COVID-19 graph

During these unprecedented times, public universities across the nation are attempting to traverse the uncharted territory that is socially distanced online learning. The majority of public universities are implementing mostly online and hybrid coursework—classes that are either fully taught virtually, or switch between online and in-person each day.

However, after UNC Chapel Hill transitioned from hybrid to fully online within weeks of re-opening for fall, many universities were criticized for operating residence halls at full capacity and having students attend classes in-person—LSU being one of them—due to the risk it posed for students.

Flagship universities across the South have been some of the colleges hit hardest by COVID-19 since the start of the fall semester, whether it be due to their larger enrollment counts or their COVID-19 policies. About 45 universities in the nation have over 1,000 positive cases of COVID-19, including LSU, according to The New York Times—24 of those colleges are in the South.

But how does LSU’s Roadmap to Fall compare to these other Southern flagship universities’ reopening plans?

The Reveille compiled data, reports and news articles from six flagship universities with similar enrollment counts: Louisiana State University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Alabama, Ole Miss, University of Georgia and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The following information is a comprehensive comparison of the universities’ re-opening guidelines, COVID-19 case counts and recent news, including classroom policies, mask requirements, residence hall policies, COVID-19 outbreaks and more.

All COVID-19 numbers in this report are as of Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020.


How many cases of COVID-19 are there on campus and in the area?

First Day Back in School

LSU students head to class Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020 on their first day of school in the Quad on LSU's campus.

LSU: 1,124 (since Aug. 24)

  • Total enrollment: 25,300
  • East Baton Rouge Parish: 15,504

UT Austin: 923 (since Aug. 26)

  • Total enrollment: 40,163
  • Travis County: 30,601

Alabama: 2,505 (since Aug. 19)

  • Total enrollment: 33,028
  • Tuscaloosa County: 9,702

Ole Miss: 793

  • Total enrollment: 16,545
  • Lafayette County: 2,395

UGA: 3,507 (since Aug. 10)

  • Total enrollment: 29,848
  • Clarke County: 5,435

UNC Chapel Hill: 1,241 (since February)

  • On Monday, Aug. 17, UNC Chapel Hill transitioned back to fully virtual courses after 177 students tested positive and 349 students were in quarantine in one week.
  • Total enrollment: 19,117
  • Orange County: 2,874

Did tuition change due to COVID-19?

LSU: LSU did not lower tuition and fees for the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19.

UT Austin: UT Austin did not lower tuition and fees for the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19.

Alabama: The University of Alabama did not lower tuition and fees for the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19.

Ole Miss: Ole Miss did not lower tuition and fees for the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19.

UGA: The University of Georgia did not lower tuition and fees for the Fall 2020 semester due to COVID-19.

UNC Chapel Hill: UNC Chapel Hill offered students having need-based financial aid both a $200 interest supplement and a $400 relocation allowance.


Are there mask requirements?

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Photo courtesy of UT Austin.

LSU: Face coverings are required in all public spaces on campus, and the University provided free face masks to the student body at the start of the semester. Face shields do not substitute face coverings.

UT Austin: Face masks are required when inside buildings on campus.

Alabama: Face masks are required inside all facilities as well as indoor and outdoor academic or student events.

Ole Miss: Face masks are required when inside buildings on campus and when social distancing cannot be achieved. COVID-19 ambassadors have been stationed at high-concentrated buildings tasked with handing out masks and hand sanitizer to students.

UGA: Face masks are required when inside buildings on campus and when social distancing cannot be achieved.

UNC Chapel Hill: Face coverings were required in all public spaces on campus except in the recreational center.


Are there guidelines on social distancing?

LSU: Students and faculty are encouraged to social distance at all times.

UT Austin: Social distancing is required while in any public space on campus.

Alabama: Social distancing is required while in any public space on campus.

Ole Miss: Social distancing is required while in any public space on campus.

UGA: Social distancing is required while in any public space on campus.

UNC Chapel Hill: Students and faculty were encouraged to social distance at all times.


Any on-campus living changes?

LSU: The dorms are all at full capacity, and the University has already faced controversy as a result of their handling of dorm life and move-in processes for freshmen. The University does, however, have 75 spaces in on-campus apartments and 50 spaces both on and off campus to quarantine students.

