Students, staff struggle to adapt to new normal

Outfitted with face masks and standing six feet apart, some students are trickling back to in-person classes – even while most are attending their classes online.

In the first semester since the COVID-19 pandemic forced PNW to move all classes online last spring, just 16% of the university’s classes offered this semester  – 282 courses – are face-to-face, according to Kris Falzone, associate vice chancellor for Marketing & Communications. 

She said another 28% — 502 courses – are hybrids, held in some combination of online and on-campus. The remaining 56% of classes are either all online or conducted through virtual classrooms.

Some students are struggling with the arrangements.

“As a student working a full-time job and studying to go to law school, I am frankly disturbed at how unwilling professors are to work with students during the COVID-19 pandemic so far,” said Nathan Marciniec, senior. “I have seen students disallowed from rejoining class due to disconnecting and then given an absence for not staying the full duration of class.”

COVID-19 has also impacted enrollment. While the official census report has yet to be prepared, preliminary numbers from Provost Chris Holdford indicate that the Hammond campus enrollment is 7,138, about 6.8% less than the 2019-2020 enrollment reported by the Office of Institutional Research.


Teaching so many classes online has taken some getting used to, but the university is committed to making sure students and faculty stay safe.

“All faculty, staff and students are required to complete a short learning module on Brightspace that will remind all of us of our collective responsibilities to help keep ourselves and our community healthy and safe,” said Chancellor Thomas L. Keon.  “The training covers proper area sanitization practices, proper hand washing and how to safely wear a face covering.”

While PNW has opened the resident halls, they are less crowded than last year.

“The University Village residential halls are about 60% occupied, compared to about 90% occupied last year,” said Falzone. “However, two entire wings (one in each building) are being held open to use for any needed quarantine and isolation.”

Living on campus this semester follows with significant changes to policies and procedures. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no guests are allowed in the dorms, and all common spaces are closed in an attempt to keep students socially distanced.

Revisions have been made to the Student Code of Conduct to hold students accountable if they are not following the protocols PNW has enforced due to COVID – even off-campus.

The dean of students has clarified that conduct off-campus can be subject to disciplinary proceedings under the code. Hosting or attending an event, on or off-campus, where COVID safety protocols are not followed, is explicitly prohibited, according to Colin Fewer,  interim associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and dean of students.

The Code of Conduct, which is available on the PNW website, says that “failure and refusal to comply with the protocols will be treated as ‘conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any other person, whether or not such conduct occurs on University property’ as defined in the Code of Conduct (B.2.d) and may result in suspension or expulsion.”

As of Sept. 4, 15 students and one faculty member have tested positive for COVID-19.

PNW has also added a daily self-screening feature onto the PNW mobile app. With this being implemented, students and faculty are able to pre-screen themselves for symptoms of COVID-19.