Northwestern students and faculty have mixed responses to University pandemic reopening plans


Daily file photo by Joanne Haner

Lunt Hall. With most COVID-19 restrictions lifted at Northwestern, some students and faculty have mixed feelings about the reopening.

Katie Chen, Reporter

With classes back in full swing, gatherings of all sizes permitted and campus life generally returning to normal, student and faculty responses to Northwestern’s COVID-19 pandemic reopening plans have been mixed. 

In August, the University announced it would be ending COVID-19 testing and vaccine booster requirements and phasing out its symptom tracker. According to NU, more than 98% of the community is vaccinated. 

McCormick junior Dana Stanecki said she thinks the University has been handling the transition well. 

“They were really stringent on the restrictions for a really long time because they needed to be,” Stanecki said. “With the accessibility of the vaccines and the antiviral drugs and just the expanded knowledge base about COVID, I think it’s appropriate that they’re not as strict.” 

Stanecki said other students have had similarly positive responses, mostly due to the desire to be back in person after about a year and a half of online learning. 

However, some faculty and students said the phasing out of the mask mandate has made it more difficult to feel comfortable attending classes and events. The University announced it would no longer require masking in most spaces in March.

McCormick and SESP Prof. Michael Horn said he wishes more people would wear masks — not only to lower transmission rates, but also to help those who are immunocompromised safely join in-person activities. 

“There are people who I’m very close to who are immunocompromised, who really feel like they cannot participate in the reopening of the University,” he said.

Horn said he wants to make sure his students are able to easily access materials online and attend lectures virtually in order to deal with the pandemic moving forward.

Still, Horn said he is likely one of few professors making these accommodations. He added that his position on COVID-19 safety is one the administration might not perceive as positive due to the instructional difficulties of hybrid learning.  

Weinberg freshman Emerson Brown generally thinks the University has done a good job in terms of pandemic response, but said they do have some concerns about masking and lack of clear protocol. 

“No professor of mine has mentioned anything about COVID,” Brown said. 

However, Brown does also agree that masking should be more encouraged, especially for those who go to class coughing or sick. They said the University should have mandated testing for the first few weeks after school started, as they’ve heard many outbreaks occurred during that time.

Brown said the COVID-19 tests the University passed out on the day of March Through The Arch were expired. While they acknowledge the expiration dates may have been extended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they said they would have appreciated better communication about the tests’ validity. 

While Brown agrees that the University is handling things fairly well, they still ask that everyone who is unable to attend class virtually to wear a mask in person. 

“I know the stress that we Northwestern students have of missing class — it feels terrifying and (like) we’re going to fall behind. So if you’re going to go to class, wear a mask,” Brown said. “It’s not that hard and it makes everyone around you more comfortable.” 

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Twitter: @katieyachen

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