Fall Planning Rebalance Announcement from President Driscoll

Posted on 8/2/2020 7:35:47 PM

Students and Colleagues,

Cases of COVID-19 in our community and our state are on the increase, with projections for a continued upward trajectory of positive cases. As we have stressed in earlier messaging, new information may result in new—and quick—decision making.

With this very concerning information, we must move forward in a new direction that rebalances our commitment to protecting health and safety with our educational mission.

While most of our fall plan is unchanged with this rebalanced approach, we are making changes to reduce the number of students returning to campus for face-to-face instruction.

We have thought long and hard about what is best for our students and their academic success while balancing our prioritization of the health and safety of the IUP family and our home communities.

For the fall semester, these categories of students will return to campus for as much face-to-face class delivery as possible:

  • New freshmen. We have chosen to invite our new freshmen to campus with the understanding that a transition to college life is challenging, even in the best of circumstances, and remote instruction may not be the best option for them. The first semester of college is critical to success; having our new freshmen on campus will allow them to build communities, to acclimate to college life, and to become familiar with IUP. Welcome Week activities will be held as planned (some in person, some via technology), and new freshmen will move in to on-campus residence halls on August 15 and 16, as scheduled. More detailed information about move-in will be sent soon. Being physically present on campus is not required for all new freshmen; we will continue to work with students who have concerns about coming to campus on an individual basis to provide the best possible learning platform for them.

  • Students in academic programs that require them to be on campus. Academic deans have spent the last several days identifying these programs. Students in these programs will be notified directly this week. This includes many of IUP’s clock-hour programs, such as those offered by the Academy of Culinary Arts and the Criminal Justice Training Center.

  • Most students in graduate programs.

  • Most international students who are in the United States.

  • Students with special circumstances that require face-to-face instruction or their presence on campus. Special circumstances might include students who need a specific face-to-face experience to graduate, students with special learning needs, and students who do not have another place to live or who are not able to access remote learning at home. We will work with students in special circumstances on an individual basis to provide the best possible learning platform for them

Students not in these groups or programs are asked not to return to campus this semester and, instead, are asked to use technology to access their courses. Fall classes will begin August 24, as scheduled.

With this rebalance, significantly fewer students—perhaps a third of IUP’s student body—will be on campus and in the community. We do not have any reported or confirmed cases of coronavirus infection on our campuses at this time. This rebalanced plan is designed to enhance the work we have already done to mitigate risk for our students, employees, and communities.

Continuing students should look for further information throughout the week. We know that this new information is stressful, and we are doing everything we can to provide you with details related to your course schedule as quickly as possible.

We also are prepared to help you continue to be successful academically and socially in this rebalanced plan. Faculty members have completed training this summer to learn and practice new ways to present courses via distance learning. Classrooms are newly equipped with technology to provide a smooth, remote delivery of classes. Staff members also have participated in training and workshops on best practices related to use of technology to communicate with you and keep you engaged in programs and activities.

Employees in student-facing offices, such as the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of the Bursar, will help students in person, working within social-distancing guidelines. Many other employees will telework, if possible.

The Hawks Q&A Center, a question-and-answer service that offers live responses and an opportunity to submit questions via email, has been set up to provide information and help within 24 hours. It will be ready starting August 15. Other resources, including computer labs and the IUP Libraries, are arranged to maintain social distancing and will be open for students this fall. As we did in the spring, tutoring and other assistance will be offered remotely to the fullest extent possible.  

Cleaning and disinfecting will take place on a regular basis, following state and national guidelines. Signage and physical barriers designed to prevent transmission of the virus are being put in place.

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 and Prevention. We will indicate positive cases on our website, while protecting the privacy of individuals.

Each college or university must build its plan based on what it believes is best for its situation and must be prepared to change course as new information becomes known and understood. We have developed our plan based on guidelines of the CDC, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and American College Health Association. The plan focuses on protecting our employees, students, and community and on limiting transmission of the virus, while providing our students with the best educational experience possible. There are a number of critical principles in our fall planning that remain unchanged. I ask that you review these, once again, and understand the need to follow the important guidelines we have in place.

If we are to be healthy and safe, we need every member of the IUP community—students and faculty and staff members—to work together and to follow this framework. What each of us does—including students who are staying in off-campus housing and taking coursework remotely—will be critical to how the fall semester continues. If you are preparing to come to the community, please follow CDC guidelines about limiting travel and interactions with others. We are not an island, and an uptick in community cases could affect our ability to continue to have on-campus, face-to-face coursework. With your help and commitment to these guidelines during the fall semester, we will be even better prepared to move smoothly into spring 2021.

Thank you for your patience and for your understanding. I know that this is not what you expected and not what many of you wanted. You will undoubtedly have questions; more information will be coming throughout the week to prepare you for a successful fall semester.

I remain extraordinarily proud of how the IUP community has worked together to plan, plan again, and rebalance plans and how it now stands ready to execute that plan. In the worst of times, even though challenged and disappointed, Crimson Hawks never disappoint.

Stay safe and stay well. Take good care of yourself and others. 

Michael A. Driscoll
President