[4/12/21] – Returning to Campus in 2021

In an academic year that is in many ways, starting just as it ended, we look forward to the coming academic year and ask what comes next? If last summer is any indicator of what we might experience at the intermission point of academia, then we will all be just as exhausted – if not more – than we were when we returned to classes this year. Speaking of returning to classes next year, this is the focus of this, our final Lecture Spark for the academic year. What will campus look like next year? Will we return to in-person teaching? Why might this return be challenging for all members of the academic community? Vaccination requirements, equity and inclusion initiatives, mental health supports, food insecurity, unemployment, forced in-person teaching through masks or other PPE, and more challenging decisions face education leaders as they attempt to return to normal campus activities. This week we look forward to August, and beyond, through the lens of sociology.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Returning to Campus in 2021

Learning Objectives

LO1: Debate the pros and cons associated with requiring faculty and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before they are allowed to return to campus work and/or living.

LO2: Explain how the experience of being deprived of in-person human interaction will challenge faculty and students when they return to in-person instruction.

LO3: Identify pathways students can be involved in the decision-making process of returning to campus at their institution.


Colleges plan for return to campus this fall

It’s only spring term, but some colleges are already making plans for this fall. That’s welcome news for students wanting to learn in a classroom.

Universities Debating Whether to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines

Many college campuses are deciding whether to require people to prove they have had a covid-19 vaccine. Anoushah Rasta reports.

How the pandemic is impacting college students’ mental health

College students have long been prone to stress, anxiety and depression. And three out of four Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 report poor mental health tied to the pandemic, according to the CDC. Hari Sreenivasan reports as part of our ongoing series, “Rethinking College.”

Discussion Questions

What are the pros and cons of requiring students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before they can come back to live and/or work on campus? Why might some colleges and universities opt to require the vaccination while others only encourage it…at least for now? What groups would benefit the most from required vaccinations, and what groups would suffer?

What challenges might students and faculty face when returning to in-person classes? What recommendations would you make for the process of re-socializing students and faculty to interact with each other? What reasonable accommodations should be made for students anxious about returning to in-person instruction? What groups will struggle the most during resumption?

What changes need to be made to campus to make you feel safe returning in the fall? What resources will you need to feel supported as you resume on-campus personal and professional activities? How has the pandemic changed or affirmed your attitudes towards higher education? Why might some students have changed their major? Why might others have dropped out?

Why might some faculty and students embrace the current remote learning situation? How does one thrive in a remote learning environment? What should be the role of technology moving forward? What groups are most negatively impacted by the effects of policies and programs (e.g., structural violence) related to forced (and even encouraged) remote learning?

How can students involve themselves in the decision-making process for resuming in-person activities on campus in the fall? What are the risks and rewards of student activism on your campus? Why might some students feel alienated from the bureaucracy of higher education? How does the structure of higher education reinforce these feelings of alienation?


Which term do sociologists use to refer to feeling isolated from a social group due to lack of power in determining the outcome of their relationship they should belong to?

a. Deviation
b. Assimilation
c. Alienation
d. Socialization

What social process is required in order to prepare an individual (or individuals) for re-entering a social environment they once belonged to?

a. Re-socialization
b. Re-patriation
c. Re-interpretation
d. Re-naturalization

A sociologist using the ______ perspective would be most interested in researching how interprofessional relationships between faculty and students change relative to their new reality when they both return to in-person instruction.

a. Functionalist
b. Conflict
c. Interactionist
d. Critical-Race

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/FatCamera

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