This year’s Thanksgiving break may look very different – and much less gloomy – from last year’s holiday for Fairfield University students.
Last year, most universities across the nation, like Fairfield University, decided to keep students at home for the rest of the fall semester after returning to their families for Thanksgiving.
With this, the in-person classes from the fall semester moved online, with professors teaching classes strictly over zoom up until winter break. Final exams for the Fall 2020 semester were administered online, as well.
In the spring semester, comparatively, exams were able to be taken in person, and mostly all classes returned to either a hybrid or fully in-person learning experience thanks to the widespread availability of the vaccine by May of 2021.
This upcoming fall season, however, will look different from last year, with the student body making a full return to campus after spending Thanksgiving at home with their families.
After the break, Fairfield plans to “continue testing our unvaccinated population twice a week and out of an abundance of caution will test a random sample of our vaccinated population post-break,” stated Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Anderson.
Many students feel like Fairfield should’ve let students return to campus after Thanksgiving break last year, whereas others felt as though administrators made the right call.
“Personally, I am ecstatic to be on campus for the Christmas season this year,” Elizabeth Viggiano ‘24 commented. “However, I feel as though with the wide dispersal of people during this season, it might be better to do campus-wide COVID testing.”
After breaks like summer and winter, the University has employed repopulation testing in the past.
This process was an integral part of move-in day last year, where students had to produce both a negative saliva test to move into their residence halls. The saliva tests began producing unpredictable results, leading Fairfield University to make the switch to rapid antigen tests.
Randomized testing has been employed after large gatherings for this school year, like the President’s Ball, where a percentage of attendees were selected for random COVID-19 testing.
Other students, like Julia Kilroy ‘24, saw both positives and negatives to staying home for the rest of the semester last year.
“I had mixed feelings about the school’s decision to keep everyone home from Thanksgiving to the end of winter break last year. I was glad that I could go back home and take a much-needed mental break, but I was still bummed because there wasn’t much energy on campus that made me want to stay.”
Some students, however, saw this as a complete success.
“I personally liked the decision, it was a great opportunity to spend time with family especially around the holidays,” Nicholas DiStefano ‘24 commented.
Nursing students have also stressed the need for repopulation testing.
“My family is fully vaccinated and every single one of them has a breakthrough case of COVID, it can literally happen to anyone even if you don’t know it,” Ashley Lampros ‘22 said. “So, absolutely, the school should test everyone after break.”
This testing plan is in place upon students’ arrival back to campus, according to Anderson.
Anderson added that, “Fairfield is also hosting a vaccination and booster clinic on Friday, Dec. 10 for students, faculty and staff here on campus in partnership with Griffin Hospital.”
The University also partnered with Griffin Hospital for the vaccination clinic hosted last academic year.
To begin preparing for the process of moving students out of residence halls for the break, the Office of Residence Life has sent two emails to students, one on Oct. 27 and another on Nov. 14.
In this set of emails, Residence Life noted that each residence hall will lock at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 23, and will reopen at noon on Nov. 28. Also included is a set of reminders and procedures to follow, like closing windows, setting the heat to low and unplugging electrical appliances.