Reveille reporters sat down with administration leaders in a Friday afternoon Zoom meeting to discuss the upcoming semester. Interim President Thomas Galligan, Executive Vice President & Provost Stacia Haynie and School of Veterinary Medicine Dean Joel Baines were all in attendance.
Some of the topics covered include:
Galligan and Haynie said returning to campus is important for two reasons: There’s a certain “magic” that comes with interactive learning, and it is the popular opinion among students and faculty.
“We have asked our faculty 'do they want to be back on campus or do they want to be teaching remotely,' and the majority of our faculty want to be back on campus interacting with our students, and we hear from our students that they are ready to be back,” Haynie said.
Still, no one should expect a complete return to normalcy. Daily temperature checks and masks will become routine, and students will have their classes in-person only if there are less than ten students. Larger classes will assume hybrid or virtual format. Haynie said the University will accommodate professors who desire to teach remotely, and students who are not comfortable returning to campus should contact their advisers to find a solution.
Galligan said the mask mandate was added to employee and student codes of conduct. Non-compliance will result in discipline through the traditional routes. Haynie said that, based on what she has seen of University students and faculty this summer, she does not anticipate a compliance problem.
“We just aren't seeing students who don't appreciate how important this is not just around helpful for the health of other students here,” Haynie said.
Baines said he taught 140 students in the veterinary clinic this summer, in a "very intimate environment." He said all of his students wore masks responsibility, and all of the COVID-positive cases had been a result of attending events off-campus.
"We have not had a single incident of internal spread because everyone was wearing masks," Baines said.
Haynie said she has been working with the Faculty Senate executive committee to coordinate modified attendance policies and allow students to stay home without grade penalties if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“Certainly, class attendance, whether it's zoom or otherwise is critical, but the faculty understand that a student who is experiencing symptoms or a student who tests positive for coronavirus is a University absence,” Haynie said.
The University released an updated roadmap for the upcoming fall 2020 semester on July 10.
Vice President Mike Pence visited Louisiana to meet with Gov. John Bel Edwards and LSU officials on Tuesday afternoon.
Galligan said he is “absolutely concerned” about the possibility of an outbreak or fatality on campus.
“I want us to be as safe as we possibly can to minimize that risk,” Galligan said.
One preventive measure is a symptom tracker app which students will be instructed to fill out on a daily basis. The app will ask students a number of questions regarding symptoms and then provide a recommendation as to whether they should go to class or get tested.
If a student tests positive, the app will also help trace where the student has been so that close contacts can be informed. Close contact is defined as 6’ for 10-15 minutes.
Galligan said there are various “trigger points” guiding the University’s reopening phases and a potential closure. Some of the guidelines include: Absenteeism of faculty, testing capacity both on campus and in the Baton Rouge area and hospital capacity. He said there is a plan for isolation if someone is diagnosed as positive, and the numbers of students and faculty being isolated will be consistently monitored.
“I expect the next week or so we will get even more concrete putting numbers to those things,” Galligan said. “But we’re studying those things right now.”
Galligan does not want to go 100% remote, and he does not believe it will be necessary, but the University is prepared for an emergency shutdown.
Haynie acknowledged the possibility of an outbreak or fatality on campus but said it was still important to continue research and education as much as possible.
“I think, you know, I'm home,” Haynie said. “I'm at my home. Now, I am at risk because I go to the grocery store, and there’s a possibility of a risk living our lives. What we're trying to do is ensure that within this new reality we're all facing that we are able to continue to support our students and support our faculty in their education and their scholarly research and creative works and to be able to do so with health and safety guarding our plans.”
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Galligan said he’s been in frequent meetings with SEC presidents to discuss the likelihood of a fall football season. They are hoping to see a fall football season in some form and are encouraged by the return of MLB.
Major league baseball players, Galligan said, are similar to college athletes. They go home at night and are not “living in a bubble” like the NBA, and they also do a lot of traveling. The success of MLB’s return will likely influence the return of college football.
Galligan does not anticipate an ethical issue with recurrent testing of football players. Although players will have to be tested with a greater frequency than the general student population, he hopes there will be adequate testing capacity for both players and students who are experiencing symptoms.
As important as football is to the University, Galligan said it was not a factor when deciding to return to campus.
“Even if we don’t play football, we can have students safely back on campus,” Galligan said. “And in terms of the, the, the financial aspects of football both our athletic department and us and the Southeast Conference are looking at all sorts of ways to mitigate the financial impact of not playing.”
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The University is not offering lower tuition for the fall semester. Galligan said, whether online or in a physical classroom, students will still receive the same education. Virtual learning and increased sanitary precautions are also justifying the monetary value.
“There’s been investments in technology and things to make the campus safer,” Galligan said. “Enhanced cleaning. The things that we’re doing to make sure the residence halls are as safe as possible. So, the cost structure has actually gone up.”
LSU Residential Life charged early move-out fees to students who left their on-campus housing due to COVID-19.
Although there is still an on-campus housing requirement for all incoming freshman, Haynie said immunocompromised students or anyone who does not feel comfortable coming back to campus may be able to negotiate.
“We are working very carefully with any student who lets us know that they do not want to be on our campus and to ensure they are able to make that choice without penalty.
Haynie said designated isolation housing is available for dormitory residents who test positive, and the University is coordinating with local hotels for additional space. The students will have virtual academic support and food delivered to their rooms.
“If we reach a point where we are not able to maintain the health and safety of the campus, we will make that decision to go remote,” Haynie said.
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