LSU Interim President Tom Galligan and Executive Vice President and Provost Stacia Haynie and other University officials have provided updates regarding the upcoming fall 2020 semester in zoom meetings with over a thousand faculty members throughout June.
With the whirlwind change of pace due to the coronavirus pandemic, issuing a cancellation of the May and August 2020 commencement, Galligan wants graduates to know their commencement will happen, “whether it’s in October, whether that’s in December, we will celebrate them in person."
Galligan is hopeful students and personnel can attend campus on schedule for the fall, but he is considering having a virtual opening of the semester, and when it is safe to do so, there will be a later physical arrival to the campus.
"We'll need to continue to work remotely, and we certainly want to be supportive of that, but we also want to be able to get those faculty who need to be back in their labs to do their work back in their labs," Haynie said.
Vice President of the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) Samuel Bentley chimed in to say how happy he is that the University's research remains strong. He said he has worked with numerous public universities to devise a multi-stage plan for the entirety of campus operations in terms of restarting campus life in coordination with deans, unit heads, the Office of Research in consultation with emergency operations and with academic affairs.
"We're really proud of all of the research and development activities that you have all been doing over the last more than over a month now," Bentley said. "From faculty and from staff, from students who've been contributing to all kinds of exciting new endeavors like personal protective equipment making hand sanitizer doing all kinds of other things."
Bentley added the University has provided PPE to medical professionals, invented new technology to sterilize N95 masks and provided biomedical safety training to first responders throughout Louisiana.
Because of COVID-19, transmission research facilities are potentially hazardous work environments, according to Bentley.
"We as a University, researchers and artists, we're defined by the work that we do, and remote operations pose a serious hindrance to do this work," Bentley said. "If spikes of COVID-19 appear, at that point, we would have to revert to reduce research presence on campus again until conditions improve." He added the majority of the research being conducted is aimed towards addressing disparities, health, education — all factors of racial inequities.
Building services custodial staff have received updated training on disinfecting techniques and enhanced cleaning, including restrooms being cleaned twice daily, doorknobs and stair railings cleaned once a day and break room appliance handles will be cleaned once daily, Layzell said. The minimum cleaning for classrooms will occur once a day for door knobs, light switches, chairs and desks as are other hard and high touch services.
If a known case of COVID-19 has been in a building space, the University will bring in a third party contractor to clean and disinfect the space following CDC guidance. The infected space will need to be closed for at least 24 hours for the contractor to sanitize the area.
"It's likely we may have to have some online component or portions of the course online, so that we preserve flexibilities should we have a surge," Haynie said. "If there's a new surge and we have to pivot again, so we know that those are going to present challenges, but again, we are committed obviously for having that fall experience and having our students on campus, but it also means that we will have to remain flexible." She continues to praise the faculty for their innovation during the transition to online lectures.
The University will conduct random virology and serology testing among 10-16% of the student population, according to Galligan.
Galligan added the University is in the final stages of creating a voluntary contact tracing app in coordination with Southern University. The app will include the name of the infected person and what their locations were. This will help others detect a potential cluster and who they have to inform that they were potentially exposed to COVID-19.
"Our plan has to incorporate both the care that we know we need with the reasonable assumptions we're going to make more progress," Galligan said. "If we do not make more progress, what's going to happen? The plan is going to change."
Vice President for Enrollment Management Jose Aviles said of the incoming freshman class, 2,707 students, 36% of them — based on deposits — are coming from historically under-represented minority groups. For completed housing contracts there are 6,788, and the University has surpassed over 6,700 students who've registered for orientation.
"The best we can tell is the students are continuing to engage and go down into the next phases of the funnel at the rate that tells us that it really is materializing," Aviles said. "It really is the case that they are progressing onto the next phases and are continuing to show that their intention of truly being here this fall."
Nationally, deposits are down by 10% throughout the country, according to Aviles, and for the south specifically, deposits are down by 8%.
