limiting exposure to one another are in the works to help keep students safe through a variety of means. Nearly 2,000 hand-sanitizer stations will be installed across campus in a number of locations within buildings. Additionally, should Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s guidelines requiring face coverings when inside public establishments carry over into the school year, students and faculty will be required to wear masks to classes, dining halls and other places around campus. 

While there is still much left to be said about what Fall 2020 will hold for Hokies both incoming and returning, one thing that’s for certain is that it will be a joint effort between all to ensure the health and well-being of Blacksburg as a whole. We have to be safe, smart and mindful of others when we all come back to school in the coming months, if we want to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of spring 2020. It will surely be a different experience than one would normally anticipate, but it’s the best that can be carried out.

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