NU professors and students transition to in-person learning


Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

Northwestern students are back on campus for classes and are expected to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.

Iris Swarthout, Reporter

Weinberg Prof. Pamela Bannos, who teaches Introduction to Photography, said fitting 15 students into a hands-on lab involving photographic chemicals was one of many variables that made her anxious for the upcoming school year. 

“I was very freaked out the first week,” Bannos said. “I also bought an amplifier that I used with a microphone (to help with projection through masks).”

In-person classes started in September, following 18 months of virtual learning that Bannos was used to doing from home. Northwestern is still actively enforcing precautions, such as the indoor mask mandate, against the spread of COVID-19. However, the University has loosened restrictions that were in place last year, leaving many decisions up to professors. Some faculty members have found their own ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in their classes.

Bannos said students have been diligent about masking requirements in her classes so far. She added that the University did not have any requirements regarding social distancing. She said she requested to decrease her class’ enrollment size by one in order to make room for her TA without overcrowding the space. She’d been feeling anxious about the class size, she said, because proper social distancing is impossible due to the size of the class relative to the classroom.

Other professors, like Weinberg Prof. Allison Wade, have used seating charts to make contact tracing easier in the event of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Wade said she keeps a mask on during class and does not allow food or water bottles without straws.

In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in the classroom, Wade said transitioning to an online platform would be an option, though it isn’t ideal. She said she’s concerned a lack of resources and art space might contribute to the courses being less accessible virtually.

“If there was significant potential for health risk for the class as a whole, I would consider moving classes online,” Wade said. “(In that event) I would definitely seek counsel from my department chair.”

The University has also changed guidelines for dealing with contact tracing from last year. 

McCormick senior Aldo Aguilar said one of his professors is following NU’s directive. 

“(My professor said) you don’t have to quarantine after you come in contact with somebody (who tested positive) if you’re vaccinated,” Aguilar said.

NU has also released new masking guidelines for professors, allowing them to lecture without masks when staying six feet away from students. 

Weinberg sophomore Preston Johnson said he feels comfortable going to class, though his political science professor does not wear a mask while lecturing. His professor does wear a mask while answering students’ questions after the lecture, however.

Despite the small spike in COVID-19 cases last week with 51 new positives, Bannos said she is happy with how in-person classes have gone so far. She said she has faith that those she comes in contact with on campus are wearing a mask and are vaccinated.

“I have a pretty good feeling that we’re in it and it’s going to stay this way,” Bannos said. “I’m feeling pretty optimistic.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the University required Weinberg Prof. Pamela Bannos to decrease the class enrollment size by one as a COVID-19 distancing precaution. The University does not have requirements regarding social distancing or class size; Bannos requested to decrease her class’ enrollment size herself. The Daily regrets the error.

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