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Ohio U announces fall reopening recommendations

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Ohio University has made public recommendations for reopening its Athens campus for the fall 2020 semester, which President Duane Nellis accepted at the Board of Trustees meeting Friday.

The plan outlines a hybrid of in-person and online instruction with 72 recommendations to mitigate the risk the novel coronavirus poses on campus.

Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Bradley Cohen highlighted three recommendations: utilizing Blackboard for all courses, requiring face coverings at all university facilities and recommending all university community members commit to a social compact.

Per student recommendation, Cohen said utilizing Blackboard for all courses for at least basic course information, such as a syllabus, will create continuity across courses.

With the recommendation of requiring face coverings, students would be asked to provide their own, with some disposable masks available if a student forgets their mask.

The social compact idea, developed by the public work group, would promote community agreement to behavior that protects everyone, according to Cohen. Faculty Senate Chair Robin Muhammad will lead the creation of the compact with the help of other university senate chairs.  

In an email regarding the updates, President Nellis highlighted the adjusted academic calendar. Ohio U’s semester will begin Aug. 24 and on-campus instruction will conclude Nov. 20, with the remainder of the semester and exams completed remotely. Fall break is also eliminated.

The email also said Ohio U is working to reduce the population density in residence halls and develop “strategic” dine-in options at dining halls, in addition to carry out and to-go options. 

Cohen brought up traditional fall events that are staples of the student experience at Ohio U, such as Halloween, homecoming and parents weekend. Ohio U will be working with the city of Athens to look into managing or developing alternatives for these events, according to Cohen. 

“The success of returning to and staying on campus is highly dependent on the widespread adoption of health recommendations, especially by our student body,” Cohen read from the report. 

Cohen continued, “Fundamentally, the set of principles and recommendations is intended to balance safety with delivery of an engaging, connected Ohio University experience.”

Cohen explained that the groups addressed five areas of concern: campus safety, academic program delivery, campus life, research and creative activity and promoting a safe work environment on campus. From there, the groups created 72 recommendations. 

“These recommendations are in no way exhaustive, but identify the key themes that emerged in all the work group reports,” Cohen said. 

The detailed plan is a synthesis of the recommendations by a coordinating council and eight work groups, consisting of 138 university faculty, administration, staff and students. 

“This has been an extraordinary effort and a true commitment of shared governance,” Nellis said. 

In Nellis’s email, he concluded with a call for compassion as a community. 

“While Ohio University’s typical and traditional operations have been disrupted by the existence of COVID-19, it is important for all members of our university community to embrace a culture of care for one another,” Nellis wrote. “We must acknowledge that, in navigating a worldwide health crisis, individuals are impacted differently by both the threat to health and to our operational changes.”

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