Coronavirus (COVID-19) - 10 June 2020
10 June 2020
COVID-19 Advisory 26.0
A message from Dr. Rebecca Sherrick:
We are beginning to envision the fall semester experience at AU. There are still many open questions, and many unknowns, but I want to share our current thoughts.
Last week we announced that the university will operate on a modified academic calendar that calls for on-campus classes to begin on 24 August and to continue up to Thanksgiving, when students will go home for one more week of remote instruction and then final exams. This calendar is similar to the one adopted by the University of Notre Dame and a number of other Midwestern institutions.
While much of the fall’s AU experience will emphasize face-to-face interactions (within a carefully structured environment), some instructional activities will rely upon technology. I wanted to explain a bit more about what that means. In a sense, we will “flip” our classrooms, especially in sections that serve a large number of students. Let’s use a science course as our example. Lecture content may be delivered via Zoom, while labs and small discussions are held in person.
This strategy allows for social distancing and individual attention, often face-to-face. Last spring, AU moved quickly without preparation time. The fall will be different. Faculty will develop their syllabi with this format in mind — after participating in professional development sessions during the summer. Campus facilities will be open to provide appropriate learning and study environments. And, thanks to our purchase of a large inventory of laptops, we will provide “loaner equipment” as necessary.
As we announce this plan for blended instruction in the fall, some students may decide that they are not able to tolerate the risks associated with returning to campus. If a student makes such a decision, we will try to work with him/her to make a modified AU experience possible. We will begin to discuss this possibility in the days ahead — now that we have a better understanding of what we likely will offer the majority of our undergraduate students.
Intercollegiate Athletic Competition
Last week, I participated in a meeting of the council that governs our athletic conference, which includes member institutions from Illinois and Wisconsin. As we await more information from Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), we affirmed our individual and collective commitment to 2020–2021 intercollegiate competition. Here is a press release issued by the conference earlier this week.
We plan to play, in other words! But we know too that much will be different. Regular health checks will be the norm. Likely limitations will be in place on the size of in-person spectator groups. Tournament competition may be regionalized to accommodate differences across the country. My own assumption — and that of all other presidents in our conference — is that adaptation is preferable to a decision to cancel play. Read The Spartan Way newsletter carefully to stay abreast of plans for athletics.
We continue to examine options for residence life in Aurora and Williams Bay in the fall as we await clear guidance from Illinois and Wisconsin respectively. I anticipate that we will need to rearrange some of the plans made in the spring. And here too, things will be different. For instance, many of our buildings have large shower rooms. We will need to think carefully about safety in these settings.
Dining options also will be different as we limit the size of gatherings or take extraordinary precautions. Earlier this week, we completed the final stage of a virus-specific process implemented in our facilities in March. More information about campus dining experiences and options will be available later in the summer.