Blacksburg COVID-19 Response

The Drillfield lies empty as Virginia Tech shuts down classes and moves to online-only in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, March 18, 2020.

When Virginia Tech President Tim Sands announced June 8 that the university intended to reopen this August, there were questions to be had as to how the overall plan would pan out. 

In an open letter to Hokie Nation, President Sands stated that there was a tentative plan in place to bring students back for the upcoming semester, albeit “with some caveats.”  

One of the more prominent aspects of the initial plan was that university officials intended to have around one-third of the classes offered this fall be in-person, with the possibility of additional in-person offerings as the semester progresses. 

However, in a recent letter from President Sands, it was mentioned that university instructors opted for offering less than 10% of classes to be held in-person, with more than 60% of classes being entirely online. The rest are to be assumed to be offered in a hybrid style; partially in-person, partially online. 

It can be assumed that opposition to the original plan, either by instructors and/or those tasked with making the calls for what would be best in regards to safety, may have played a role in the change. Issues with distancing due to room-size as well as capacity limitations may also be to blame for the change, but the university has not made a statement as to why it has retracted its initial effort. 

Students had high hopes that fall 2020 would present the opportunity for a make-up date for last spring’s canceled in-person graduation ceremony. Graduating students were informed of plans for a “truly memorable celebration in September” in a statement from President Sands and other university officials. According to a tweet sent out by the university’s official Twitter page on Aug. 12, those plans are now canceled, as the event has been deemed unable to be hosted as originally planned. While the university did mention that there are plans to “recognize and celebrate” the graduating class of Spring ‘20 in other ways beyond the Zoom ceremony that happened this past May, it did not specify what those plans are. 

The university announced Aug. 12 that the Cook Counseling Center would be implementing fees related to its service offerings. The plan was to charge a $20 fee per session for any individual who exceeds 10 counseling sessions in one academic year, a $15 per session fee for psychiatry services, among other service-related fees. 

Backlash on social media by Virginia Tech students, as well as a Change.org petition that pushed for the cancellation of such plans ultimately led to a formal announcement by Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok Jr., stating that the university was taking action to “reverse course and change the implementation of any new fees.” 

This article is not intended to come off as critical of the planning and announcements made by university officials. The pandemic has made many aspects of life unpredictable, therefore planning for any future activities should be seen as subject to change at any time should circumstances not be ideal for things to move forward. 

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