Georgetown University announces spring semester plans but receives backlash from parents and students

Several students and parents at Georgetown University are upset the school will bring a small number of additional students back for the spring semester but that classes will remain virtual.

University officials say because of the surge of COVID infections, they have to limit how many students they’re able to bring back on campus. 

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Students, some of whom are freshmen, told FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan Thursday that they are frustrated, they never even got the "college experience," and that there is a lack of proper and continuous communication from the university.

A university spokesperson responded to our inquiry saying that the university is being "singled out" because they are in line with how some of the other neighboring universities are proceeding with their plans for bringing students back in the spring semester.

American University, for example, is bringing back a limited number of students to campus and will open 1,250 housing spaces for a two-month residential program from March to the end of the semester in May. Priority will be given to first-year students. The campus is also increasing the number of classes for in-person instruction this spring, specifically in the sciences, visual and performing arts, and film and media studies.

FOX 5 also checked in with the Catholic University of America, which is expecting to have a total of 1,172 resident students, including resident advisors and campus ministers, in the spring semester – an increase from the 650 to 700 that they had projected for the fall semester. The university also has 134 isolation spaces not included in this total.

In addition, slightly more than 50 percent of their classes will be offered in-person, with the rest exclusively online. 

A sign reminding people to wear face masks is seen in front of a library on Georgetown University's main campus in Washington, D.C., the United States, July 7, 2020. (Photo by Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images)

Georgetown University plans to bring back an additional 500 students. The university allowed 500 students on campus back in the fall semester.

The university is giving priority to seniors, students facing housing insecurity, international students, or those with academic requirements. 

Classes, however, will still remain all virtual. 

In a statement, the university explained to FOX 5 they are planning for the main campus to offer some hybrid courses; virtual courses that have in-person components, for senior undergraduate students, both those in residence on campus and those living in the Washington, D.C., area—and for students in the graduate school.

This semester, the university implemented 17 pilot programs to explore in-person learning. In the spring, contingent on pandemic conditions, the university is planning approximately 200 hybrid courses for senior undergraduate and graduate students on the main campus.

But parents and students, especially freshmen, whom Ayesha spoke with said they are upset because to them, that’s still not a plan.

"Essentially it’s always, ‘Until further notice,’" said freshman Sutton Vaughn who went back to her hometown of Pennsylvania after moving to D.C for the fall semester. "That’s challenging. Like for the first semester, it was, ‘Until further notice,’ but then there was no communication about that and for this semester it’s the same thing, so there is not a whole lot of hope."

"I have on several occasions suggested maybe sending out a care package to these kids, like some GU swag," said Matt Tucker, whose son is a freshman at the university. "So that way they have some kind of a connection to the university but right now, they have nothing. When I went to college I felt a sense of loyalty that these kids just aren’t getting."

The university also responded to what it says is, "misinformation" about charging full tuition during virtual learning.

Officials said that Georgetown is one of just a few institutions that has offered a tuition discount both for the fall and spring semesters, "in recognition of the unique residential experience offered to our undergraduate students and access to certain services that will be unavailable to off-campus students."

FOX 5 was told that the university will follow a revised academic calendar, with undergraduate courses ‪beginning on January 25.‬ Specific details regarding the updated calendar will be provided by appropriate schools and programs.