UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal recently announced the school is planning to return fully to in-person learning beginning in the fall semester.
“We won’t make a final decision for a few months, but based on current trends, we are cautiously optimistic and are looking forward to more opportunities to teach, learn and connect in person,” Agrawal said in a statement to students.
Lee Likins, UMKC professor of biology and chemical sciences, said he believes UMKC made the initial announcement based on the epidemiology of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the availability of vaccines and their efficacy, along with downward trends in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
Likins said the university may need to reconsider this decision come fall. New variants of the virus, as well as heightening infection rates as a result of people becoming too relaxed with social protocols, pose a threat to the possibility of the school fully reopening.
“This situation is also made even more problematic due to misinformation that has led to various groups of individuals refusing to participate in vaccination,” Likins said. “As a biologist, I find this trend particularly disturbing and unfortunate.”
While apprehensive about reopening, Likins is optimistic because the school has developed a functional infrastructure for online learning. In the event the virus makes a dangerous resurgence, the school can smoothly transfer back to the online format students and professors have become accustomed to.
UMKC computer science major Ibrahim Ayyad said he does not think it is a good decision on the university’s part to open back up with cases rising.
However, Ayyad said he has recently found himself in an academic rut and would rather not attend school at all rather than learn in the online format.
“In person is the only way you can learn some of these topics,” said Ayyad. “Try teaching yourself trig from home.”
UMKC computer science and theatre major Henry Madriles said he looks forward to returning to campus when people become vaccinated and the risk levels decrease.
“I miss just commuting to and being on campus and having somewhere to go. It’s been hard being productive at home, but I’ve somehow managed to get to this point,” Madriles said. “I can’t wait to see friendly faces on campus again.”
Madriles has avoided theatre classes since online learning began because the interactions through the screen are not offering the theatre experience he enjoyed before. He looks forward to taking them when in-person classes comfortably and safely reopen.
“I think it’s too early to say we will be entirely past the negative dynamics of the pandemic sufficiently to be comfortable with opening back up,” Likins said. “But there is nothing wrong with trying to be optimistic.”