As the start of the fall semester approaches, many Georgetown University seniors find themselves grappling with not being able to spend their final fall semester on campus with their classmates.
Besides first-year students, only students facing housing or food insecurity, some resident assistants and some upperclassmen whose graduation requirements explicitly require in-person instruction were invited back to campus, according to the university’s fall plan released July 6. Georgetown’s plan is similar to plans from other universities in Washington, D.C., yet the Class of 2021 still will miss out on much of the senior year experience.
The university plans to reopen campus in phases. If pandemic conditions improve, seniors will be the next group of students welcomed back to campus, according to the university’s July 6 announcement.
Although seniors find themselves in a difficult situation, Georgetown’s plan to exclude seniors in the fall seems to be first and foremost a business decision rather than a decision that prioritizes the student experience, according to senior Katarina Watson (COL ’21).
“For lack of better phrasing, it does kind of feel like a slap in the face. Maybe the spring will be different, but we are losing a lot,” Watson said in an interview with The Hoya. “Everyone looks forward to senior year. You know, it’s like if you put things off you always say, ‘Oh I’ll do that senior year,’ or, ‘Oh this will be better senior year,’ and that now looks different.”
Some seniors have urged the university to give more focus to preserving the senior experience in the fall. The Georgetown University Student Association Senate passed a resolution July 6 demanding the university prioritize the Class of 2021 in plans for the upcoming academic year.
Georgetown’s plan prioritizes first-year students for financial gain and fails to recognize the unique situations of both off-campus and on-campus seniors, according to GUSA Senator Lily McGrail (COL ’21), who introduced the bill, which passed 9-6-1.
“The reality is that the university prioritizes the freshmen without considering seniors,” McGrail said during the meeting. “Seniors have devoted three years to this university and we’re being robbed even after we gave up half a semester.”
Besides disappointing seniors, the plan also disadvantages first-year students, who will not have the support of upperclassmen, according to Watson.
“I think a big part of being a freshman at Georgetown is having older students around you to bring you into club culture and let you know what that’s about, and show you how to navigate things, and just as a support system,” Watson said.
Acknowledging seniors’ disappointments, university officials, faculty and staff are working to minimize disruptions to the fall semester, according to a July 14 message to seniors from Provost Robert Groves.
“To minimize the disruption to your education, we have been actively planning to provide you the same learning opportunities as prior years, albeit in a new form,” Groves wrote. “Over the summer, faculty have been innovating and adapting new ways of teaching virtually. They have been redesigning courses with you in mind, attempting to enrich your class experiences.”
Despite the frustrations and confusions brought on by the pandemic, many seniors’ only recourse will be to try to make lemonade out of lemons, according to Alo Garcia Escobar (SFS ’21).
“Things are kind of coming to a close, and they’re coming to a close in a way that I hadn’t expected, but I’m trying not to resign my feelings to a sense of ‘This is a wasted year,’ because I don’t think that’s true,” Escobar said in an interview with The Hoya. “It’s disorienting, it’s really disorienting. But I’m trying to not necessarily think about it too much and to just accept what I can’t really control and go with the flow.”