After first week of classes, UL reports 5 coronavirus cases; students adjust to new rules
This is not the college experience that 18-year-old Darian Jacob expected.
As the first week of classes came to a close at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Jacob said his start as a freshman studying architecture has been difficult in some respects.
Like many universities across the country, UL started the fall semester with restrictions and rules in response to COVID-19 for the more than 19,000 students expected. That means more online classes, wearing face coverings and socially-distant interactions with fellow students and faculty.
Jacob, from Lafayette, has three classes he is opting to take online and one held in person, along with band classes that will meet in person.
“I’m actually going to have a pretty good experience when it comes to being online,” Jacob said.
But social distancing has made it difficult for him to get to know and meet people.
“The mandates in place, while very necessary, have definitely taken a toll on the opportunity for new friendships outside of dorm rooms and already established relationships,” Jacob said.
The college experience is very different now. According to UL's websites, classes are held in person, online or through a “HyFlex” option with students rotating from having class in person and online.
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For classes held in person, class sizes were designed to maintain at least 6 feet between all students and faculty.
UL officials said they believe their plan is working. Five students have tested positive for the virus in the first week, all commuters who don't live on campus, said UL spokesman Eric Maron. The five are now quarantining away from campus
“The first week went very well, we’re very pleased with the cooperation between our students and faculty,” Maron said.
“We’re asking students and everyone to work together to keep everyone healthy,” he said. “The best way to do that is to follow the protocols that we all know.”
Some UL students said they're seeing inconsistent compliance with the university's COVID-19 protocols.
Education sophomore and Lafayette native Rachel Choate said her first week went well. Choate, 19, has one class in person that she goes to once a week and the rest of her classes are online.
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She said from what she saw on campus the first week, people were social distancing. But she said she didn’t see many people abiding by the requirement to wear masks.
“Just from like the few minutes I was walking to class, there was so many students not wearing a mask,” Choate said. “It was honestly like a ghost town on campus. I’ve never seen so few people.”
This is Choate’s first semester as an education major. She said typically she would have observation opportunities during her first semester, but education majors are unable to observe classes this year.
Choate said many of her online classes feel unorganized, but it varies from class to class. She said some of her professors are doing well to engage students in the online environment, but others are not.
“I don’t know how we're supposed to get what we’re paying for,” Choate said. “I know I’m not getting the education I could be if it were in person.”
All of mechanical engineering sophomore Liam Jochum’s classes will be delivered online this semester.
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When classes suddenly shifted online last semester, Jochum, 19, said it was his first experience with online courses. He said online courses require him to pay closer attention in class.
“I do feel more prepared this semester, but at the same time with the courses I’m taking, they’re difficult,” Jochum said.
He said a lack of face-to-face communication is affecting his education, and he feels that some of his professors are being held back from fully teaching their courses due to having to switch to online classes.
Jochum visited the cafeteria during the first week of the semester and said the lines were long and it was crowded.
“Everywhere I looked around me, not many people were following social distancing rules,” Jochum said.
Elementary education sophomore Carmen Gonsoulin said her first year at UL is different than she expected. She has three of her six classes online.
“I do prefer to learn in person because I feel like I pay attention more, because in my online classes I’m at my house, I’m in a comfortable space, so I don’t feel like I learn as well,” Gonsoulin said. “Being on campus, in a class helps me retain the material.”
Gonsoulin said she thinks the university is handling the situation well and is glad that masks and social distancing are required.