By: Salman Tuasene Khawaja 24
While SSE and SDSB have announced that they will be offering on-campus classes in Spring ‘21, the details about how these are to be carried out remain murky for students
As the fall semester comes to a close, discussion regarding a hybrid re-opening of the campus continues amongst the students of LUMS at a fever pitch. While the student body is certainly excited about the prospect of re-opening, safety must be our number one concern.
In light of this, Dr. Alnoor Bhimani, Dean of Suleman Dawood School of Business, has assured the student body that safety is the top priority of LUMS.
“We are guided by Dr. Samia Altaf, Professor of Practice in Public Health and Director of Campus Health and Safety, as well as others with oversight for campus safety and also the relevant external authorities.”
To gain a better understanding of LUMS’ plan to tackle the virus, we reached out to Dr. Ali Khan, Dean of Mushtaq Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Convener of the Health and Safety Committee.
Dr. Khan said, “We (LUMS Administration) have been planning for next semester from June. So it’s been months. Much of my time has gone on dealing with Covid related issues including putting together SOPs, implementing them, creating quarantine and isolation wards, re-creating the campus so that social distancing can be maintained. There is of course the whole re-creation and revisioning of teaching for an entirely online semester.”
The Post was also curious to know what tentative procedures have been decided upon in regards to the reopening of schools. According to Dr. Bhimani, the decision to open campus for some students is based on a number of factors; the program, attendance, timing requirements, term, the capacity to observe all SOPs, as well as the additional advice of Dr. Altaf and concerned admin.
“There is continuous evaluation undertaken and adherence to governmental SOP requirements as well as directives tied to advice by Dr. Altaf,” Dr. Bhimani explained.
However, even if precautionary measures are followed, one obstacle still remains and that is the disproportionate treatment of students under the hybrid system. As Dr. Khan explained, “The Gurmani School was not in favour of a hybrid model, where some students are allowed to be in person and others are left to access classes remotely. We felt that provided very different experiences of learning, with those online being severely disadvantaged.”
In contrast, Dr. Faryad, Assistant Professor of Physics at Syed Babar Ali School of Sciences and Engineering, pointed out that SSE courses are of two types: theoretical courses and experimental courses. For lab courses, they have been trying to make sure that next semester labs will be “mandatorily available.” He said, “In terms of planning for the next semester, we (SSE Administration) are trying to maintain traffic: freshmen classes are being scheduled in such a way that the student population at the same time is less.”
The administration has been planning to offer theoretical classes in two ways. The primary approach is that if a course has a large number of students whereby social distancing is not possible while teaching, such courses will be held online. The second approach is that if courses have a student size of less than 30, and it is possible to conceive such classes in LUMS auditorium with proper social distancing and other measures in places, they shall have these courses in person.
“We are trying to ensure that campus access is still available – we want to make hostels available and give campus access to day scholars. We have requested the university for open spaces where the internet and other facilities are available!” said Dr. Faryad.
Students are double-minded about these advancements. “As an SSE first year I feel excited about the prospect to be able to go to LUMS next semester for my labs but there still remains a great deal of hesitation as LUMS has not been properly keeping me in the loop in regards to how the next semester will be operating in person,” said Raahim Nadeem ‘24.
Some students consider this to be positive but they also believe that these steps might be a bit early. “The entire manageability depends on students’ own practice of abiding by the SOPs and the administration’s strictness when it comes to them. As much as I want to experience campus life until a vaccine is confirmed to be highly effective, opening HSS or SAHSOL might be a very risky step,” said Sheharyar Hussain ‘22.
Some students believe that campus access should only be given to those students who require it. “If a class can be conducted online then I don’t see any point in holding it on campus,” said Muhammad Nouman Abbasi ‘21.
“If there is coursework that requires your presence on campus or your home environment isn’t conducive to learning then sure, get accommodation on campus. But if you want campus access just to hang out with your friends at the khokha, then you should rethink the seriousness of the greater issue at hand,” said Abbasi.
Some students raised valid points in regards to a re-opening.
“While non-residential colleges have the luxury of using workarounds like having students come in on alternate days, and entirely residential colleges have the luxury of calling back everyone and isolating from the outside world, the problem with LUMS is that it is semi-residential and it doesn’t have enough space to accommodate all non-Lahoris in single-person rooms,” said Sobaan Qadeer ‘22.
It is clear that while online classes are not entirely ideal, they currently remain the preferable alternative for the administration. However, the same cannot be said for the students for whom in-person classes still remain a better alternative. Although the situation is not completely clear either. “There could have been more transparency into how the students will be selected for the upcoming semester,” said Abbasi, and other such specifics were brought up: if exams for SDSB open-air classrooms will be held in-person or online, how will lab rotations will work for SSE students and the extra set of regulations they will have to follow during lab procedures? The student body is still currently in the dark about these details.