GV set to resume in-person learning for winter 2022


GVL / Sydney Lim

Gillian Hanton, Staff Writer

With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, schools, businesses and other organizations have struggled to finalize their plans for 2022. Universities across the country have continued to debate whether or not to implement online instruction for the winter semester.

The new year has brought about a wave of COVID-19 cases, many of which have been identified as the new Omicron variant, to Michigan residents. 

Between Jan. 3 and Jan. 5, Michigan public health officials reported a 13,673 new case average per day, one of the highest reported since the start of the pandemic. 

In addition to this, the positivity rate skyrocketed to nearly 23% during the first week of January, raising the COVID-19 alert level to “severe” in Michigan.

Due to this increase in new infections, Michigan universities have responded by starting the winter 2022 semester with virtual learning. 

Michigan colleges such as Wayne State University, Oakland University and Michigan State University announced their classes will be held virtually for most of January to ensure the safety of students and faculty. 

However, other universities have opted to continue in-person learning, including Grand Valley State University. On Jan. 5, President Philomena Mantella announced via email that face-to-face instruction will continue as planned for the winter semester, with specified safety procedures. 

In accordance with GVSU Alert Level 3 protocol, vaccine and face-covering mandates will remain in place and members of the GVSU community are encouraged to get the COVID-19 booster shot. If necessary, some campus activities will move to a virtual delivery. 

The GVSU student body has expressed differing opinions about this decision. While some are relieved that classes will continue to be held “as normal” during the winter semester, others are worried about how holding classes face-to-face may promote the spread of COVID-19.

“I am kind of concerned about classes starting in-person, mainly because there are so many new variants,” junior Logan Weisner. “I’m not sure if it’s the best decision going forward.” 

Faculty members have also said they were left feeling disappointed following the announcement, after anticipating a virtual start to the semester. 

Associate professor of geography and sustainable planning, Kin Ma, developed the winter 2022 “Safer Start” Petition with a group of faculty members concerned about the risks of in-person instruction. 

The petition not only suggested that GVSU start the winter semester with virtual learning, but also increase availability of N-95 masks around campus and mandated the booster shot for all members of the GVSU community.

“Because of the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, more highly effective masks are needed to protect people,” Ma said. “The Pfizer and Moderna Booster shots have been shown to significantly reduce the possibilities of COVID Omicron infections or at least prevent people from becoming deathly sick or needing to go to the hospital.”

The petition gained a total of 910 signatures, composed of faculty and staff members, undergraduate and graduate students across all majors and outside parties affiliated with GVSU.

However, this considerable support wasn’t enough to convince administration to change plans for the winter semester.

“We feel a little deflated and disappointed after the announcement,” Ma said. “It not really clear whether the administration took all parts of this petition into account.”