We have barely scratched the surface of 2022 and it already feels like last January all over again. For at least the first two weeks of this quarter, students at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) are once again attending classes exclusively online. As a third-year transfer student, I prefer having in-person classes compared to online learning. However, I cannot say with confidence that students should return to in-person after week two.
With COVID-19 case rates in Santa Barbara County jumping from 13.4 to 100.9 in the last weeks of December 2021, it has become increasingly clear that the risks involved in coming back on week three are only getting worse. Other University of California (UC) campuses have already extended their remote periods to Jan. 31 in hopes of decreasing the positivity rate and spread amongst college students.
Right now it is uncertain what course of action UCSB will take, but I worry about the consequences of another fully-online quarter. While at this point we have plenty of experience with remote learning, it feels especially like a chore after getting a taste of the in-person experience. There is nothing quite like being able to attend class from the comfort of your home, but being on a more active schedule and physically going to classes led to a more positive experience overall.
Another concern lies with students who live in university housing who may have paid (or will have to pay) for a full quarter of rent despite staying home. It would be fair of UCSB to continue to charge rent as normal if students are to return in the next few weeks, but if this is not the case, I hope contracts this quarter would be at least partially refunded. Students like me who have not stepped foot on campus since December 2021 as a result of illness are not getting their money’s worth on rent, and this issue will only continue.
Nevertheless, classes are remote for all students for the time being and in the foreseeable future, many students will stay at home rather than in Santa Barbara until that is no longer the case. If students do not receive a refund during remote learnings, then many stand to pay more than they should this quarter. To live in university-owned housing is to pay for the specific physical experience that the UCSB campus has to offer. If that experience is stifled by virtual learning all quarter, it would not be fair to charge rent contracts as normal.
These first two weeks of virtual learning were put in place to keep students safe from increasing COVID-19 case rates and to prevent outbreaks on campus. Realistically, two weeks is not likely to be enough to accomplish these goals. As a result, students should prepare to undergo the challenges of prolonged online classes once again. My hope is that we continue to be supported by our campus and our staff so that students have a positive experience this quarter — both academically and financially. In the meantime, all we can do is push through these familiar times. Last quarter, in-person was a beneficial and great experience — I hope we can resume once it’s safe to do so.