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Fall 2020 Planning Report and Recommendations



“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. We must deliver on our academic mission and foster engaging campus life but also protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities in the midst of a global pandemic. That will mean teaching and learning differently and interacting in new ways across our co-curricular activities. I believe we can meet this challenge. I also recognize that it is an unprecedented task that will require significant collaboration, leveraging our vast expertise across the University in everything from public health to innovative curricular design to research and experiential learning in a world of social distancing.”  


- President M. Duane Nellis (June 5, 2020 University Communication via email) 


Ohio University’s mission of teaching, research, and engagement is more urgent now than ever. Although our rapid shift to remote teaching and learning in the spring was necessary, we learned that the digital divide is real: even with access many students are disadvantaged by a fully online experience. Indeed, critical elements of many programs cannot be delivered remotely. Nevertheless, Ohio University is still known for its deeply personal, high-contact, and high-engagement educational programs, where connectivity to people, place, and purpose is what matters most to our students. In addition, we are an institution of higher learning capable of fluency in science-based, medical-informed practice. COVID-19 represents a serious public health threat. Public health guidelines and strategies available to us informed by those guidelines support a responsible phasing in of university operations even as we seek to resume activities that support a full, on-campus experience for students on all our campuses.  

Maintaining our mission calls upon each of us to adapt, to prepare, and to commit to doing our part to minimize the risk to one another.  We seek to reengage with one another on our campuses while protecting the vulnerable in our communities and embracing the ideal that we are all in this together.   

The following goals have guided this process: 

  1. Ensuring students receive the highest possible quality education that is enriching, engaging, intentionally contemplative of the swift pace of change in our current world situation, and supports on-time progress towards degree;  
  2. Resuming research and creative activity that increases knowledge and expression in a world that remains in critical need of both; 
  3. Providing faculty and staff with all the support and resources possible to ensure a research and teaching environment that cultivates the student-centered experience for which Ohio University is known and valued; 
  4. Accommodating as much as possible the needs of individuals who are personally at high-risk or who live in a high-risk household;  
  5. Focusing on risk mitigation as a realistic mode of operation, in recognition that total risk elimination is impractical. 

We recognize that Ohio University's typical and traditional operations are disrupted by the existence of COVID-19. As we implement the principles and recommendations contained in this report and detailed in the Appendices, we embrace a culture of care for one another, acknowledging that while COVID-19 presents a real threat to the health of all, individuals are impacted differently by both the threat to health and our operational changes. We seek to interact with one another in a caring, respectful manner and with an overarching desire to help our community remain safe and connected while fulfilling the mission of Ohio University. 

The principles and recommendations below reflect the work of eight distinct groups representing 138 individual faculty, staff, college administration, and students from across the system. The work of these teams was informed by, and to the extent possible incorporated, the statewide collaborative effort of the IUC Reopening Committee. We offer a high-level synthesis of 15 principles that include 72 high-level recommendations. Appendices contain full reports from each work group and additional, operational-level recommendations including timelines for completion of recommendations.


Click on each individual section heading to view more details about the recommendations and principles of the corresponding section.

I. Campus Safety -- Addressing public health concerns and protecting one another

  • Principle 1: The success of returning to and staying on campus is highly dependent on widespread adoption of public health recommendations, especially by the student body. While traditional college-aged students are typically at lower risk, we recognize that students are of all ages, backgrounds, and living situations, and that faculty, staff, and our campus communities include higher percentages of individuals with increased risk-factors.

  • Principle 2: Ohio University must be prepared to change and respond rapidly as new and clearer information becomes available. 

  • Principle 3: Ohio University’s educational delivery model for academic year 2020-21, beginning in fall semester, must be adaptive, reduce overall density on our campuses, and anticipate the potential for increased infection. 

II. Academic program delivery– Ensuring robust learning experiences for our students

  • Principle 4: Ohio University students must be able to take high-quality courses in modalities that are appropriate to core learning outcomes, adapt to varying learning styles and abilities, and prioritize learning space availability. 

  • Principle 5:  The First Year experience is critical to continuing success of our students. 

  • Principle 6: Additional resources will be offered over the summer and throughout fall semester to support faculty and to provide the highest quality educational experience for students.  

  • Principle 7:  Ohio University will provide resources to students, faculty, and staff to facilitate the planned remote finish of fall semester, and to ensure continuity of education in the event of disease progression that necessitates early closure of a campus or location. 

  • Principle 8: Ohio University will communicate and clarify expectations, resources, and responsibilities to students, faculty, and staff. 

  • Principle 9: Experiential learning experiences, such as internships, practica, and clinicals, are critical elements of many students’ education, providing hands-on or culminating experiences for degree programs and access to professional networks. Lead faculty/administrators associated with specific programs must actively seek and analyze information to conduct ongoing risk assessment for all participants. 

III. Campus life – Creating safe and engaging campus communities

  • Principle 10: As a means of maintaining a balance of safety and an interactive campus experience, students will use physical and virtual environments to connect with faculty, staff, and their community. 
  • Principle 11: All students, whether living in residence halls, in off-campus housing, or commuting to a family or personal residence, are integral to maintaining safety and reducing spread of COVID-19 infection on our campuses. 
  • Principle 12: All students will be afforded safe opportunities for engagement with peers, faculty, and staff and to access services that are critical to academic success and mental/physical wellness.

IV. Research and Creative Activity: Resuming critical work in labs, workshops, studios, stages, and other creative spaces

  • Principle 13: Research and Creative Activity are critical to the mission the University’s faculty and students; Research and Creative Activity will resume as robustly as possible with enhanced safety protocols.

V. Promoting safe work environments on campus 

  • Principle 14: Maintaining a safe work environment protects faculty and staff and student employees, and helps maintain educational and business continuity in the event of an outbreak on a campus location.
  • Principle 15: Ohio University will invest in necessary personal protection equipment (PPE), physical protection barriers, and cleaning supplies to support safety protocols identified by the public health recommendations articulated in Section I and to support best practices for centrally support cleaning and user-supported cleaning where appropriate.

VI. Summary

In their totality, these recommendations reflect a comprehensive and coordinated approach to an on-campus fall semester modified to mitigate the risks of COVID-19. The working groups who developed the reports in the appendices are officially discharged. Co-leads may recommend, on an ad hoc basis, the creation of implementation teams to enact the approved recommendations. Upon approval of these recommendations, relevant functional leads are empowered to pursue implementation within their respective domains.