As the University of Oregon prepares for the upcoming school year, President Michael Schill provided an update on Wednesday about fall operations. The UO will have predominantly remote and online instruction for the fall.
In a letter and video announcement released on the UO website, Schill said the UO will implement a phased campus reopening. He said the university came to the decision after receiving guidance from the Oregon Health Authority, Lane County Public Health, and watching other universities across the country already shift from in-person to online instruction.
“We have learned valuable lessons from other states, communities, and institutions of higher education about what works and, more importantly, what does not work as it relates to managing the spread of the coronavirus,” wrote Schill. “We have also listened to you, the members of the UO community, through direct conversations with campus stakeholder groups, informal chats with friends and peers, as well as through more structured surveys of students, prospective students, faculty, and other employee groups.”
Schill also wrote that local K-12 school districts’ plans to be online also impacted the decision, as it makes it more difficult for faculty and staff to be on campus.
”I recognize the stress this puts on families, which makes it necessary to operate the university in a way that supports UO employees and their families as much as possible during these challenging times,” wrote Schill.
Campus buildings will not be open to the general public. All students will have access to remote and in-person campus resources and support services, such as academic and career advising, libraries, the Erb Memorial Union, the Student Rec Center, as well as quiet study spaces if students need to access on-campus Wi-Fi. In addition, faculty and staff will continue to have access to offices, research facilities, and some classrooms.
But most classes will be online.
“In a limited number of circumstances, such as with some labs, studio experiences, and other small classes, we will provide in-person instruction, in accordance with health and safety protocols,” wrote Schill. “This applies to training opportunities for graduate students.”
With classes online, many students petitioned for the UO to reduce tuition during the campus closure last spring. But Schill announced that the UO cannot reduce tuition if they are to maintain long-term operations.
“Even as we shift to a predominantly remote experience, the cost of providing a UO education has not changed nor has the value of a UO degree,” wrote Schill. “We still have to pay our faculty; we still provide academic and career advisors; we still maintain our facilities. In fact, we have increased expenses associated with providing the technological infrastructure for remote and online education and made additional investments in testing, health care, risk reduction strategies, and on-campus programs.”
UO residence halls will also be open, but incoming students are not required to live on-campus this year. Schill wrote first-year students will receive more information in the coming days. He said move-in for incoming students will involve in-person and virtual experiences.
“We want as many freshmen as possible to join us here in Eugene for a rich and rewarding in-person experience,” said Schill. “I know how important it is for folks new to college to take part in experiences that make their four years incredibly special. That is why I am very excited about the plans that are taking shape.”
All students living in UO residence halls will be required to be tested for COVID-19 when they move-in. Students will be tested again five to seven days later, then “periodically throughout the term.”
If students in residence halls violate the UO’s COVID-19 protocols, students will be evaluated, in a process which Schill said could lead to students being terminated from their residence hall.
Anyone on campus will be required to wear a face covering, practice social distancing, and other coronavirus safety protocols.
“It means doing a daily symptom self-check and staying home if you are sick,” wrote Schill. “It means keeping your circle of contacts small, avoiding large social gatherings, and refraining from other activities that could spread the virus.”
Schill said the UO will continue to work with public health professionals in order to expand their testing and contact tracing capacity over the fall term, “with the goal of returning to predominantly in-person instruction in January 2021.”
The UO will host a virtual town hall for students on September 3 and a town hall for all university employees on September 9, to provide updates and answer questions about the university’s response to coronavirus.