Decision about reopening campus to come June 17, according to Faculty Senate
“We are planning for an on-campus experience for the students, but it will not be like the Fall 2019 semester.” Provost Robin Morgan said at the beginning of the special Faculty Senate meeting called on the afternoon of June 8.
Faculty Senate held this emergency meeting outside of their typical semester meeting dates to discuss potential plans for the Fall 2020 semester. This meeting began with discussion about how the faculty was considering the scenario of bringing students back to campus with social distancing protocols in place so that every student who wants face-to-face interaction will be able to have it.
While there still remains a back-and-forth negotiation process regarding students’ scheduling, the faculty hopes to have a more concrete idea of a timeline by June 17. Since the plan to bring students back to campus may require students’ schedules to be changed, students should be able to register for their final updated schedules by July 27.
The plan to return to campus while maintaining social distancing is considered to be “Plan A.” “Plan B,” to many students’ and faculty members’ dismay, consists of contingency plans in place if there are serious outbreaks of coronavirus on campus. This plan would consist of sending students home to complete the Fall semester entirely online.
Another point Provost Morgan made was that faculty will not be forced to teach face-to-face. It is the university’s hope that many faculty members will teach in-person if they can, but the administration also understands that health and/or age may not permit them to do so. The university will honor the Americans with Disabilities Act forms and “serious caregiver” forms to exempt faculty from teaching on campus.
For the Spring 2020 semester, the initial revenue loss was $61 million. However, developments led to cost savings of around $43 million, so the university ended up losing only $25 million for the Spring 2020 semester.
Executive Vice President John Long negotiated a contract with Aramark, a food services, facilities and uniform provider that runs University Dining Services and the Provisions on Demand (P.O.D.) markets. This contract was put in place to offset about $7 million of the losses from the university.
There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the incoming freshman class of students, but the university fell short of their target for enrollment. Administration also remains unsure of how many students will be coming back in the fall.
“The decisions we make now will set the future for the university,” Morgan said, reminding the Faculty Senate to remain vigilant in taking precautions regarding preventing the spread of coronavirus. “Do what’s best for the university, the faculty, the staff and the students, because it’s really about the people that makes us who we are.”
Moving forward, not knowing what will happen in the future, Morgan implored the rest of the Senate to start thinking about a third phase: What is the future of higher education here at the university?
Some of the changes that are born out of this pandemic will be implemented forever, while others temporary.
Executive Vice President John Long then reminded everyone that the campus has never been empty since students and faculty left; there have been at least 50 Facilities staff there around the clock as well as Information Technology staff intermittently called to work on campus.
Long proceeded to outline measures the university has taken in response to keeping everyone on campus safe in the upcoming semesters. Administration has ordered 3,600 sanitizing stations to be outside of doors; more will probably be yet to come. In addition, 50,000 cloth face masks have been ordered: 30,000 for faculty and staff and 20,000 for students, if necessary.
There have been some projects planned for next year that had to be delayed to prioritize health and safety. Faculty are aiming toward having residence halls open by mid-August in order to have them open for Resident Assistants and other early move-ins before all remaining students come back later.
In regards to dining hall regulations, the all-you-can-eat buffet will be gone. However, Student Life does not want students to grab food and isolate back in their rooms, recognizing that they need socialization.
“I’ve seen many students on campus without masks,” Long said. “We may face some cultural issues with students who do not want to wear masks.”
He added that there would have to be a cultural shift about college students wearing masks on campus in order for a successful on-campus Fall semester.
Visual: Maybe we can snag the last screenshot of FacSen Zooming and just specify in the caption that it’s from [date]? Let me know what you think!