"Our focus really at this point is with continuing students, so all the students who are rising juniors and seniors at this point, continuing student progression looks to be behind by about three points, so we have some work to do there," Aviles said. He added the University is actively reaching out to these students to ensure they are aware that "we want them back so that there is opportunity to be served."
Jeremiah Shinn says occupancy for residential services will be limited to no more than two people in a room, limiting the University's three and four person rooms.
Move-in day experience will be different for the fall. Usually, faculty, staff and current students help families move freshmen into their rooms, but because of limitations, the day long move in period will likely be a five day move in period due to the absence of help and no more than three people in an elevator.
"Our residential life staff is intentionally designing move-in appointments to maximize physical distancing, and so they're going to great lengths to be sure that we're as intentional as we can possibly be so that we can get folks moved in," Shinn said.
Custodial staffing has been increased to fully detail clean community bathrooms twice a day, according to Shin. There will also be two additional disinfectant treatments everyday with electrostatic sprayers, and household grade disinfectant will be available at all times for use by students in the bathroom with signage.
A residential life staffer will be dedicated to cleaning the communal bathrooms everyday, throughout the day, with a full detail clean in the morning and the afternoon with two additional treatments with electrostatic sprayers throughout the day.
For computer labs and residential areas, there will be an ozone machine to disinfect those spaces twice a day, which was used during the mumps outbreak on campus a year ago. Elevators are going to be disinfected several times a day. External spaces, tables, benches, chairs, bike racks, newspaper receptacles will be sprayed with electrostatic spray 3 times a day even outside.
Hand sanitizers will be located throughout each building by entrances elevators. Sanitizing hand wipes will be located in offices at community desks in computer labs to disinfect keyboards services phones, etc prior use.
The library, student union, dining halls and the Barnes & Noble will be open but will have capacity restrictions.
In the event a suite mate tests positive for coronavirus, the University will test the person's roommate and suite mates, advising them to return home if possible. There will be an on campus and off campus space set aside for quarantine and isolation.
"We will communicate immediately with the community that exists around those students that are found positive," Shinn said. "We'll close the bathroom used by those students and do a full detail clean of those, fog down the hallways, the study halls...to be sure that we have done all that we can to eliminate the contagion." Then they will initiate the contact tracing protocol.
Vice provost for academic programs and support services Matthew Lee says the University needs to reduce the density of people in interactions on campus to maintain “the healthiest environment possible.”
Classes with more than 100 or more students will be moved online and remote learning environments.
For spaces unable to maintain six feet of distance, face masks or shields must be worn, with hand cleaning and sanitizing efforts.
All classrooms will be scheduled at 50% occupancy.
Classes with ten or less students, they will be able to meet as regularly scheduled, and everyone is expected to wear a mask.
Classrooms will be set to facilitate lecture capture or live streaming to help ensure things are as accessible to students as we can make them.
The University is still evaluating the viability of ultra high volume spaces, such as testing in computer labs.
“We’re making really good progress,” Lee said. “We’re closing in on plans to allow us to serve our students really across an extraordinary array of disciplines that we have here at the World Class flagship institution.”
Haynie said deans will be sharing with department chairs and with the faculty to determine how they intend to approach their classroom instruction for the fall.
“Certainly if someone is immunocompromised and wishes to seek online, we would want to know that too [and] track data, trying to ensure that we are able to get students in and out safely. Masks will be required, as had been noted, and it will be a university directive, therefore students who are not in compliance, will be in violation of the code of student conduct,” Haynie said. “We certainly are working toward creating and crafting all of those guidelines, and there will certainly be more as we are working through carefully those data.”
Scheduled classes will not be changed at this point for any faculty members, according to Haynie.
“We’re trying to be as transparent with you as possible. As we’re learning more, we are adjusting our plans,” Haynie said. “The safety and the health of our students, faculty and staff are the priority. As [Galligan] said, we are assuming progress for the fall, so we are excited and we know that this is going to be challenging for all of us, but I also know that we are a creative and bright and innovative who will meet this challenge just as we did in the spring.”