Back to Zoom? Even after getting vaccinated, students at WSU worry about this semester’s future

By Ava Wainhouse

PULLMAN, Wash. – Courtney Crabtree is enjoying her senior year and final semester at Washington State University, finally in person after nearly two years. But she’s worried that might change.

Washington State University remains committed to in-person learning despite a dramatic increase in Covid cases on campus, according to a WSU Spokesperson.

WSU reported 256 new active Covid cases on Thursday.

“If we do go online after only one semester of being in person, after everybody got their vaccine, after everybody has been wearing masks, it would feel like a huge slap in the face,” Crabtree said.

This feeling is not uncommon here in Pullman, as many students and faculty are feeling a similar form of anxiety, waiting for university officials to make a statement.

As universities across the state made the decision to begin spring semester on Zoom for short periods of time, including the University of Washington, Seattle University, and Gonzaga University, students and faculty cannot help but feel concerned.

However, WSU does not want to follow in the footsteps of other schools, according to Phil Weiler, the university’s spokesperson.

“We don’t want to go back to virtual,” Weiler said. “At WSU, we feel strongly that our students want to be in person.”

Last fall, students and faculty were required to become fully vaccinated to attend classes and university events. Everyone had the option of receiving a religious or medical exemption, as well.

For many people, making the choice to get the vaccine was and is a difficult decision. For Crabtree, this decision went against the way she was raised, as a person who grew up not receiving vaccines.

However, Crabtree knew this decision was crucial to make for the sake of her education.

“The only reason I got it in the first place was because I think it’s important that we stay in person,” Crabtree said. “People in general learn better when they’re in classroom environments.”

So, Crabtree pulled up her sleeve, and got the shot. Now, she is happy to be in Pullman alongside her professors and classmates, counting down the days to graduation this May.

About 97% of students and faculty at WSU are fully vaccinated, but as Covid cases increase once again due to the Omicron variant, the university has begun to address possible short-term changes on campus.

These changes could include earlier or temporary closures of student facilities like the University Recreation Center or the Chinook, a popular studying spot. But to say these short-term changes mean school is going back to Zoom would be incorrect, according to Weiler.

“We would rather have a short period of reduced services but keep things available in person than just simply say we’re going to shut it down for two weeks, and send everyone home,” Weiler said.

Despite university officials’ optimism for an in-person spring semester, Crabtree is still worried.

“I think it would be horrible if I chose to get the vaccine, and then they decide to go online anyway,” Crabtree said.

Weiler said that is not the intention of WSU.

He said he believes the combination of being fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID, on top of wearing masks inside classrooms and facilities on campus, gives WSU adequate protection to continue to offer in-person instruction.

READ: WSU cancels class for two days to allow students to safely return to Pullman

READ: UW virologists closely monitoring new highly-transmissible omicron variant