Yesterday, my school, the University of South Carolina, announced it is planning to restart in-person teaching this fall. This seems like a good move.
The main reason is that planning now to restart in the fall gives the university greater flexibility when it will need it. We don’t quite know how the pandemic will look in three months. If it turns out closer to then that it doesn’t seem wise to resume in-person teaching and other campus operations, the university can always delay their implementation. But if it turns out that it makes sense then, on balance, to do so, the university will be better prepared.
The plan is still in development. You can read the announcement about it from University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen here. Importantly, it stresses that faculty, staff, and students who do not feel comfortable returning to campus in the fall need not do so then:
While we would like as many students, faculty and staff members as possible to return in person, doing so would not be mandatory, as we recognize that some would be uncomfortable coming back to campus in August. We respect each person’s decision to either return or delay their return, and we will expand our online course offerings to accommodate those who choose to remain away.
The return to campus will be “phased in” in stages. Other elements of the plan include:
- We will have the capacity to test every Student, Faculty and Staff member for COVID-19 upon return the campus
- We have the capacity to sustain a robust testing program throughout the entire semester
- We are reviewing several comprehensive tracing and tracking apps for early and thorough identification of at-risk contacts
- We have designated ample student housing for those who may require isolation and quarantine, and we are putting in place the support services to provide for their meals, education, and other needs
- We will increase on campus single-occupancy rooms in on-campus residence halls
- We will modify our dining practices in order to reduce close student contact in student dining facilities through “grab and go” meals
- We will make accommodations for high-risk individuals and others who choose to continue online instruction with safeguards for protection against discrimination and stigma
- We will follow clear public health protocols, including social distancing within classrooms, lecture halls, meeting rooms and sports venues, with strong encouragement of proper social distancing off campus
- We will ensure that large class sections will either meet in smaller sections or in online formats and create alternative academic offerings to accommodate safe class gatherings
- We will provide advising over the summer to help all students adjust their course schedules as needed
- And finally, as stated, no student, faculty or staff member will be required to return
At this stage, many of the details as to how these elements of the plan will be realized are missing. But they at least point to having an understanding of what’s needed to return to campus responsibly.
You can view a searchable list of universities’ plans for the fall in light of the pandemic here.