VCU students eager to return to the classroom

Students talk in the Academic Learning Commons before the start of their political science class. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

Junior public relations major Francesca Tilden called her dad right after her first in-person class this semester to tell him the good news.

“I feel like a real student again,” Tilden said.

Tilden is taking four classes this semester, two of which have an in-person component. She said she tried her best to sign up for exclusively in-person classes.

The university has three different modalities for courses this semester: hybrid, in person and online. Hybrid classes have both an online and in-person component. Undergraduate courses at Monroe Park campus this semester are 26.8% in person, 43.8% hybrid and 29.4% online, according to VCU spokesperson Michael Porter.

Class size was not a determining factor in deciding whether or not classes would be in person, and professors and department heads worked together to develop modalities, Porter stated in an email.

The university’s Public Health Response Team has the power to make a recommendation for classes to return online, according to Porter, who is also a member of the team. Any recommendations would be based on COVID-19 cases on campus, in Richmond and hospital availability in the Richmond area.

Tilden said living with three of her friends has also helped her school work. She lived alone last year and found it difficult to focus on school. Now, she said it’s easier to get into a routine while being surrounded by other students.

Tilden lived near campus last year, but rarely came to campus for school work because of COVID-19. She said she enjoys visiting the library for school work.

“Now that we’re back on campus, I’m able to separate my comfy space from school,” Tilden said.

Adjunct Professor of Art Foundations Jon Rajkovich is teaching two classes this semester. Both are hybrid classes with a Zoom lecture and in-person studio component. 

Rajkovich said he prefers Zoom lectures to in-person lectures because it helps promote equality between students. He is also a fan of the breakout room feature, which allows him to put students in small groups.

Despite added advantages to Zoom lectures, Rajkovich said he prefers teaching studios in person.

“As far as working in a studio on artwork, it really benefits students to be able to learn from each other,” Rajkovich said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer specific guidance for institutes of higher education with fully vaccinated populations and those that are mixed with both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

The CDC recommends that institutions push for members of the community to get the COVID-19 vaccine by offering it. Those who are unvaccinated are still recommended to wear masks indoors, continue to physically distance indoors and outdoors and undergo testing when exposed to COVID-19. 

People who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks indoors unless advised by local guidance, according to the CDC — though those with weakened immune systems should continue to wear a mask.

Everyone is required to wear a mask in university buildings regardless of vaccination status, according to VCU’s OneTogether webpage.

VCU required students to get a COVID-19 vaccination prior to the start of the semester or have a hold placed on their account. A hold based on missing COVID-19 vaccination documentation would prevent students from registering for classes, but would not stop students from accessing their transcripts, receiving a diploma or receiving grading, according to VCU’s records and registration website

Despite the reimplemented mask mandate, Rajkovich remains hopeful about the fall semester.

“It feels like normal again, even though we’re following the safety protocols and wearing masks and all that,” Rajkovich said.

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