As of Sept. 13, UTSA has officially resumed in-person teaching and activities. The transition from the three-week online format to in-person activities was announced by President Eighmy via an email dated Sept. 8. Eighmy cited the low positivity rate in the UTSA community as well as the high vaccination rates among the student body, faculty and staff as the rationale behind the university’s decision.
The decision to return back to campus was well-received among UTSA students, many of whom are looking forward to physically attending classes and interacting with their peers. Senior Mark Nepoles, who experienced the university operating full swing, was excited to be back on campus.
“It’s a good experience to be back,” said Napoles. “It’s a little bit different than before when I was a freshman, I mean it was a lot more active on campus, but it’s good to see more people on campus.”
Other students expressed the same sentiment, including freshmen Victoria Lindsey and Toreoma Goss, both of whom are new to the campus. “This is my first year on campus, my first semester. I like it a lot,” said Lindsey. Goss echoed similar thoughts about being back on campus, noting that her experience so far has been similar to high school.
The return to campus has also allowed for clubs and organizations at the university to consider conducting more in-person meetings and events. Isabella McGovern, a member of the Hispanic Student Association at UTSA, said their organization was excited to recruit new members and get everyone together, something that has not been easy since the university went online. “We’re really excited for this semester,” McGovern said.
While students were happy to be back, some expressed hesitancy about the lack of proper precautions in place. Junior Cassidy Lane was quick to voice concerns about the safety of the decision to return to campus, given that there are no mask mandates in place.
“I feel good but I am a little nervous sitting next to people who don’t have masks on… sitting shoulder to shoulder,” Lane said.
Lirio Gomez, a sophomore, was also hesitant about safety from a health standpoint. “With this new Delta variant getting worse and all these hospitals filling up, I don’t think this was the right move,” Gomez said about the university’s decision.
Student body secretary Shaca Sweet echoed the same concerns, stating that there is a portion of students that don’t feel comfortable coming back to school.
“I am excited to go back to in-person considering I have not experienced college classes face-to-face before. I also think COVID is not going anywhere, so we should try to do everything we can to ensure safe in-person learning. However, I do have my doubts if going back in-person will work out in the end,” Sweet said, voicing the dilemma that many students have.
Junior Ivanna DeLeon felt in a similar way but also added that taking necessary precautions herself made her feel more at ease. “I mean… it makes me a little uncomfortable to think that not… everyone is going to be following the guidelines but… as long as I’m following them, then I guess I feel safe that I am,” DeLeon said.
The university has repeatedly encouraged students to wear masks and get vaccinated, but there is no official mask mandate in place, which is something of considerable concern for students as they return back to campus.
However, students did feel good about the University’s decision to conduct three weeks of online operations before transitioning back to in-person classes. Victoria Napoles also felt the decision was cautious and a “good option for [the University] and for the students.”
“I thought it was a pretty good idea. I wanted in-person classes, but it was a smarter idea [to do three weeks online] just so that we could all protect ourselves and protect each other,” said Lindsey.
Now that in-person activities have resumed, the UTSA main campus is full of students interacting and making the most of their return to campus. The return to campus also comes with the resumption of other extracurricular activities on campus, which serve as an opportunity for students to meet new people and socialize with their peers.
As freshmen, both Lindsey and Goss expressed that they were excited to take part in all the activities hosted at the university.
“…a lot of the events that I’ve seen or have been told about that [the university conducts]…during the year, I’m excited to get to experience those things,” Lindsey said, adding that she was also excited to be able to converse with her peers.
Napoles also expressed a similar desire to interact with fellow students. “[I’m looking forward to] just making friends, seeing new faces… we haven’t seen that many people…it’s good to be back on campus,” Napoles said.
Goss further explained how moving into the dormitory on campus has also been a great way to meet new people. “we pretty much just all come together in the little common area and just chill and study together [and] make more friends that way,” Goss said.
Junior Valeria Marquez also pointed out that being back in person would make learning easier for her. “I’m really excited because I can’t learn online whatsoever,” Marquez said.
Along with their excitement to be back, students expressed that they were nervous to go back to physical classes after almost two years of online learning. “I’m absolutely terrified of in-person exams. My testing anxiety is through the roof. … It’s gonna be tough,” Lane said.
Napoles, a senior who has attended in-person classes pre-pandemic, also felt a little nervous going back in-person. “I’ll say I’m still [a] little bit nervous but at ease at the same time…but it’s still nerve-wracking coming back and knowing that everything is not the same as it was before,” Napoles said.
After over a year and a half, UTSA’s main campus is once again brimming with students, some of whom have just begun their very first semester of face-to-face classes. Overall, students felt excited to be back on campus, while also expressing their concerns about pandemic precautions as well as in-person classes.