Samantha Ewing ’23 (she/her), Staff Writer
The 2020-2021 academic year at Davidson has been marked with change and uncertainty due to complications that have arisen with COVID-19. With the constantly evolving circumstances, many students are curious about what the fall semester will look like. Though most aspects remain unclear, there have been some decisions made, as well as ongoing discussions about what returning to campus next semester may entail.
According to the 2021-2022 Academic calendar posted on Davidson’s website, orientation will occur August 19-22 before classes begin on August 23rd. Orientation this fall will likely incorporate a balance of safe in-person events and virtual components when necessary. However, most decisions about what these components will look like are yet to be made.
According to Emily Eisenstadt, Associate Director for Student Activities, one component that will remain the same from orientation last fall is Orientation Team Member (OTM) one-on-ones, where OTMs spend about 30 minutes individually with each new student in their group.
“We got great feedback about that from both OTMs and new students, so that’s something we definitely plan to keep moving forward,” Eisenstadt said.
Candace Mulherin, one of the Assistant Directors of Student Activities, discussed possibilities for orientation this fall.
“We do hope that with more students ideally being vaccinated, we can do more larger group programming,” Mulherin said. However, she also emphasized that it is uncertain what in-person options will look like for orientation as they will be contingent upon the circumstances come August.
Members of the orientation team are being advised to keep a hopeful mindset about the fall but to be prepared for every possible outcome.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to have some sort of hybrid or more in-person orientation so that people will be able to be more socially involved,” said Julia Mahoney ‘23, a former OTM and current Orientation Team Leader (OTL).
Mahoney also discussed her hopes that the orientation team will be able to nail down specifics over the summer, as they do not yet have state acceptance to have large gatherings. Because of this uncertainty, it has been difficult to make concrete plans.
“We’re not quite sure how close normalcy is yet,” Mahoney said.
Meanwhile, with Duke University announcing their plan to require that all returning students receive the COVID-19 vaccination before arriving on campus, there has been discussion around whether or not Davidson will do the same. Jay Pfeifer, Director of Media Relations, discussed the decision on requiring the vaccine at Davidson.
According to Pfeifer, the school likely will not require that returning students get vaccinated before the beginning of fall semester. However, they will be working towards ensuring that students are vaccinated with exceptions for medical and religious reasons.
“Our students have demonstrated great interest in getting a COVID vaccine, in keeping with Davidson’s strong community culture, so we see no need at this point to require vaccination,” Pfeifer said.
The school is unsure whether or not students will undergo regular COVID testing, what take-out options will look like for dining, and whether or not there will be exceptions to students attending in person classes.
“The focus on closing out the spring semester — and the rapidly changing circumstances — have made it difficult to nail down these details,” Pfeifer commented.
The 2021-2022 Academic Calendar also notes that there will be a fall break from September 30th to October 1st with courses resuming regular instruction until the beginning of Thanksgiving break on November 23rd.
Once again, no decision that has been made is final. The Davidson Administration and the COVID Response Team are working constantly to adapt as circumstances change; there are many decisions still being made for the fall semester.