On June 1, University of Utah, President Ruth Watkins issued an official announcement to the @theU website about the University of Utah’s plans for returning to campus this fall.
President Watkins acknowledged that the U is currently in the orange phase which means campus access is going to be severely limited. Some limits include wearing face-coverings in all common areas, daily health monitoring, and social distancing.
The guidelines require changes to assigned classrooms and schedules in order to ensure proper distancing and general health and safety. The full revised schedule will be available in June, according to the announcement.
“We’re working overtime to figure out how to safely put the students in classrooms,” said Sarah Projansky, Assistant Vice President for Faculty in an interview with the Daily Utah Chronicle.
The announcement also shared an important aspect of the Fall 2020 semester: it is going to be a hybrid of in-person instruction and online learning.
The Fall 2020 semester officially starts on August 24, 2020. This in-person instruction will then continue until November 26, 2020. After Thanksgiving Break, online instruction will occur from November 30 to December 3, with finals week following shortly after.
This plan includes the elimination of the fall break, which would have been October 4-11. Modified instruction may continue during this time.
The official announcement also includes a link to a more specific plan for the U’s return to campus.
“This shift to all-online instruction and exams after Thanksgiving is based on the strong advice of U of U Health epidemiologists and mirrors the approach of many of our national peers,” the plan reads.
Projansky said that the main goals while making the decisions regarding returning to campus were the safety of students and faculty and ensuring a rich educational experience.
“Everything that we’re doing falls under those two things,” Projansky said.
After the official announcement came out, students also received an email from Housing and Residential Education that outlined the specific housing regulations that will be in effect during the Fall 2020 semester.
The email specified that students with reserved rooms will remain in those rooms, with the exception of triples.
Students can either leave campus after in-person instruction ends, or they can opt to extend their housing contract to include the online instruction which begins on November 30 and continues through exam week.
HRE also announced they will be allowing students to cancel their housing contract until June 15, without penalty.
Projansky acknowledged the decisions may be taking longer than people are comfortable with.
“We’re trying to find the balance between people’s need to know, which we feel very strongly that students and faculty need to know so that they can prepare for the fall, and our need to make sure that whatever we tell them holds,” she said.
Administrators are working to address more specific questions regarding in-person classes, such as how classrooms will be cleaned between classes and how movement will be managed within the buildings. The various questions are being worked out by the appropriate departments across campus. Questions and suggestions are welcomed and encouraged.
“There will be opportunities for feedback, discussion and tweaking to make sure it’s going to work for as many students and faculty as it can,” Projansky said.