As the fall 2020 semester nears, many students are eager to repopulate their college town and reunite with their friends. But this fall will look different from those of years past, and designing the repopulation model for MU was no simple task.
Bill Stackman, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at MU, went over the plans for repopulation and what students and their families can expect this fall.
How were the repopulation plans made?
MU had an executive team working alongside a collection of more specified sub-teams to ensure input from as many stakeholders as possible when deciding how students would return to campus. Teams included members of the administration and people in the medical field as well as students.
Stackman was on a sub-team that represented student affairs while observing other meetings and working with undergraduate, graduate and professional students.
“We would pull in people from (Missouri Students Association, Legion of Black Collegians and Graduate Professional Council) and a variety of other groups to make sure we had a variety of representation,” Stackman says. “We were looking at changing the culture and how would students respond.”
According to the Show Me Renewal Plan for Students, all decisions MU made followed five guiding principles: act with safety and expertise; protect education and scholarship; commit to innovation, collaboration and engagement; strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion; and support public health efforts and outreach.
What will dorm life look like in the fall?
On move-in day, students will be granted 90 minutes and two assistants to help them. After move-in students will not be allowed to change room assignments for the first three weeks. All common areas in the dorms will be modified to support social distancing. Finally, students will not be allowed to bring in visitors, and non-essential staff will not be allowed to enter residence halls.
MU opted to bring students back to the dorms due to the lack of housing available for students off-campus.
“All the apartments are full," Stackman says. "If we didn’t put (students) in the halls and we had classes, the City of Columbia wouldn’t be able to accommodate the students. We only have so much space that can accommodate the students because we have thousands in our residence. Even doing one (student) per room forces people off campus.”
How will dorms and other campus buildings be cleaned?
Buildings will be cleaned more frequently, and classrooms will be cleaned multiple times each day. High-touch surfaces will be cleaned more often than usual. Students living in private suite-style units will be responsible for the cleaning of their rooms and bathrooms to avoid unnecessary entrance to the room from university staff.
“We have ordered thousands of wipes and sanitary equipment,” Stackman says. “We are going to be safe, and not just safe one day but the whole semester.”
What happens if a student living on campus contracts COVID-19?
Students are expected to monitor themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19 and to act responsibly when in public. If a student who lives on campus contracts the virus, they will be made to quarantine while public health experts guide them in the next steps.
MU does have available housing for sick students who need to isolate, but this housing is not meant to hold a large number of students.
“If somebody tests positive, I can say we will probably be encouraging them to go home," Stackman says. "If they can’t, we will do our best. We will have limited housing available for a short period of time. I’m talking, like, maybe 50 beds.”
How will students form a sense of community in the altered dorm environment?
While students won’t be able to gather in large groups, small group and socially distanced activities will still be allowed and encouraged. Events that normally take place in large crowds will move online.
“Ultimately, I’m not sure yet because I haven’t seen it yet,” Stackman says.
What changes will be made in classrooms for safety?
Classes sizes will be reduced, rooms will be arranged to keep students at least six feet apart, and all students will be required to wear masks.
What if a student violates the COVID-19 protocol?
MU has strict guidelines that students and staff members are expected to follow. This includes following the City of Columbia's mask ordinance, which remains in effect until at least October 18, 2020.
If students see or know of someone violating the COVID-19 safety protocol, they can file a report with the Office of Accountability.
“Students who don’t comply will be taken through the conduct office,” Stackman says. “Hopefully, students will do the right thing because it is about our community and not just them.”