As UCCS prepares for a more physical return to campus for the Fall 2021 semester, many questions have arisen about the safety of doing so. Due to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and other factors, Chancellor Venkat Reddy and the Student Government Association (SGA) have begun planning for in-person classes, events and clubs.
Reddy and SGA President Aidan Meadows, a junior double majoring in political science and psychology, communicated their hopes for the upcoming semester via email and live meeting respectively.
Meadows indicated that the fall semester will be much more in-person, though he asked that the community take what he says with a grain of salt. He provided the knowledge he has at the moment but explained that changes happen every week.
“[Many] of the restrictions will be the same — still masks, still social distancing, but we might see bigger classes and more in-person classes on campus.”
Reddy elaborated on this, stating that the campus will “continue to provide various instructional modes to meet our community’s needs. This was true prior to the pandemic and will still be true this fall.”
He wanted students and faculty to know that, during the past year, they have learned a lot about the benefits of the wider array of course instructional modes and are planning for the majority of classes to take place in person. However, they anticipate that different instructional modes will continue to be represented in the fall.
Reddy clarified that due to the latest information from the local and state public health experts and vaccine rollout projections, they are anticipating that “social distancing requirements might be reduced by the start of the fall semester.”
Due to that expectation, they are planning for increased classroom capacities beyond current limits. Reddy wrote that he feels this is “prudent planning since it is easier to move classes from on-campus to remote rather than the other way around.”
Meadows said that students will likely see more required physical classes and that, to his knowledge, they are also removing the asynchronous class option. He said the reason for this removal is the similarity with the online option, which has created some confusion.
The other reason is that UCCS would like to encourage more in-person classes, or classes with in-person components such as HyFlex, synchronous, online and physical classes, according to Meadows.
Reddy stated that overall, outside of public health guidelines and the pandemic, the instructional mode is up to the faculty. “Looking toward the fall, classes which have been taught online prior to the pandemic are expected to continue online while experiential classes which are typically taught in person, such as laboratories and clinical experiences, are expected to be in person,” Reddy said.
Reddy wrote that the campus’ ability to “host large courses will depend on the health guidelines provided by the local and state public health experts.” The administration will also rely on faculty to determine whether these courses can be effectively taught in certain instructional modes.
Reddy acknowledged that some students will feel anxious about the transition to in-person learning. While the Office of Information Technology has upgraded many classrooms with cameras and microphones for remote delivery, not all classes are available in all instructional modes. Students may then choose classes that are offered in remote and online formats.
Reddy also mentioned that communicating with your professor to ask about different possibilities will be most effective.
Meadows commented that next semester it may be a bit harder to structure class schedules more remotely because of limited teachers and course options, but he said that he and SGA Vice President Rachel Cauwels are advocating for student safety and mental health.
“[Students] shouldn’t have to come to campus if [they] don’t feel secure and safe,” Meadows said.
Reddy wrote that planning is underway to safely welcome students back to campus activities like sports and arts events. “[The goal is] to have as many extracurricular activities on campus as possible, within public health guidelines.”
He also wrote that the campus athletic department is working closely with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) to determine how to best provide a full experience for athletes and student spectators.
Meadows believes that with the rollout of the vaccine, more intramural and club sports, which have faced practice limitations and event cancelations, will make a slow move back to what they once were.
Reddy conveyed the importance of these first-year experiences and assured that Student Affairs is creating a task force to help us answer that question. His hope is that the group will have a recommendation for first-year experiences in the near future.
Because UCCS is a public institution, they cannot legally require the vaccine as it is under an emergency use authorization, according to Meadows.
Reddy stated that while health experts are recommending everyone receives the vaccine, it is up to each individual to determine if they get it or not.
Meadows said that he would rather play it safe and have a slower start to in-person events next semester rather than jump into the deep end without knowing who is or is not vaccinated.
He said, “[I am] hopeful the majority of students [would] choose to get vaccinated.”
Reddy mentioned that by the start of next semester, all UCCS students, faculty or staff members should have had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He anticipates that “this may lead to changes in the local and state public health guidelines, providing more opportunities for on-campus classes and activities.”
UCCS is distributing the Moderna vaccine. At the moment, the vaccine is being offered to front-facing student employees, faculty and staff. A lot of the general student body will, or have, probably received emails regarding how to get access.
For more information regarding vaccine distribution, see the UCCS COVID-19 information website.
Meadows said that UCCS is continuing to move forward and that even though students do not get to see the conversations happening, he promises that they are indeed happening and student input is involved. They strive to put the student perspective above all, even if it does not always feel that way.
Reddy also remained hopeful for the option for everyone to be on campus once again, but he wanted to “remind everyone that our number one priority is and will always be the safety of our students, faculty, and staff.” He said that UCCS COVID-19 task forces will continue to ensure that the campus follows health guidelines and protects the community.