Many students have told us that they value the personal educational experiences that we provide at Ball State University, where faculty and students are learning partners, no matter the challenges.
In an email message yesterday, I reported that we will resume on-campus classes on August 24, as scheduled. We will do so implementing several health and safety protocols grounded in our paramount priority—the health and safety of our students, our faculty and staff, and our campus visitors. I write to remind you of how we are planning for a safe return to campus.
Our Fall 2020 semester plan has the following key components:
- On-campus instruction will be conducted consistent with prevailing guidance from federal, state, and local public health officials. To achieve this objective, we will schedule more class sessions in the evenings and perhaps on weekends, if necessary. I also anticipate that courses with large enrollments may be divided into smaller sections or taught online.
- Faculty will prepare all courses with sufficient flexibility and adaptability to enable them to transition effectively during the semester to online instruction and back to on-campus instruction based on conditions on our campus and in our community.
- Faculty will front-load those learning activities that are dependent on face-to-face instruction so that those activities are completed before the Thanksgiving break. After the Thanksgiving break, all remaining instruction, as well as all final projects and exams, will be completed online.
- Our University will cancel the two-day Fall break and will schedule class sessions on Labor Day. The rationale for these changes to the academic calendar is to enable our students to have 13 weeks of on-campus instruction before the Thanksgiving break.
- We will offer more online courses to accommodate faculty and students who may be in high risk populations.
Our plan, which will be informed by guidance from public health officials, will enable our students to safely return to our residence halls in August. While we have not yet finalized all of the details of that plan, I anticipate that it will include the following key components:
- In order to mitigate the risk of students transmitting the novel coronavirus while living in a residence hall, we will adjust the room assignments to reduce the number of students who use the same restroom and other common areas.
- Our custodial staff will clean and sanitize these facilities more frequently than usual.
- We will retain a sufficient number of rooms in our residence halls and in other University-owned facilities to quarantine and isolate students who may be exposed to or who may test positive for the COVID-19 virus.
- In order to mitigate the risk of transmission in our dining halls, we will continue to prepare all orders as “to-go” for students, as well as for faculty and staff.
I anticipate that we will complete the plan for our residence halls within the next ten days. At that time, our staff will promptly communicate all of the details with our students and their families.
We will also develop specific protocols for the wide variety of activities that typically occur on our campus, including: student co-curricular and social events; use of our recreation facilities; conferences, concerts, and performances; and intercollegiate athletic practices and competitions.
Public health experts have uniformly advised that testing is a critical component of a plan to stem the spread of COVID-19. We will implement a plan to make testing readily available to our students and to our faculty and staff. As part of this plan, we will require anyone who tests positive to self-isolate for an appropriate period of time, and we will conduct contact tracing consistent with the procedures established by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Our enduring values distinguish us as Cardinals. I am proud of how our faculty, staff, and students have demonstrated, time and time again, that we are committed to those values, including social responsibility, which we define as acting for the benefit of other people. Many of our protocols—like wearing a face mask—are intended primarily to protect other people.
In these extraordinary times, we remain committed to providing our students with the distinctive, high-impact learning opportunities that will ensure their academic and professional success. I am grateful to our faculty and staff for their creativity and their unwavering dedication to our students. And I am grateful to our students for their perseverance and devotion to learning. You demonstrate how, as Cardinals, We Fly!
Geoffrey S. Mearns