COVID-19 Task Force preps plans with commuters, international students in mind
By Joseph Cotton
As the fall semester quickly approaches, the university tightened loose ends surrounding students’ return to campus in an email announcement on July 9.
While Xavier has committed to having at least 50% of classes in person, classes may be offered in a hybrid form in which students rotate between being physically present in the classroom and learning remotely. The announcement also stated that technology upgrades including microphones and cameras are being installed in each classroom to seamlessly allow remote students access to the in-class lecture.
Other classes for the fall semester are expected to be fully remote due to space restriction and the need to protect at-risk faculty. Courses that will be fully remote will be designated as such by July 15.
Science labs, art studios, nursing labs and all other specialized spaces are being adjusted to maintain a hands-on experience. According to Vice President of Risk Management Jeff Coleman, who chairs the COVID-19 Task Force, these adjustments will include plexiglass between stations and the use of alternative spaces for classes that are able to relocate, such as dance.
“Each faculty member is taking a look at their space and working closely with our campus operations team and physical plant to adjust the space,” Coleman said. “Each space is so unique and needs to have its own design.”
Coleman expressed concerns for international students who may have their visas revoked due to executive orders signed by the Trump administration. The executive action would revoke the visas of students whose classes are fully remote. The action is currently being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and several other lawsuits have been filed.
“(Executive Director of Student Support Services, Enrollment Management) Lea Minniti and her team are working on our response (to the executive action),” Coleman said. “We’re working on multiple responses according to whether or not these actions stand.”
Currently, Xavier has 111 international students enrolled with approximately 50 currently outside of the United States. Coleman stated that he was confident in the ability of international students to be placed in in-person classes.
“The vast majority of classes are still available in person. I believe the number is around 90%,” Coleman said. “International students will have the same opportunity as domestic students to be in in-person classes.”
According to Coleman, some spaces on campus, such as those in the Heath United Building, Conaton Learning Commons and Cintas Center, may be modified to be used as a study or Zoom space.
“We recognize that students, especially commuters, may come to campus and have one class in-person and then have to go to a Zoom class, and then back to an in-person class,” Coleman said. “We know that students are going to need space to be able to do that.”
Coleman also indicated that the university is working on a system where students can reserve space if they know they are going to need it.
For major events with large gatherings, such as the LatinX Expo, the Hallowqueen Drag Show and cultural galas, the format will be reimagined to follow social distancing guidelines.
According to Coleman, the organizers of such events will monitor federal, state and local guidelines and adjust accordingly.
“They are all up in the air right now,” Coleman said. “We’re still looking for ways to have (major events), just in a different way.”
Furthermore, the university has been working with TriHealth to implement a Test, Treat and Trace program. Although not required, students will have access to testing as part of the program.
Students will be responsible for paying for testing and treatment.
“Any testing and treatment would go through the students’ regular medical insurance plan,” Coleman said. “So they would cover their normal deductibles and other expenses just as they would if they were seeing their family doctor.”
The university has also reserved space for those who test positive and need to go into isolation for treatment.
“Treatment, provided by TriHeath, would include daily visits as well as delivered food,” he said.
Xavier is also looking to reserve back-up spaces from third-parties around the county for those who need to be in isolation.
“We’re still thinking through that. No one knows how much space they should be reserved, “ Coleman said. “We think we’re at a good amount of space for us but if things flare up we would need to address it.”
Coleman also explained that the university will encourage those who test positive to go home depending on their home situation.
“Many students live a drivable distance away from campus and may want to return home,” he said. “However, many people have elderly relatives in their home, so they wouldn’t want to return to that environment. But if (returning home) was possible we would want them to do that.”
For the tracing part of the plan, the university will look back at the people who were in contact with individuals who test positive and notify those people. The university defines contact according to the Center for Disease Control guidelines, which is within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes.
Although the university is confident in their plan, Coleman indicated that they are willing to adapt to the circumstances.
“We’ve looked at a number of scenarios where we would have to change course due to things either externally or internally,” Coleman said. “(The COVID-19 Task Force) continues to meet every day and we’re spending a lot of our time thinking through different scenarios.”
The email also detailed changes to the on-campus dining experience. An article on these alterations is pending.
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