Southern Arkansas University, fresh from weekend commencement ceremonies for its spring and summer 2020 graduates, plunges this week into a fall semester that will end the week before Thanksgiving.
Students have already begun moving in with classes set to start on Tuesday.
It’s not yet known how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect on-campus enrollment.
A recent article by Morgan Polikoff, Dan Silver and Shira Korn in the journal “Inside Higher Ed,” headlined “What’s the Likely Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Ed?” examines many things that could impact enrollment. They include family-care responsibilities, changes in employment status due to the pandemic, and a desire to be close to home.
“In the immediate term, colleges and universities should consider programs to retain and support students, such as providing institutional grant aid to students forced to go part-time and increasing out-of-class assistance like mental health services for those students hit hardest by the pandemic. In the longer term, institutions should plan and budget to have more students enrolled than they may have in past years, as this cohort of students may need more time to complete their programs than is traditional,” they wrote.
SAU President Dr. Trey Berry recently urged everyone on campus to practice safety protocols.
The university’s Reopening Committee and Risk Management Task Force have worked to develop a 2020 Return to Campus Guide.
The lengthy document covers a wide range of topics affecting staff, faculty, students and visitors. Here are highlights:
Staff members who are at risk of serious effects from COVID-19 or who reside with a family member at risk of serious effects may request permission to work remotely. Remote work may be approved for up to 90 days.
Supervisors in areas where staff are in continuous close contact, such as office suites, must divide employees into two teams with alternating schedules between reporting to work on campus and working remotely. The use of teams will continue until it is determined that alternating teams are no longer necessary to ensure continuity of service.
Employees must complete a daily health screening and self-report results through an online portal.
Faculty members may also seek permission to teach remotely if they or family members have or at serious risk from COVID-19. Faculty must also complete a daily health screening.
Individual faculty members’ office doors will remain closed. Departmental and college offices will be open, but administrative assistants will be issued acrylic barriers to protect themselves, employees, and visitors.
SAU has had a face covering policy in place since July 15. Among its provisions:
All faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities/buildings where six feet social distancing may not always be possible.
All faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering outdoors when social distancing is not possible.
Appropriate face coverings are coverings that cover both the nose and mouth and do not contain holes or vents.
Face coverings are not required in one’s own dorm room or suite, when alone in an enclosed office or study room, or in campus outdoor settings where social distancing requirements are met.
No indoor on-campus events sponsored by external (non-SAU) groups will be permitted during fall semester. Outdoor events will be approved on a case-by-case basis.
For outdoor events, face coverings will be required when social distancing cannot be maintained.
All events held by campus groups will require proper social distancing, face coverings (where appropriate and/or practical), and cleaning and sanitizing before and after the event.
Capacities will be limited to current state of Arkansas directives and/or social distancing best practices.
Policies will be developed for large University activities such as Homecoming, Family Day, Mulegating and other outdoor university-sponsored events and be announced at a later date.
The SAU Aquatic Center is closed until further notice.
Meetings with Students or the Public
When possible, meetings should take place virtually or by phone. If this is not possible, meetings may also be held outdoors. In most cases, indoor face-to-face meetings should be limited to no more than three people.
Students and members of the public moving within SAU buildings must wear face coverings at all times.
Offices with significant guest contact should make every effort to begin scheduling appointments to ensure that guests can practice social distancing in waiting rooms and to allow time to sanitize work spaces between appointments.
Employees, students, and visitors in common rooms should wear face coverings at all times, unless eating, and should maintain a distance of six feet or more from any other individual.
The most recent user should clean shared copying machines, printers, etc., after each use.
Water fountains are shut off and usage is prohibited during this time.
Shared coffee pots, refrigerators, etc., are discouraged; however, if used, they should be cleaned after each use by the most recent user.
Reusable kitchen items (flatware, dishes, and cups) and cleaning tools (sponges, brushes, and towels) should be eliminated and replaced with single use options.
No more than two persons will be allowed on an elevator at any given time, with proper social distancing observed by those entering, exiting, and waiting for the elevator.
Monday, August 10 to Tuesday, August 11 -- Late registration and advising.
Tuesday, August 11 – Classes begin.
Tuesday, August 18 – Last day of entrance and course additions.
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day (virtual class day).
Tuesday, November 17 to Friday, November 20 – Final exams,
Saturday, November 21 – Fall commencement.