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Is The Risk Too Great? College Professors And Students On Returning To Campus

coronavirus, Quinnipiac
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Quinnipiac's empty campus in Hamden at the beginning of the pandemic.

Many colleges plan to resume in-person learning in the fall. Others, including prestigious schools like Harvard, are going all online. In the midst of a pandemic, returning to dorms or even a classroom is a hard choice to make for some students and professors.

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For the first time in his 49-year career, Bruce Saulnier may not even step foot on Quinnipiac University’s campus in the fall.

“Probably very little,” he said. “I mean occasionally, but only either very early in the morning when the traffic is light or ... I can’t imagine spending much time there.”

Saulnier, 73, is an undergraduate and graduate professor. He just finished treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and says he can’t imagine feeling safe in a classroom right now.

“In light of the possibility of asymptotic transmission, which is not just a possibility, it’s a probability,” he said. “You couple that with a lack of a vaccine and the way the disease seems to be taking down elderly with a need for intubation, the risk is simply too great.”

Like many universities, Quinnipiac will offer on-campus instruction this fall as well as online learning for professors or students who don’t feel comfortable returning.

Others say they have made the jump to go completely virtual.

Even before Harvard made its call, rising senior Olivia Ferraro didn’t feel like she had great options. She had already decided against moving back to Boston, choosing to stay home in Weston.

Credit Courtesy: Olivia Ferraro
Olivia Ferraro will be staying home in Connecticut to look for a job -- she used credits to get her Harvard degree one year early.

“I think more than the academic coursework that I’ve had, most of my learning at college has been how to socialize, how to exist as an independent person,” she said. “Without those things, I saw a lot of the value of college disappear for me.”

In the spring, she decided to use her high school AP credits to finish a year early in case the school decided to return to online learning.

“I really didn’t benefit a lot from online learning,” Ferraro said. “I know that it varies student to student, but for me it was really difficult to stay focused and absorb a lot of the information.”

Ferraro now has her computer science degree and a new focus this summer: searching for a job.

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