Campus Reform | Back to school or back to Zoom? These colleges are delaying in-person classes.

Back to school or back to Zoom? These colleges are delaying in-person classes.

Colleges and universities across the country are delaying in-person instruction due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

'Campus Reform' continues to cover schools' policies on COVID-19 as they pertain to students' vaccination requirements, online instruction, housing, and travel.

Last spring, Campus Reform reported on the universities that announced they would be returning to on-campus instruction this fall. However, several institutions that originally sought a return to normalcy are now starting their semesters out online. 

Below is a list of those schools that are not starting the fall 2021 semester on campus. 

Rice University

In a letter to university faculty and students, Rice University Provost Reginald DesRoches announced that all classes will be conducted online through September 3 due to a “much higher than anticipated” number of COVID-19 cases uncovered by the school’s testing program. Courses that are able to be held with masking and social distancing are exempt from the adjustment. 

In addition to moving courses online, indoor dining on campus has been banned until the adjustment period ends. Rice is also requiring vaccinated students to be tested bi-weekly while unvaccinated students are required to undergo testing weekly. 

Five days following this announcement, Rice discovered that its testing program generated false positives. Out of approximately 4,500 administered tests, there were 81 positive results. This 2 percent infection rate sparked concern as “anomalous” as the university’s historical infection rate is 0.24 percent. 

“This unusual campus positivity rate prompted us to take quick action and assume a more cautionary posture until we could determine whether there was a significant risk of widespread infection,” Rice’s Vice President for Administration Kevin E. Kirby said in a letter to the university.

Despite this discovery, Rice leadership is resolute on its decision to move instruction online because faculty and students have already adjusted to the change.

“Right now we anticipate returning to fully in-person classroom instruction in two weeks,” Kirby revealed. 

University of Texas-San Antonio

University of Texas San Antonio officials announced in a university-wide letter that most courses will be conducted online for the first three weeks of the fall semester due to the “Delta variant surge” in the city. Additionally, all students, faculty and staff are mandated to participate in the school’s COVID-19 testing program.

The letter states that the adjustments will take place “until we see the Delta surge begin to diminish and return to less risky levels similar to what we experienced earlier this summer.”

[RELATED: Colleges seek a return to normalcy in the fall by bringing students back to campus]

Austin Community College

The Austin Community College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to adopt a mask mandate in all campus buildings hours after listening to a presentation from the city health officials about a rise in COVID-19 cases in Austin. This mandate defies Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order banning public sector entities from requiring masks. 

ACC Chancellor Richard Rhodes decided to move most ACC courses online for the first three weeks of the semester. This is expected to decrease the number of students on campus by 9,000. 

Senior media relations coordinator Sydney Pruitt told Campus Reform that “the vast majority of our students and employees were receptive to the change and expressed support and appreciation of the decision.” 

“The college continues to evaluate the regional situation and hopes to resume in-person classes when it’s safe to do so,” she continued. 

Stanislaus State

Stanislaus State president Ellen Junn announced that in-person instruction will be delayed until October 1 in order to give students and faculty “more time” to provide documentation for vaccination, exemptions and testing. Additionally, university officials will have more time to “monitor the changes” regarding the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

[RELATED: Here's how colleges plan to enforce their COVID-19 vaccine mandates]

Houston Community College

Houston Community College will conduct “most” in-person courses online for “at least” the first month of the fall semester. 

Although masks are not mandated currently, HCC leadership encouraged students to take the “HCC Soar Safe Pledge” Students who sign the pledge promise to “wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance, stay home if you are sick, and get vaccinated.”