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George Washington University to conduct spring semester online

“Managing this pandemic has called on us all to do our part to keep the community healthy and safe, and to support one another through these difficult decisions,” officials said in an email to the university community.

University leaders considered the spread of the virus, the school’s ability to house students safely and feedback from the community as they weighed the possibility of reopening the campus, according to the announcement.

Based on current conditions, the school said it is also unlikely commencement will be held in person in May.

GWU President Thomas J. LeBlanc told the Faculty Senate on Friday the spring semester “will look a lot like it looks right now,” according to the GW Hatchet, the student newspaper. Most classes are being taught remotely; exceptions have been made for a handful of courses that require research or in-person instruction.

The campus has reported 29 positive virus cases since August, the school’s testing dashboard shows. About 500 students are living on campus instead of the usual population of between 6,500 and 6,800 students, Maralee Csellar, a campus spokeswoman, said. Next semester, the university may expand housing, but it will depend on additional health and safety assessments, Csellar said.

Officials do not expect new cuts because of Friday’s announcement. And tuition discounts offered to most undergraduate students this fall will remain, the school said.

Hundreds of students and employees are urging the president to resign. More than a thousand students, staff, faculty and alumni have pledged to stop donating until LeBlanc is replaced, said Gaurav Gawankar, chief of staff to the student government president.

LeBlanc at a recent Board of Trustees meeting acknowledged the tension and said he would continue engaging the community, the student newspaper reported.

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The First Semester of College Has Never Been Stranger

Elle Fleenor didn’t know a soul when she first set foot on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis — wearing a mask, of course — and hunkered down for two weeks of quarantine.

She attended orientation and lectures on Zoom, picked up food from the dining hall to eat in her room, and barely interacted with anyone beyond her dorm building’s walls.

Ms. Fleenor, a first-year student from Scottsburg, Ind., knew college wouldn’t be what she had imagined. But she wasn’t prepared for how the precautions her school was taking to slow the spread of the coronavirus would complicate her efforts to make friends, and how isolated that would make her feel.

Sometimes, she said, she would meet someone in an online class but wouldn’t recognize the person later wearing a mask around campus.

“It’s been very hard, very lonesome,” Ms. Fleenor said. “As a freshman, being hit with all this is extremely difficult.”

Across the country, millions of first-year students are adjusting to college during a pandemic. That means classes conducted mostly online, dinners in dorm rooms and a hard time getting to know professors and peers. Some look forward to fleeting moments to be with others, like elevator rides. Others force themselves to take walks to be sure they see sunlight.

The first semester of college is challenging even in normal times, as students get used to being away from home, their families and lifelong friends. This year, psychologists and other experts fear that the necessary precautions taken by colleges and universities, many of them coronavirus hot spots, will increase the loneliness and isolation.

“We’re receiving recommendations and restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus that also limit our ability to connect with others,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University.

When cases spiked two weeks into the semester, Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania imposed an all-student quarantine. In-person classes were canceled. Students were told to leave their rooms only to use the bathroom or to pick up food. They were told not to linger or chat in the hallway. And they couldn’t do laundry, said Molly Cordray, a biology major from Wayne, Pa.

“In terms of the actual freshman experience, we don’t really have one,” she said.

They were assured that they would make up first-year traditions that had been skipped during orientation, like walking to the spot where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

The lockdown has since been lifted — all except first-year students were sent home for online instruction — but there still aren’t many opportunities to meet new people, said Delaney Rabenold, Ms. Cordray’s roommate. They fill their days with schoolwork and scrolling on TikTok. She joked that picking up food is their outing for the day.

“It’s really the isolation that gets to you,” Ms. Cordray said. “I just feel stuck all the time and have this feeling of existential dread. I know that this time last year, last year’s class was already