  • No guests are allowed in residence halls or in Greek housing.

  • First-year students are required to live on campus.

  • Students are required to wear masks when not in their dorms.

  • Common spaces, like study areas and shared bathrooms, are cleaned daily.

UT Austin: Students are required to wear face masks anytime they are outside of their room and whenever staff need to enter their rooms.

  • Students were asked to sign an amendment to their housing contracts prior to move-in agreeing to health and safety protocols.
  • Shared living spaces, such as study areas and shared bathrooms, will be cleaned daily.

  • Students will receive an adjusted housing bill if they move out of their residence hall before Nov. 30.

Alabama: Isolation and Quarantines for on-campus housing consists of around 500 spaces available. Students, however, are recommended to return to another location such as home.

  • No visitors are allowed inside residence halls.

  • No visitors if they are not a resident of the building. 

  • Sorority and Fraternity houses may be accessed by members that do not live there but only for meals and organized meetings. 

Ole Miss: 

  • No guests are allowed in residence halls or in Greek housing.

  • First-year students are required to live on campus.

  • Students are required to wear masks when not in their dorms.

UGA:

  • No guests are allowed in residence halls or in Greek housing.

  • First-year students are required to live on campus.

  • Students are required to wear masks when not in their dorms.

UNC Chapel Hill: “Student residents were asked to cancel their Housing Contracts for the Fall 2020 semester and return to their permanent homes on August 18, 2020. Students had the opportunity to cancel housing contracts by August 25, 2020 with no penalty.”

  • Masks were required in all common areas. 

  • One residence hall was designated for students to quarantine in, while another was designated for students to isolate in. 


Did class sizes and formats change?

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Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama.

LSU: All classes over 100 students are fully virtual, while classes between 11 and 99 students will be either in-person, hybrid or virtual, which is up to the discretion of the professor and department.

Classrooms are at 50% capacity and stocked with sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer. All desks in classrooms are distanced 6 feet apart, and most classrooms also feature plexiglass coverings at each podium for professors.

UT Austin: Only 5% of classes are fully in-person, while 19% of classes are hybrid. The remaining 76% of classes at UT Austin are fully virtual. 

Classes that are in-person are seated at 40% capacity, adhere to social distancing guidelines and are stocked with cleaning supplies.

Alabama: Eighty percent of classes are either hybrid or in-person.

Ole Miss: Classrooms have been designated as acceptable and non-acceptable for hybrid and on-campus classes with social distancing.

UGA: Classes will be taught face-to-face with social distancing. Some classes will be hybrid while others will be fully in-person.

UNC Chapel Hill: Undergraduate classes are fully online.


What are the consequences for breaking the rules?

LSU: The University has no set punishment for those who disregard COVID-19 regulations, but doing so is considered a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.

Professors are required to ask students to leave the class should they refuse to wear a mask. 

UT Austin: “Students who do not comply with the university’s Institutional Rules or University Housing and Dining policies may be referred to Student Conduct and Academic Integrity in the Office of the Dean of Students for further action.”

Alabama: The University says that “leniency of rule-breaking will be limited” and that the severity of the situation will result in possible punishments ranging from a warning to a year-long suspension.

Ole Miss: If a student is not following guidelines and responds in a way to trigger a report they will be asked to leave the area, put on probation, the report will be on their record, pay a $150 fine and have to redo their COVID-19 training (they have 10 days to complete this).

Depending on the severity of the response or frequency of the violations these consequences could be increased to a $500 fine, a reflection paper or removal from campus. Student Organizations could also be fined by number of members for violations.

UGA: The University has no set punishment for those who disregard COVID-19 regulations, but doing so is considered a violation of the Code of Student Conduct.

UNC Chapel Hill: The University had no set punishment for those who disregard COVID-19 regulations, but doing so was considered a violation of the Code of Student Conduct. Read more about it here.


What "triggers" will move courses online?

ole miss.jpg

Photo courtesy of Ole Miss News.

LSU: University administration has not released any specific ‘triggers’ that would move courses online, such as a positive case limit. The University is monitoring COVID-19 cases as they arise and is making decisions based on those numbers.

UT Austin: University administration has not released any specific ‘triggers’ that would move courses online, such as a positive case limit.

