After being closed for the entirety of the 2020–21 academic year, the Ithaca College London Center (ICLC) is hoping to reopen in Fall 2021, with plans to make potential administration and structural changes.
Rachel Gould, director of Study Abroad in the Office of International Programs and Extended Studies, said the ICLC had planned to reopen for summer 2021 but was unable to. All study abroad programming at the college has been suspended for the 2020–21 academic year due to COVID-19. Gould said the program will open in the fall.
“At this point in time, I would say that, unless we run into major issues with COVID as far as these variants that are springing up not being responsive to the vaccines, I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be proceeding with the fall semester in London and … then with a normal academic year in London,” Gould said.
Gould said the application for Fall 2021 was originally due March 1 but was pushed to March 15 to give students more time to think through their plans. She said the due date was moved to March 31 given the reluctance some students have to consider traveling abroad next semester. She said there have been 72 applications submitted for the fall, including some applicants who originally applied for Fall 2020, Spring 2021 or Summer 2021 and deferred their applications.
She said she would guess that ICLC will have an accepted group of 40 to 50 students for Fall 2021, slightly lower than its normal 60 to 80 students.
“We’re feeling pretty good about that and then positive that people are eager to start studying abroad again,” she said. “Our springs are usually larger than our fall semesters. I anticipate we may see some pent-up demand really making itself felt for the spring semester, so we may very well have a large group.”
Gould said that, if the ICLC does reopen in the fall, there will be COVID-19–related differences that will impact students, like opportunities for students to travel throughout Europe.
“It’s not going to look exactly like a semester has looked in the past and travel to different European countries on weekends may or may not be possible,” Gould said. “If it is possible, we absolutely want to support students in doing that. But for a variety of reasons, it may not be possible, so there will be some differences. We hope they’ll be short-lived.”
COVID-19 cases are rising in Europe. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), there have been 23,255,514 total cases reported in the European Union and European Economic Area, as of March 17. From March 5 to March 11, 3,521 people tested positive in London. The UK is currently under its third national lockdown and restrictions are set to be lifted by June 21.
Sophomore Sheila Wallis said she is planning to study abroad at the ICLC during Fall 2021 but has concerns given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It just seems like every day there’s something new with COVID,” Wallis said. “What if we’re there and we have pandemic 2.0, you know? So that is definitely a bit of a fear that’s popped up.”
Wallis said she felt conflicted about wanting to travel during a pandemic.
“I’m going on to be a junior, so my time to study abroad is ticking down,” Wallis said. “I feel inner hypocrisy going on for me and feeling like I’m contradicting myself.”
Howard Kalman, associate professor in the Department of Strategic Communication, said he will be participating in the London Faculty Sabbatical Program in Fall 2022. He had originally planned to go this semester but deferred because of COVID-19.
Kalman said he had no concerns about COVID-19 impacting his sabbatical, in which he will be involved in a research project and teach one course, Systemic Design.
“People are getting vaccinated, and by the time we reopen the London program, the situation is going to be quite different,” Kalman said.
Catherine Weidner, professor and chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, was appointed as interim director of the ICLC in March 2021. The former director, Thorunn Lonsdale, retired October 2020 and passed away in November. Weidner will fully assume the position in August.
Gould said the department will take the time to examine the administrative structure of the center. She said that while the potential changes at the ICLC do coincide with the Academic Program Prioritization process at the college, the two are not related. The ICLC currently has a director, associate director, program coordinator and program assistant.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to do that in a long time, and this sort of presents itself as the perfect opportunity to make sure, do we want to have a dean of the London Center rather than a director?” she said. “What direction makes the most sense to go?”
Gould also said the department wants to focus on potential curriculum changes to meet the needs of students in more departments at the college.
“The curriculum still does meet needs, but it could probably be modernized,” she said. “We could certainly try to get more [Integrated Core Curriculum] designated classes to offer in London. There’s some classes that we offer that are great courses but could probably just use a little tinkering to sort of modernize them a little bit more.”
Weidner said she wants to increase the financial accessibility for students looking to study at the center.
“[For] a student who’s getting by on financial aid and their own resources, how can we make sure that cost is not a barrier to students doing that?” Weidner said. “We’re also going to look at whether there might be housing options. … Is it something that could have a cost attached, that would simplify people’s lives?”
Weidner also said she wants to make sure that the ICLC is an extension of the college.
“This is just a great opportunity to sort of reset and and work with a really extraordinary team that is there now, and then make sure that it’s a welcoming and supportive academic atmosphere for students and for the college,” she said.