With George Town announcement only bringing back 1,000 students for the spring semester, many students made the decision to change their housing plans for the semester in an attempt to replicate the off-campus college experience.
Now, students living in the DMV must balance proximity to Hilltop with preventing an increase in student cases in the city.
Even as Zoom fatigue and personal issues continue to impact students staying home during the semester, some students have decided to move to Washington DC, buying leases with roommates in the Washington metro area. DC. The change in student plans follows a wave of disappointment from students and parents over the closure of Georgetown, including a petition to reopen the campus which has collected 1,800 signatures as of February 23.
Some Georgetown students have adopted a less traditional method of student housing: hotels. Working with students from American and Howard Universities, students flocked to hotels as a localized housing option for the semester. “It ended up being more flexible than a short-term lease and also about the same price as a short-term lease,” said Gershon Stein (SFS ’24). “It ends up being cheaper than the dorms.”
“I felt like it was really hard to stay focused at home, with all the little distractions,” Stein said.
A former Office of Analytics and Decision Support and the Center for New Models of Learning and Scholarship survey reflects similar sentiments among the student body, with only 30-40% of students reporting being “very engaged” in their class work.
For other students, adjusting to the online spring semester has meant adjusting to a new location or time zone relative to the East Coast, where the pressures of an online environment can be exacerbated. Anna Zaman (SFS ’24), who started living in Pakistan with her grandparents in November, noted that while some teachers have been accommodating, there are challenges staying connected even as Georgetown enters its third semester online.
“Most of my classes take place just before midnight or just after. I can’t do clubs, since meetings are at 6 or 7 in the morning, and it’s hard to do clubs without going to meetings,” Zaman said in an interview with the Voice.
Even though the tests have flexible times for students from other time zones, assignments are often due by 11:59 p.m. EST and attendance is often mandatory, which can put significant pressure on students like Zaman. “My schedule is absolutely crazy,” she said.
The influx of students relocating to the DMV over the past two semesters has not been without consequences, however. Although Washington DC has begun the process of vaccinating people in high-risk categories for COVID-19, the influx of college students has increased infection rates. The increase raises fears that DC’s intensive care units and hospitals may not be able to cope with infections as the from the city the daily case rate continues to grow, with cases rising nearly 16% even as hospitalizations fell 15% on a 14-day change to March 4.
The Georgetown Weekly percentage positive tests, among students living on campus and in the Burleith, Foxhall and Georgetown neighborhoods, as well as among faculty, fell slightly from 0.87% from February 14 to 20 to 0.86% from February 21 to February 27. The first week of the semester, the percentage of positive tests almost doubled.
In response to rising infection rates on campus, the Provost’s Office announcement on March 3, all undergraduate hybrid courses, academic meetings or gatherings are suspended until at least April 12. While hybrid courses for on-campus living undergraduates originally went live through March 8, the extension is for students, faculty and staff traveling during the week of spring break.
The Georgetown campus has been busier than in recent months with the increase in student numbers, according to Rose Dallimore (SFS ’22), who lived on campus in the fall and spring semesters. “There’s a little more sense of community, just because there are more people walking around and they’re opening up new study spaces for campus.”
Students on campus, however, are also concerned about the rise in cases, especially among students living in the Georgetown, Foxhall and Burleith neighborhoods and around DMV. “It has been particularly concerning and difficult for those who have been here and followed these restrictions and understood that we cannot endanger the security of housing or the health of everyone on campus, but many students off campuses don’t understand this, or get the threat,” Dallimore said.
The next surge in the on-campus student population isn’t expected until the summer, when Georgetown plans to bring members of the Class of 2024 to campus to experience life at Hilltop ahead of student orientation. new students for the incoming Class of 2025. The program will offer students the opportunity to take between 6 and 8 credits of first- and second-year coursework in conjunction with travel and experiences designed to help students bond.
One of the students considering the Summer Hilltop Immersion program for freshmen, Zaman looks forward to the opportunity to have a more normal experience in Georgetown during the five-week summer program. “I love that we’ll be on campus before we’re in second year,” Zaman said.