Ohio University announced on June 5 some of its guidelines for reopening campus for fall semester, as well as plans to bring recommendations to the Board of Trustees this month.
“As part of the state of Ohio’s phased reopening, we are preparing to welcome students back, while also recognizing that we are living in a new normal,” OU President Duane Nellis wrote in June 5 media statement.
Nellis noted in the press release that in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), faculty and staff will be teaching and students will be learning differently and interacting in new ways, particularly across co-curricular activities.
Nellis added he worked with his leadership team to convene eight work groups that include students, faculty and staff focused on various planning aspects as the university looks toward the fall semester, the release stated.
The work groups consist of the following categories: public health planning; personal protection equipment planning and procurement; academic scenario planning; student experiences and student life; academic policy and process; research and creative activity; clinicals, practica and internships; “back to work safely” groups and a “coordinating council.”
The co-chairs of each group, along with leaders from each of the university’s five senates and functional managers across campus (athletics, communication, legal, financial implication, technology and enrollment), are representing their areas on the coordinating council, which is tasked with developing recommendations for the university’s fall semester, the university press release stated.
Those groups submitted preliminary reports on June 1 and are working toward final recommendations to bring to Nellis on June 15, the press release stated.
Nellis said he expects to be able to share details on their recommendations in conjunction with an update to the Board of Trustees by June 19. The university has also launched a fall planning website, which includes preliminary planning reports.
Nellis listed possibilities of how fall semester at the university may be different than that of years past.
“In order to meet expectations around social distancing, we will need to modify how and where we teach some of our courses,” he wrote. “This may include assigning face-to-face courses to larger classrooms and reducing density in classrooms by rotating between online and in-person delivery.”
In addition, new guidelines will be in place for research, scholarship and other activities to minimize person-to-person contact. Residence halls will also adopt “enhanced safety protocols,” and dining halls will support online ordering and carry-out, the release stated.
The release also stated that the university will have “greater flexibility for faculty and staff to work from home to keep campus density down and to protect employees who are in high risk groups.”
Nellis encouraged those who will be on campus in the fall to “embrace personal responsibility for contributing to community health” through wearing masks where and when recommended, cleaning surfaces of spaces frequented or touched by multiple people, maintaining social distancing measures, monitoring people for COVID-19 related symptoms and complying with all public health requirements.
“I recognize that many of you may have concerns – not only concerns about potential exposure to COVID-19,” Nellis said, “but also about the impact that necessary public health measures may have on our distinctive student experience.”
Nellis said more updates about fall semester will be given in the next several weeks.
““While we’re still working out the details, one thing that we do know for sure is that this Fall Semester is not going to look like last fall or any Fall Semester before,” Nellis said in a video that was released along with the media statement. “But this is an opportunity for all of us to work together to discover our new normal.”
On June 8, OU Provost Dr. Elizabeth Sayrs announced additional plans for fall semsester.
“Exemption requests for clinicals and practica in health and medical fields have been approved by college deans and then the Provost’s office on a case-by-case basis,” Sayrs wrote in a letter to students. “Students who have chosen to participate in on-site internships have been advised to follow CDC and local health department guidelines.”
In addition, Sayrs noted Alden Library plans to launch its first phase of re-opening in mid-June. Borrowers will be able to request locally-owned materials, which will be retrieved by staff, prechecked out to users, and placed for no-contact pickup at or near the second floor entrance during designated hours. Returned materials will be quarantined per national guidelines before recirculating or reshelving.