Students weigh in on reopening campus: ‘implemented because of greed’


Joslyn Buckley - Reporter

Outdoor class rooms on campus.

Lauren Heller, Reporter

After spending months on Zoom for virtual instruction, California Lutheran University will be reintroducing students into the classrooms, residence halls and campus.

An Oct. 29 email from the Office of the President to students, faculty and staff with the subject line “A gradual return to campus,” explained what this transition will look like come spring semester.

“We have worked hard to make it as safe as possible. There are hand-sanitizer stations […] many common areas have […] plexiglass, building access is limited to those with active key cards, and students and employees are overwhelmingly adhering to the face-covering requirements,” President Lori Varlotta said in the email.

Ryan Van Ommeren, the associate vice president for Facilities Planning & Operations, said in a Zoom interview that Cal Lutheran will enforce these safety measures as well as one-way corridors in campus buildings and all classrooms will be cleaned twice daily.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 is most commonly spread between people who are within six feet of each other via droplets that are released when someone with the virus coughs, talks or breathes. The CDC recommends that all people wash their hands often, avoid close contact with others, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose and clean and disinfect common areas.

Despite these changes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus, some students are still uneasy about returning to campus life.

“Right now being on campus is a really scary idea even with the safety measures in place. I think Cal Lu has done a decent job of handling the pandemic but if the student count on campus were to increase the consequences could be frightening. I think continued social distancing and limited interaction is what needs to happen to ensure student safety,” said Maya Fleming, Associated Students of California Lutheran University junior senate representative, Sisters’ Circle vice president and Black Student Union presidential assistant, in an email interview.

In a poll on The Echo’s Twitter account, @cluechonews, 63% of respondents said they would prefer classes stay fully virtual while 37% said they would prefer some in person classes in the spring. The Twitter account has 820 followers and not all responded to the poll.

Contrastingly, a poll on The Echo’s Instagram, which has 1,016 followers, found that 40% of respondents would prefer all virtual classes and 60% voted in favor of having some classes in person.

Fleming said she received an email from the university asking her preference of learning style and Van Ommeren said faculty were surveyed on their preferences, as well.

“Of course I would prefer to be in person but I think being on campus right [now] isn’t safe for anyone and it’s good that we’re allowed the option to not be there,” Fleming said.

Because Ventura County is in the red tier, or the second-most restrictive in the state’s tiered reopening plan, Cal Lutheran is currently allowed to hold indoor classes at 25% of normal capacity. Van Ommeren said that while many classes will be offered in person, students will have the option to learn virtually and continue being remote for the rest of the year. He said that cameras will be used to follow the professors around the classroom as they teach an in-person class.

Despite the opportunity to choose how students learn, some international students feel they are at an unfair disadvantage.

“I think it is not fair because some international students take classes outside the [country],” Samer Atwi, a senior international student at Cal Lutheran said in an email interview.

According to Cal Lutheran’s “quick facts,” students from 49 countries attend the university and not all have been able to return to the U.S. since the pandemic began.

“I honestly think it’s really crazy to hold in-person classes again and also only being implemented because of greed. While I understand Cal Lu is a business, these are real lives that are being affected by this pandemic and it should be treated as such,” Fleming said.

Van Ommeren said he wants to express gratitude to all of the under 400 students on campus who have been “tremendous” about following the new safety guidelines on campus.

“I give them all the credit in the world,” he said.

Varlotta said in the Oct. 29 email that Cal Lutheran cannot continue to “survive or thrive” in its current virtual format.

“We can do this. … We are doing this, and so many of you have played a key role in the go-forward plan,” Varlotta said.