Ohio University

Ohio University shares updates for Fall 2020

Published: June 5, 2020 Author: Staff reports

The following message was shared with the Ohio University community on June 5, 2020.

To Our Ohio University Community,

As we move into the summer months and continue delivering courses and engaging with students virtually, I wanted to update you once again on plans for our fall semester. As we shared with our campus community in May, I have engaged faculty, staff and students across all levels of the institution in a planning process with the goal of bringing students back to our campuses for the fall semester.

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.

With that in mind, I worked with my leadership team to convene eight work groups that include students, faculty, and staff focused on various planning aspects as we look toward fall. The co-chairs of each group, along with leaders from each of our five senates and functional managers across campus, are representing their areas on a Coordinating Council tasked with developing clear recommendations for our fall semester. Those groups submitted preliminary reports on June 1 and are working toward final recommendations to bring to me on June 15. We expect to be able to share details on their recommendations in conjunction with an update to our Board of Trustees by June 19.

We have launched a website dedicated to their work, which includes the preliminary reports, and we invite every member of our community to provide ideas and raise issues through an online form found on this same page. In addition, leaders of each of our five senates have agreed to bring questions forward from their various constituencies for consideration by the coordinating council.

While these work groups continue to develop plans, there are a few things we can say now about how our fall semester may be different:

  • In order to meet expectations around social distancing, we will need to modify how and where we teach some of our courses. This may include assigning face-to-face courses to larger classrooms and reducing density in classrooms by rotating between online and in-person delivery.
  • We will have new guidelines in place for research, scholarship, and creative activity to minimize person-to-person contact. In fact, we have already begun bringing researchers back to the field and to campus, following new principles and guidelines developed by our research work group.
  • Residence halls will adopt enhanced safety protocols, and dining halls will support online ordering and carry out.
  • We 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.
  • We will all need to embrace personal responsibility for contributing to community health through wearing masks where and when recommended, helping clean surfaces of spaces we use, maintaining social distance, monitoring ourselves for symptoms daily 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, but also about the impact that necessary public health measures may have on our distinctive student experience. I encourage you to speak up, to ask questions, to provide ideas and, if you are not already engaged in planning, to soon begin considering how recommendations can and should impact your individual areas. It will take all of us working together to face this challenge. If we do so with a spirit of collaboration, inclusivity, and innovation, keeping student success at the center of our plans, I believe we will not only succeed but perhaps discover new ways to teach and learn that we will want to take with us into our post-pandemic reality.

Over the next several weeks, we will be providing regular updates on our planning progress. We are now 12 weeks away from the start of our fall semester. Just 12 weeks ago we were heading into Spring Break and not yet anticipating the need to transition to remote learning. This spring has taught us to expect the unexpected, and I recognize fully that our situation can and will continue to shift. Nonetheless, we must plan for fall using what knowledge we have today about the pandemic and with evolving guidance from state public health authorities. I know you join me in a desire to reengage with campus, with students and with each other, and I am confident that our collaborative efforts will enable us to do that while minimizing risk to our communities.

Sincerely,

M. Duane Nellis
President