Less than three weeks before they were expected to move in, Franklin & Marshall College sophomores received an unexpected alert.
In essence, it read: Don’t come back.
The college informed students Monday evening that hundreds of college sophomores would not be allowed back on campus, and only the slim number of sophomores who were already approved may return to off-campus housing in Lancaster.
Instead, college President Barbara Altmann stated in the letter, all sophomores will be required to continue remote instruction.
If COVID-19 precautions stretch into the spring, sophomores would be allowed back on campus, and first-year students would stay home and learn remotely, she said.
“This is unexpected and disheartening news for all of us,” Altmann said. “While our primary focus has to be on physical and mental well-being, I regret the disappointment many sophomores will feel at this unexpected change of course for the fall.”
The move, which is meant to reduce the campus population, comes as colleges nationwide try to discover ways to offer a comparable college experience while reducing the threat of COVID-19.
Colleges like Yale and Stanford have implemented similar approaches. Millersville University has decided to reduce on-campus housing capacity by 32%.
While F&M students were already expected to have a significant portion of their online, this week’s announcement came as a shock to F&M sophomores.
“I was just kind of annoyed and angry at the fact that they’re just kicking us out of Lancaster as a whole,” sophomore Ingram Dillingham, 19, said, later adding that the college “shouldn’t have the ability to make decisions for us.”
Ingram, who is from Philadelphia, planned to move into off-campus housing. Because he hasn’t been approved by the college yet, he has to either find another apartment nearby or stay home.
The news came just a couple weeks after he learned his fall soccer season was canceled, Ingram said, adding that the college’s decision was “horribly” timed.
This fall, the college has 544 rising sophomores who have indicated they're continuing their studies, according to college spokesman Gregory Wright; of those, 367 planned to return to live on campus.
There are currently 599 students in the incoming first-year class, 418 of whom plan to live on campus this fall, Wright said.
Move-in dates for those allowed back on campus are Aug. 20 through Aug. 24.
In her letter, Altmann said reimbursement funds would be available for students who planned to move to Lancaster in a few weeks and already incurred expenses, such as airline tickets. Sophomores for which remote learning creates a “significant hardship,” she said, will be allowed to apply for permission to live in on-campus housing.