Students have mixed reactions to plan for normal fall


Two UK students sign up for graduation while enjoying the warm weather on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, outside of William T. Young Library in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Natalie Parks

As the Biden administration shortens the expected timeline to normal, the University of Kentucky has become one of a select number schools committing to just that: a return to pre-pandemic operations for the fall 2021 semester.

UK announced that they would pursue “levels of in-person instruction in similar numbers to that of fall 2019 in terms of course delivery and attendance” in a March 12 announcement from president Eli Capilouto. Students met the news with a mix of relief and uncertainty.

“I am excited because I’m kind of tired of online classes but I’m still kind of worried, not like from a pandemic standpoint, but like as a student I kind of got used to the online class format,” freshman Daisuke Kikumoto said.

Kikumoto, a human health sciences major, said he was concerned about arriving on time for in person classes, a skill not required of him so far in his college career. He is more excited for the resumption of normal social opportunities than academic ones.

“I would like to have better community environment because I just don’t feel everybody’s that friendly right now,” Kikumoto said.

Kaylee Foster, a junior chemical engineering major, said she would be more excited for campus events to return than in person learning. But Foster was more hesitant about the ‘return to normal’ decision.

“Still worried about the pandemic, I don’t know that it necessarily will be over by then,” Foster said. She said she is not used to in person classes anymore, either.

Foster said she thinks UK made the call to go back to normal too early.

“I think people definitely don’t take it seriously enough already, so that announcement just will make it worse,” Foster said.

UK’s decision to return to normal operations was announced at a time when high school seniors are beginning to make admissions decisions. UK’s application deadline was on Feb. 15 and acceptance letters are beginning to go out in earnest. Knowing that UK will offer a normal fall may affect some of those decisions, just as UK’s 2020 admissions extension and May 2020 announcement to reopen affected last year’s high school seniors.

“I think they’re kind of on time because the vaccine rollout is going pretty good,” said Kikumoto, who was vaccinated a few weeks ago, of the announcement. He believes that UK vaccinating its students most definitely played a role in their decision to go back to normal.

“I know a lot of people are getting more and more vaccinated every day, so hopefully the trend goes by, like stays the same for people getting vaccinated,” Kikumoto said. 

UK sent an email to students the day after the return to normalcy announcement encouraging students to register for COVID-19 vaccines through UK. Though the number of students who will be vaccinated depends on supply, several thousand students were already eligible because they are university employees and thousands more because they are in healthcare colleges.

With the Biden administration saying vaccines will be. available for all adults by summer, along with the partial immunity acquired by the 4,000 UK students who have had COVID-19, UK may be on the track to herd immunity for its campus population.

“I think it’s great, honestly, but at the same time, I’m still worried for numbers and COVID like then rising and seeing what could happen if that happens again,” freshman Kylie Meadows said of the plans for a normal fall.

Like Kikumoto and Foster, Meadows was worried about transitioning back to in person classes and social interactions.

“Personally, I get kind of scared trying to like stick my neck out, like talk to people, so it’s kind of been different for me but I’ve seen another side of myself through this virtual learning so hopefully I’ll even be more confident than I used to be when we we’re back to normal,” Meadows said. She said she is concerned for going back to in person classes because she will sometimes sleep in and miss Zoom classes.

“I’ll have to be more diligent and actually like going to class because, you know, that’s what I’m here for,” Meadows said. As a freshman, Meadows has not had ‘the college experience.’ With this return to normal, she hopes to get more involved socially, perhaps joining a sorority.

“I’ve just been too scared to even, you know, want to join a sorority because it’s just like there’s all the parties and I’m like, ‘mm-hm, not doing that,’” Meadows said.

The exact details of UK’s fall plan will be released over the summer, similar to the pandemic playbook created for the fall of 2020. Students hope for help in transitioning back to normal for academics, extracurriculars and social life.