Campus return weighed at Morgan State’s annual spring town hall

The university’s plan to reopen campus consists of a decrease in dormitory residents, glass shields in classrooms and a new attendance policy.

Jordan D. Brown

Morgan’s annual spring town hall address is traditionally held in the Student Center and filled with concerns that typically range from housing to the lack of on-campus food options. But this year President David Wilson held a virtual meeting and the most popular topic on the agenda was the university’s plan to reopen its campus in the fall.

The university first announced its plan in a press release on Tuesday. But during the address on Thursday evening, Wilson said the decision is pending prohibitive guidelines from Maryland and Gov. Larry Hogan.

“We plan to open the university with whatever restrictions there are in place in a way that will be at the highest level of protecting the public safety of the institution,” Wilson said.

The university’s plan includes housing students one to a dormitory and designing glass shields that would be positioned in between every student in classrooms. A student choice course delivery option will also be implemented to help curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Morgan has 1,400 rooms and can house 2,800 students on campus, according to Wilson. But the university’s plan will cut the total number of students in residence halls in half.

“Yes, it has implications for revenue, but once again it’s the public health considerations that we have to keep in mind,” Wilson said.

The university’s newest course delivery option will incorporate face-to-face and remote learning. Students will have the option to physically attend class one day and view a live stream of their professor’s lecture another.

“The student can decide on Monday to take the course face-to-face with social distancing in the classroom. On Wednesday, that student may decide they’re going to take the section online,” Wilson said.

For some students, the explanation of the precautions the university is prepared to take is enough for them to live on campus again. But for others including freshman sociology major Kennedy Corley, the decision came too soon.

“There’s a lot of things you have to worry about like how is housing going to work, how are social events going to work, eating and classroom sizes,” he said.

Many students agree with Corley and believe that the university’s plan to reopen is dangerous, given that a Morgan View contractor recently tested positive for COVID-19. But incoming freshman Brooklyn Sumlin said the plan to move forward is good news.

“When I heard they were planning to open back up, I got really excited because I feel like experiencing the first semester on campus is part of what every freshman looks forward to,” she said.

The community was stripped from thier campus more than two months ago and when it’s safe to return, it won’t be the same. But for instructors including Earth Science Professor Amanda Dotson, she’s content with the change if it means she can return to work.

“I’m excited to see my students again, but I’m also interested to hear more details from President Wilson about what safety measures are going to be taken for the whole campus,” she said.

Ohio native Dejah King’s excitement to return to school has become overshadowed by his financial reality as an out-of-state student. He said the university’s decision to open campus is a waste of money.

“It sounds very complicated and it makes me question if it is really necessary for us to come back if we’re doing online one day and face to face the next,” the sophomore business major said.

A detailed plan for the fall semester of 2020 will be released on June 1, according to the university.