Belmont makes changes to Return to Campus plan
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Belmont makes changes to Return to Campus plan

Changes are coming to Belmont’s Return to Campus plan — further delaying on-campus learning for a majority of students.

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, undergraduate students’ classes are now planned to be conducted fully online from Aug. 19 through Sept. 4, with the HyFlex model coming into effect Sept. 7. 

For graduate and doctoral students, a mix of fully online and HyFlex learning will begin immediately on Aug. 19 — specific details will be sent to members of those programs by their respective deans and directors. 

University President Dr. Bob Fisher explained these changes in an email sent out Tuesday afternoon. 

“Based on our ongoing review of local, state and national data and in response to conversations with top medical officials, we have decided these adjustments will create an environment leading to a safer and more successful return,” said Fisher.

Move-in will also be postponed until September and spread out over two weeks, with residential students assigned move-in times by the Office of Residence Life no later than Aug. 10. 

Room and board charges will be adjusted to reflect the altered move-in.

“While some of Nashville’s COVID-19 metrics seem to be trending in the right direction, the raw numbers still classify our city in active outbreak status,” said Fisher. “The revised move-in process will allow a more gradual ramp-up of our on-campus population and lead to a safer path forward.”

Welcome Week will be held as scheduled, albeit virtually, with details coming to freshmen from their Towering Traditions leaders soon.

Abigail Combs, a rising senior on Orientation Council, noted that there is a tentative plan to hold an in-person version of Welcome Week once students return to campus as scheduled.

“TT Leaders would still help move people in based on that schedule they sent out,” Combs said. “So there will kind of be two different parts to Welcome Week.”

Fisher also said if further changes to the Return to Campus plan become necessary, they will be made with at least 14 days’ notice.

The email ended with Fisher noting that, while students’ plans will likely be affected by the change in plans, the changes are being made with the Belmont community’s safety in mind.

“I know these changes create a whole series of complications in your plans,” Fisher said. “I am sincerely sorry for that, but we believe that this shift will give us the best opportunity to create ‘the safest small town in America.’”

For sophomore Sheena Sandhu, these changes came just as she was about to complete her cross-country drive from Santa Monica, Calif., to Nashville in order to move in at Belmont.

“Due to Belmont’s negligence of communicating what the official plan may be for this semester, I’m now looking into spending more money on two flight tickets,” said Sandhu. “We just spent hundreds of dollars in order to get to school on time only to hear that we’re not coming back.”

Sandhu’s plan was to move into Tall Hall after staying with her sister for a short period. But, now, with the postponed schedule, her plans are complicated, she said.

“I’m unable to stay with my sister for months like I had to do last semester, and I don’t have the ability to fly back and forth because of financial troubles within my family,” she said.

Senior Anna Miller also finds herself in Nashville a month earlier than she would like, had she known the semester would start in September, she said.

“They are just kind of treating us like we have no lives,” said Miller.

Miller wishes the news would have been passed to students earlier, she said. That way, she wouldn’t be spending rent on an off-campus apartment for the month of August without classes meeting.

“I am paying this lease with my savings, and the CARES Act credit I got, and my tuition refund from last semester. To think a big chunk of that got scooped out and I am not even going to in-person classes is very depressing to me,” Miller said.

For senior McKensey Malin, her postponed move-in date into Hillside is tinged with the fear that Belmont will choose to go remote the full semester, she said. 

“I am worried that they are going to wait until we are past the refund deadline, and then let us know we are going fully online,” Malin said. 

As a clarinet performance major, Malin still has questions about how her classes will work remotely — and if she will be able to have her senior recital scheduled for early September, she said.

Despite her worries, Malin believes Belmont is making the right call in moving online.

“While this decision was sprung upon the student population, it is absolutely the right decision,” she said.

Although disappointed by the changes, junior Caroline Bugg reminds herself that the alterations were made to ensure her safety, she said. 

“I just feel like people are rightly mad and frustrated, but it is not just Belmont. Every school is having to adjust,” Bugg said. “It is frustrating and sad and I just want to be there, but it is for our safety.”

Sandhu, being high-risk, is concerned about what will happen after September 4 if cases continue to rise across the country. Even though it is not her ideal way of learning, she is willing to transition to online to keep everyone safe, she said.

“I would love to come back, but this pandemic is serious.”

This article written by Justin Wagner, Kendall Crawford and Evan Dorian.

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