Most classes at Millersville University will be online during the upcoming spring semester, as Lancaster County’s lone public university continues its efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
University President Daniel Wubah shared the news in an email to students, faculty and staff on Monday evening.
The setup will be similar to the fall, with around 80% of classes online and a select few hands-on classes either in-person or hybrid. The university will also maintain the 32% reduction in on-campus housing capacity rolled out for the fall semester, which reduced the 2,200-student capacity to 1,490, ensuring a single room for every resident and thus minimizing the chance of roommates spreading the virus to each other.
As of Tuesday, the university had reported 52 COVID-19 cases since Aug. 12. Fourteen — 13 students, one employee — of those are active cases.
That’s far fewer than some of Millersville's sister universities, where surges in COVID-19 cases prompted shifts to fully remote instruction. Bloomsburg University, for example, has reported 357 cases since Aug. 14.
“I know that we are all eager to return to a campus life that resembles our pre-pandemic normal,” Wubah stated in his letter. “I miss having the opportunity to interact daily with faculty, staff and students in person. I miss sharing ideas, joys and accomplishments with the casual closeness to which we were accustomed. I also recognize that our efforts to keep campus density low is one of the main reasons that we have been able to keep our community case numbers manageable this semester and offers the best and safest path forward.”
Similar to the fall semester, which did not include a fall break, the spring will have limited breaks to limit travel on and off campus. The semester will run from Jan. 25, 2021, straight through to April 30, 2021, with no spring break. May 3 will be a “reading day” with no classes, followed by finals week.
“We have remained agile since the early days of the pandemic and will continue to do so in the days ahead,” Wubah said. “While unlikely, our plans for the spring semester may change if necessitated by significant changes in any of these areas.”
Kelly Banna, a psychology professor and president-elect of Millersville's faculty union chapter, said in an email Tuesday that conducting classes online has been a learning curve for students and teachers alike, but it's the safest option right now.
Staying the course with the majority of courses online was "the only responsible decision Millerville could have made," she said.
"There is not one faculty, staff, or administrative member of the MU community that does not desperately want to be back on campus, teaching our students and working with colleagues in a face-to-face environment," she said, "but we cannot do that safely until there is some combination of a vaccine, affordable and rapid testing, and safe and effective treatment."
Lancaster County's two other largest colleges, Franklin & Marshall and Elizabethtown, have not unveiled their spring plans.