President Greg Christy sent out an email on Nov. 5 reiterating Northwestern’s plans to return to campus after Thanksgiving break.
This came as a shock to some and a relief to others. The reason for the shock can be attributed to the fact that many colleges, including neighboring Dordt University, have decided to switch to online classes after Thanksgiving. And during the first week of November, Iowa was ranked fourth in the nation for most cases per capita.
As of this week, Iowa ranks third, and hospitals are seeing a substantial increase in COVID-19 patients.
So, what are some of the reasons why NW made the decision to have students return to campus after Thanksgiving?
A major reason includes the value NW is placing on in-person classes.
The move online last March was one that nobody expected, and teachers had very little time to prepare. The new school year brought uncertainty as to whether or not NW would have in-person classes, and educators were advised to be prepared to have hybrid classes or go to online-only.
When classes went online last spring, many students struggled to make the transition. Some students say this is a reason why they are thankful to be returning to classes on campus on Nov. 30.
“To go from taking tests and quizzes in person and doing group projects and presentations in person to doing everything online would be hard and unnecessary,” said Chris Kroll, a senior mathematics major.
This relief is echoed through much of the student body and much of the faculty as well.
Many professors dislike online group presentations as much as the students. Labs are nearly impossible to complete from home. Same for extracurriculars.
Overall, the move to online would be a huge undertaking for everyone.
Another major reason for the return is the low number of COVID-19 cases currently on campus. Although the state has seen a spike in cases, NW has been doing its part to keep the numbers low.
NW’s current active cases include 10 students and six employees. This is remarkably low considering that the college had over 1,500 students enrolled for the fall semester. The goal is to keep cases low after students return from break.
However, there is a big-picture reality to consider as well: nearly one in 10 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since NW began tracking and reporting cases in late July.
For students who are traveling home, the holidays may pose more of a challenge. One student, who wished to remain anonymous, felt a little apprehensive about coming back to campus, mostly due to “health problems of family members” who they will see over the holidays.
Others like Carsyn Hamstra, a junior nursing major, are thankful to be able to return to campus.
“I know the decision was made with a careful amount of prayer and consideration,” Hamstra said.
In the all-campus email, Christy said that the fall break in mid-October did not result in an increase in campus cases.
“Based on that and other data we are tracking as well as diligent adherent to our Responsible Raiders behaviors, we are confident in our ability to finish the semester in-person as planned,” he wrote.
Students are encouraged to continue being Responsible Raiders over Thanksgiving break by hand-washing, mask-wearing and physical-distancing as much as possible.