President Driscoll Explains Reasons for Fall 2020 Plan

Posted on 7/15/2020 11:55:22 AM

Colleagues/Students,

I hope that you and your families continue to be well and that you join me in looking forward to the fall semester. I am anxious to see you back on campus instead of on a computer screen, and I continue to be grateful for how everyone has adapted to our new way of doing business.

The Fall 2020 Planning Committee has developed a comprehensive plan for our fall return. You can find the details of our plan and a video message from me on our website. I ask that you read this information very carefully.

If we are to be healthy and safe, every member of the IUP community—students and faculty and staff members—must work together and follow the framework. What each of us does will be critical to how the fall semester continues.

You’ll find below the plan’s key points. They also have been the subject of questions and concerns expressed to me.

  • Masks or other kinds of face coverings are required in public space (unless you have a medical concern that exempts you from this requirement). All students and employees will receive reusable cloth face coverings in a safety kit we will issue when you return to campus. Departments will receive disposable masks for those who need a one-time-use face covering.

  • Learning will take place in a hybrid model. While classes will be offered face-to-face as much as possible, a portion of classes will take place via technology. We have installed the appropriate technology in classrooms, and, as possible, we will move classes to large spaces to permit face-to-face instruction while maintaining social distancing.

  • Social distancing is required in all spaces and during face-to-face classes, meetings, and events. As we have discussed in previous messages, classrooms and other shared spaces are being reconfigured to ensure social distancing. Dining services will have take-out and delivery processes in place for students, and we have developed guidance on our traditional large-group events and gatherings to follow these recommendations.

  • Our IUP Health Service will test symptomatic students and provide appropriate support in the case of a positive test. We have systems in place to do contact tracing and to observe quarantine procedures recommended by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. We will notify the campus community about positive cases on our website as well as protect the privacy of those who test positive.

  • Cleaning and disinfecting is taking place on a regular basis, in accordance with state and national guidelines. We are putting in place signage, as well as physical barriers that prevent transmission of the virus. We have worked to secure supplies to keep our facilities clean and sanitized.

  • IUP is a member of an Indiana County planning task force. We are working and will continue to work with our community. We will respond appropriately to any status change in our county, region, state, or nation.

Our plan reflects what students have told us. They want an in-person experience, and we know that teaching face-to-face is what we do best. We also recognize that for many students, learning in an online-only environment is frustrating and challenging. Some of our students do not have a safe home environment; others do not live in communities with infrastructure to support distance education.

IUP Student Assistance Fund

As you may have seen on our website and in the news, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference has suspended all mandated athletic competition and championships events through December 31, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will miss seeing the Crimson Hawks this fall, but we hope that athletic competition can return in the spring.

Each college or university must build its plan based on what it believes is best for its own situation. No one solution would work best for all institutions. We have developed our plan based on guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the American College Health Association. The plan focuses on limiting the virus’s transmission among employees and students and in the Indiana community.

The pandemic is a very fluid situation. As experts have gathered and analyzed data, recommendations have changed. Decisions have had to change. And, as more research is conducted and more conclusions reached, our decisions may have to change some more. As we return to campus, our plan will be tested and will evolve. We don’t know what the pandemic’s duration will be, so we all must try to get on with our lives, with adjustments, as best we can.

I applaud the Fall Planning Committee members for their commitment to this important work. I appreciate the leadership of cochairs Scott Moore and Paula Stossel. The committee of 40-plus faculty and staff members and students has been working diligently to develop the recommendations for a safe and healthy return to campus this fall.

As stated in previous communications, we will move forward with these principles as our foundation:

  • We will communicate new information and decisions as broadly and as quickly as possible, including posting all news on the website.

  • We will provide a high-quality educational experience.

  • We will maintain standards and initiatives that protect the health and safety of students and faculty and staff members and the health and safety of our home communities.

  • We will continue to hold fast the ties that bind the IUP family together.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact the Fall 2020 Planning Committee cochairs, Scott Moore (rsmoore@iup.edu) and Paula Stossel (pstoss@iup.edu).

Please continue to be well, take care of yourself and others, and look to the future. We will get through this together.