The Spring Semester and Beyond: 10 Takeaways From Our Conversation With President Iuliano
By Anna Cincotta, Editor-in-Chief
With the start of a new semester during a pandemic comes a host of new challenges along with opportunities for improvement. Here are ten takeaways after sitting down, albeit virtually, with President Bob Iuliano.
1. Approximately 60 percent of the student body is currently on campus.
This percentage accounts for students across all class years.
2. The college will prioritize taking a more active role in reassigning students to the remote cohort if they choose to break COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
In response to questions about what he called a ‘revised rulebook’ in terms of compliance, Iuliano explained that the changes were due, in part, to feedback from parents and students after de-densification in the fall. “People wanted to be back, and we heard frustration among students,” he said. “They felt disappointed that their experience could be adversely influenced by virtue of judgments made by others.”
So far, at least twenty students have been sanctioned for violations of the new protocols. Six have already been reassigned to the remote cohort.
3. The Department for Public Safety has hired additional officers to account for the demand that wasn’t met in the fall.
Enforcement proved challenging for the college during the initial return to in-person instruction. “I think there needed to be more visible activity by DPS as a means of reassuring the students who were trying to follow the protocols that we cared about them,” Iuliano said.
Iuliano also cited infrastructure, which includes the hiring of officers for enforcement purposes, as one of the broader areas he’s feeling confident about moving forward, including the move to single bedrooms as a way to ease the transition to quarantine.
4. If the number of positive cases rises among the student body, there will be an efficient move to campus quarantine.
The decision to de-densify Gettysburg’s campus in the fall came quick, prompting the departure of thousands of students. Should cases spike this semester, there will be a swift move towards an all-campus quarantine to effectively mitigate the risk of community spread.
5. Resources have not been spared.
Hiring additional DPS officers and contracting with a new company—MobileHealth—to ensure twice weekly testing for the student body (along with less frequent testing for in-person faculty and staff), has been costly for the college.
The twice weekly testing will, according to Iuliano, serve as both a means of maintaining control over the virus’s spread and ensuring that students continue to take the situation seriously.
6. Application numbers for the class of 2025, so far, are strong.
Gettysburg’s retention rate, however, might be another story. Still, Iuliano expressed that it’s too soon to say anything for sure. “[Those] numbers are not particularly aligned with our historical retention [rate], but I think we’re going to see [the picture] more fully as time goes on,” he said.
7. The pandemic has complicated the search for a new Eisenhower Institute Executive Director.
“Whether we’ve found a new Executive Director or not is of less interest to me than making sure that we’re doing what we can and should do in this really unusual moment in American history,” Iuliano said.
8. The college has been in contact with state and local health officials about the potential for vaccine rollout during the course of the semester.
When Pennsylvania enters Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination process, there will be members of the campus community eligible to receive their shots. The timeline will be dependent on vaccine availability.
9. As we move into the spring, Iuliano’s biggest unknown is the pace of COVID-19 vaccination.
For now, he remains unconvinced that vaccines will be distributed widely enough to materially affect the trajectory of the spring. “I would really like to be wrong about that,” he said. “It would be a very different semester if we were able to get there.”
10. Iuliano is confident that the fall will be ‘normal-ish.’
“I hope our first-years, sophomores and juniors look forward to and recognize that the more typical Gettysburg experience is around the corner.”