Tacoma university students raise concerns about planned in-person learning

VIDEO: UPS plans to resume in-person learning next semester

The campus is quiet at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

The few students spotted walking around outside wore masks, including junior Miranda Roland. She’s one of fewer than 300 students living on campus this semester.

“Yeah, definitely not a lot of people,” Roland said.

Content Continues Below

Roland is comfortable with the way classes work this semester. They’re almost entirely virtual.

However, the spring 2021 semester looks different. The school is offering classes in-person, remotely or a combination of the two.

“As a chemistry student, some of the chemistry classes are going to be in-person for some labs, and I know that might be pretty detrimental to some STEM majors,” said Roland.

The university plans to bring back up to 75% of students living on campus, which is close to 1,300 students.

Many students KIRO 7 spoke to felt the school was moving too fast. Monday, Pierce County saw an additional spike, with 156 new COVID-19 cases recorded.

Two weeks ago, Associated Students of University of Puget Sound sent a letter to school administration outlining their concerns.

“There have been a lot of students who have been going to parties still, going out with friends, not masking properly, not keeping their COVID circles to a small group of people like they’re supposed to,” said Bailey Gamel, Senior Senator and Senate Chair. “I think that there’s uncertainty for all students about, could we get shut down next week? Or, there’s an outbreak, could we get shut down in two weeks? That uncertainty is going to be infinitely more detrimental to our success than having our classes all online from the get-go.”

Data on the university’s website shows there have been three positive cases on-campus since March.

Going into the spring semester, school officials said they’re increasing safety measures by requiring COVID-19 testing twice a week, and faculty will be flexible with students who have safety concerns. https://www.pugetsound.edu/spring-2021/

“I feel bad because I feel like I do criticize the school a little bit in decisions they’ve made, but I’m not 100% sure how to make it safer either,” said Roland.

University of Puget Sound said it’s prepared to return to fully remote learning at any time depending on the virus. Students will be notified by Dec. 18 if there are changes. The spring semester starts in January.