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Credit: Cleveland State University
CSU plans to be back on campus in fall 2021. Students have mixed feelings about the move.

CSU students are preparing to return to campus in the fall

“I think it’s safe to say that it will be a lot closer to a standard fall semester than the spring," CSU President Harlan Sands said.

When Chavonne Washington, 24, started her junior year at CSU as a transfer student from Tri-C, she did not expect to have her classes abruptly switch from on-campus learning to remote learning. After spending her first two years at Tri-C, she was excited to attend a university to continue furthering her degree in business and enjoy the atmosphere of a bigger campus. 

Starting at Cleveland State during the spring 2020 semester was an exciting time for Washington, but she never expected to switch to remote learning just weeks after she started attending classes at CSU.

“The change from being in class to remote was kind of a big change and stressful because everybody doesn’t really do well when it comes to online and trying to communicate with the instructor,” Washington said.

She is just one of thousands of CSU students who went on spring break in March 2020, planning to return to campus the following week.

Those plans were dashed due to the surging coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown across the country forced by the battle against COVID-19.

The transition from in-class lecture learning to remote learning was not plain sailing.

“The change was terrible for me," said Nyhja Smith, a communications major at CSU. "I still hate it, it’s very difficult for me to learn this way. ”

The 20-year-old Smith added that she was very excited and anxious to return to learning in-person in the fall.

“I will not miss remote learning," Smith said. "It has been a very bad experience for me.”

Senior Klara Mrcela, 21, is also a communications major. She also wasn’t in favor of the transition from in-class learning to remote learning.

“It took me a lot of time to adjust to remote learning," Mrcela said. "I was always a fan of coming to class in person and actually hearing the lecture from professors. It wasn’t a smooth transition for me at all."

Mrcela too says she will not miss remote learning and looks forward to returning to campus in the fall.

CSU hopes fall 2021 will be "near normal"

CSU President Harlan Sands announced on Thursday that the university was welcoming student back in fall, starting in late August.

“I think it’s safe to say that it will be a lot closer to a standard fall semester than the spring," Sands told The Stater ahead of that announcement. "So I think we can expect to see a much bigger campus presence just because we can spread things out and have a portion of the population vaccinated.”

In that interview, Sands cautioned that some unknowns could not be counted out in preparing for a successful return to campus.

“I think it’s going to depend on the number of vaccines that we give out, and whether the CDC changes their guidelines for social distancing and any changes they have based upon how well vaccinated the population is. Those are going to be the two unknowns right now.”

Many students are questioning if COVID-19 tests will be mandatory upon returning to campus in the fall and curious as to how the classrooms will be set up. 

“We’re looking at it," Sands said. “Our preference is that everybody voluntarily takes one, but we’re going to take a look at it because if it's a way for us to get back to 'normal' and that’s one of the ways to get there. We’re going to take a hard look at it.”

Students like Washington will also be watching carefully.

“When it comes to returning to campus in the fall, I really don’t want to go now due to COVID,” Washington said.

Others are hoping for a return to a more normal campus life after more than a year of remote learning and virtual events.

“I think all-remote life just brings out trauma from COVID-19,” said Mrcela. “I am excited about the fact that we will hopefully return to campus in fall. It will feel nice to have in-person interactions again.”

*** Editor's note. The reporter's interview with President Sands was done several days before the announcement on April1 that CSU would return to "near normal" in fall 2021. The writing combines the interview with elements of what is now known about CSU's plans, which The Stater reported on here.