Alabama: University administration has not released any specific ‘triggers’ that would move courses online, such as a positive case limit. UT Austin is monitoring COVID-19 cases as they arise and making decisions based on those numbers.

Ole Miss: University administration has not released any specific ‘triggers’ that would move courses online, such as a positive case limit. Ole Miss administration says that if guidelines are not met then “restrictions will be raised.”

UGA: University administration has not released any specific ‘triggers’ that would move courses online, such as a positive case limit.


Is there a COVID-19 case counter?

LSU: Yes, and you can find it here.

UT Austin: Yes, and you can find it here. You can also see the locations of specific clusters here.

Alabama: Yes, and you can find it here.

Ole Miss: Yes, and you can find it here.

UGA: Yes, and you can find it here.

UNC Chapel Hill: Yes, and you can find it here. You can also find specific clusters here.


What about on-campus testing?

LSU: The University has 7 different locations for students to get tested for free.

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Map of COVID-19 Testing Locations on LSU's campus, courtesy of the LSU Roadmap to Fall.

  • LSU Student Health Center

    • Requires recommendation from a clinician

    • Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    • Open Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

  • Corner of Tower Drive and Free Speech Alley in front of the LSU Student Union

    • Open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • South side of the UREC and the sorority houses
    • Open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • POD I: Nicholson Drive next to the LSU Foundation Building 

    • Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    • Open Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • POD II: South Stadium Drive across from Tureaud Hall

    • Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    • Open Saturday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

  • POD III: South Campus Drive behind Annie Boyd Hall and across from Laville Residence Halls

    • Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    • Open Saturday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • POD IV: Dalrymple Drive adjacent to the Pentagon Residence Halls

    • Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    • Open Saturday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

UT Austin: UT Austin tests students using in-house labs and three rapid testing machines, which offer results in 15 minutes, according to the Texas Tribune. UT Austin has pledged to test 5,000 students per week.

Alabama: On-campus testing is available at the student health center.

Ole Miss: As of Aug. 8, asymptomatic students can now get tested on campus along with symptomatic students.

UGA: Students can receive free COVID-19 testing at the University Health Center, regardless of symptoms, by appointment-only.

UNC Chapel Hill: UNC Chapel Hill offers on-campus testing at their student health center.


What coverage has there been from on-campus newspapers?

UT Austin: Find out here at The Daily Texan.

Alabama: Find out here at The Crimson White.

Ole Miss: Find out here at The Daily Mississippian.

UGA: Find out here at The Red & Black.

UNC Chapel Hill: Find out here at The Daily Tar Heel.


Since the start of school, have there been any major events, such as large parties on campus, outbreaks or campus shut-downs? 

unc chapel hill.jpg

Photo courtesy of WBTV

LSU:

  • RAs have spoken out against how Residential Life has handled COVID-19.
  • The University has received many criticisms for their tracking of COVID-19 via their daily symptom checker.
  • Mandatory testing is an option that is being weighed by administration, along with continue online education into next semester.

UT Austin:

  • The Daily Texan published an editorial article asking the University to hold students accountable for violating protocols, particularly against Greek Life, who have allegedly been hosting parties and large gatherings without the use of masks. 

Alabama:

Ole Miss:

UGA:

  • For the third week in a row, positive cases of COVID-19 among faculty, staff and students declined sharply at the University of Georgia—this time dropping to the lowest number to date: 63 cases during the week of September 21 – 27. This news comes contrasted against last month, when the Associated Press said that the University of Georgia had the fastest-growing outbreak out of any Georgia school that is publicly reporting numbers.
  • Some local bars are declining local enforcement of mask mandates.

Anything else to know?

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Aerial of McWhorter, Vandiver, Rooker and Busbee residence halls that make up the East Campus Village Community. Building 1516 residence hall, part of the Reed Community, is at the left rear.

LSU:

  • Students and faculty were required to fill out the return to campus form at the start of the semester to assess attitudes toward safety protocols, symptoms and past exposure to COVID-19.

  • Students and faculty are required to fill out a daily symptom checker to self-monitor symptoms and to be approved to enter campus.

  • As of now, the University will be fully virtual following Thanksgiving break.

UT Austin: 

  • Students are required to complete daily symptom screenings prior to entering campus.

Alabama:

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