With less than one week left until the spring 2022 semester, Montclair State University stands in a rapidly shrinking pool of universities across the state of New Jersey that have chosen not to go virtual for the first two weeks of the semester. The university further sent an email on Jan. 11 announcing a coronavirus (COVID-19) booster requirement for all students.
According to an article by journalist Steven Rodas of NJ.com, a vast majority of New Jersey’s colleges and universities are opting to use Zoom for at least the first few days of the new semester. Princeton University, Rutgers University and Kean University are among those that have decided to take measures to prevent the spread of the omicron variant.
Andrew Mees, the university spokesperson, said the university does not plan to go online at this time. He added that all-virtual learning is not an ideal modality of instruction.
“During the lockdown of 2020, we learned that all-virtual instruction is not an ideal model for the students we serve,” Mees said. “To help our students stay on track and achieve their educational goals, we feel strongly that it is important to provide as many learning options as possible while keeping our community safe.”
However, Mees said the university is continuing to monitor COVID-19 and can make changes based on national and state guidelines.
“Of course, we will continue to monitor the situation closely, consult with our on-campus experts who serve on the Community Health Advisory Team and make adjustments based on the best available science and the guidelines of the CDC and New Jersey Department of Health,” Mees said.
Montclair State will also be mandating booster shoots for all students. Proof of vaccination must be uploaded to MyHealth portal by March 1. Students who have been granted an exemption must be tested weekly.
To encourage students to receive their booster shot, the school will hold a raffle for students who upload proof of vaccination by Feb. 15. One winner will receive $5,000, two winners will receive $2,500 and five winners will receive $1,000.
Montclair State reached 163 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the week of Jan. 6 according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard, with 136 of them being students.
Naj Weaver, a senior journalism major, lives on campus and said she is unsure if Montclair State is equipped to handle the new COVID-19 variant.
“I don’t think Montclair [State] is equipped at all, which is why they’re just sending us back to school regardless of the rise in [COVID-19] cases and despite other universities moving to online [learning],” Weaver said. “My biggest concern is that students won’t be feeling well and professors won’t care about it because they’re strict with their attendance policy as if sitting in a classroom is more important than the safety of students and themselves.”
Jared Tauber, a sophomore filmmaking major, said Montclair State students should have the option of learning remotely.
“There’s been a lot of debate over in-person versus online learning going into the spring, but I think what Montclair [State] needs is flexibility,” Tauber said. “Those who are not comfortable attending should not be required to, but those who are vaccinated and are willing to wear a mask and wash their hands should be able to return safely, if they so choose.”
Dr. Stephanie Silvera, a public health professor specializing in epidemiology, encourages students to use the Hawk Check survey, as it provides crucial information for not only the school but for local and state public health organizations to track the spread of the virus.
“I’m not going to mince words: not participating in Hawk Check is quite selfish and puts the entire community at risk,” Silvera said. “This is a time when we need to work together to keep the campus safe.”