Other universities have been more open to letting teachers decide for themselves what to do. “Due to these extraordinary circumstances, the university is temporarily suspending the normal requirement that teaching take place in person,” the University of Chicago said in a message to instructors June 26.
Yale said Wednesday that it would bring only a portion of its students back to campus for each semester: freshmen, juniors, and seniors in the fall, and sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the spring. “Almost all” university courses will be taught remotely, the university said, so that all students can enroll in them.
Cornell plans to make it clear to students before each semester begins which classes will be offered in person and which will be online, so they are not surprised, said Mr. Kotlikoff, the principal. He said that the university environment would be safer than the outside world because the students would be evaluated even when they had no symptoms.
Still, campuses are not strongholds, and teachers in states that have seen recent spikes in coronavirus infections are particularly concerned. Hundreds of cases have been linked to universities in the southern states in the past few days, including groups between the Clemson, Auburn, and Texas Tech soccer teams, and outbreaks related to fraternity parties in Mississippi and the nightlife district of Tigerland near the Louisiana state campus.
“We are all holding our breath to see what the policies will be,” said Terrence Peterson, an assistant professor of history at Florida International University in Miami. Professor Peterson, 35, said he had respiratory problems and a 6-month-old daughter at home.
Joshua Wede, 40, a psychology professor at Penn State, argued that it was not possible to maintain a significant level of human interaction when students wear masks, sitting at least six feet away and looking forward.
“The value it has in the classroom is totally lost,” he said. “My teaching style, I am walking around the room. I couldn’t do that. “