In a lengthy email message to returning students, incoming freshmen, transfer students, faculty and staff, President Michael Driscoll outlined what he calls a “teamwork” style of classroom education that most students would experience in their return to IUP.
Classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 24.
Driscoll also described arrangements for the residence halls, food services, office functions, special arrangements for first-year students and assistance for those enduring financial hardship.
The president deferred to the NCAA for guidelines on sports competition.
“It feels good to tell you this. I miss seeing students on campus. A recent survey confirmed for us that you want face-to-face instruction this fall,” Driscoll wrote.
Classes would be run in hybrid fashion, with students divided into teams that would rotate their in-person participation, in sanitized and socially distanced classrooms. Those not assigned for the brick-and-mortar classes would stay in their apartments or dorms and log in on Zoom for online instruction.
Driscoll said IUP has borrowed from workplace experiences and relied on university surveys of the student body to design the instruction plan.
“Academics are the heart and soul of our work. Face-to-face instruction is the cornerstone of what we do, and that is our intent for this fall,” Driscoll told students. “However, because of our commitment to health and safety, classes will be formatted to maintain social-distancing recommendations while focusing on real-time instruction and delivery.”
Faculty and staff will be trained during the summer to plan, organize, teach and support students in the technology-based courses.
Driscoll said student organizations found ways to gather members for remote meetings after the campus was shut down, and IUP’s Student Government Association would meet over the summer to help other student organizations to engage students online and transition to in-person meetings and activities following the evolving health guidelines.
“Club and organization advisers continue to work closely with involved students to maintain a sense of connection and community in these groups,” he said.
In addition to adapting to online and remote methods for academic purposes, Driscoll said IUP has developed online structures and chat features for all other matters between students and the university, reflecting a “new perspective on service and solutions.”
“When you arrive in August, you will find a one-stop resource center (virtual at first), designed to answer a broad range of questions during times that are convenient to students. We are looking at how shifting employee work schedules and establishing online live chat options also will better serve you,” he said.
Further, Driscoll said IUP is training staffers in a “student support and engagement team,” including personal guides to help first-year students make the vast transition from family home life to the increasingly digital independent life they will experience when they move to Indiana.
“Our Student Support and Engagement Team in the Student Affairs Division developed this new program to make sure you don’t get lost in your new environment. You will connect with your guide during Welcome Week in August,” he said.
Students staying in the on-campus suites will be limited to one person per bedroom and no more than two people per bathroom.
“All shared living-learning areas in the residence halls will be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis,” according to Driscoll’s emailed memo.
On-campus dining arrangements will resume in the fall much as they were offered in March and April, under strict sanitization procedures and social distancing for service and dining.
Campus custodial crews over the summer will install hand sanitizer stations in all buildings and post signs reminding everyone of social distancing in the common areas throughout IUP, Driscoll said.
IUP, he said, would rely on American College Health Association guidelines along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health standards as they are issued.
“We look forward to welcoming you with a return-to-campus package of hand sanitizer, mask and other items intended to help keep you safe and healthy,” Driscoll promised the students. “The faculty and staff members you encounter will have appropriate personal protective equipment, so that personal risk to you is minimized.”
Whether sports fans ever get to pack George P. Miller Stadium or Ed Fry Arena in the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex to cheer on the Crimson Hawks athletic teams would be up to others to decide, he said.
“The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference regulates our athletic schedules, which were suspended in March, and we will look for guidance from both the PSAC and the NCAA on when teams can resume competition. We will make decisions about major university events as we get additional guidance from national and state officials about gatherings.”
Driscoll encouraged students in personal financial need and those whose families have endured COVID-19 restriction-related hardship to seek help. PaSSHE held tuition at 2019-20 levels and IUP capped its fees for the upcoming year to help ease the burden on all students.
“Just as we distributed more than $15 million in refunds and financial support in the spring, we will be flexible about finances, including deposits, refunds and holds on student accounts,” according to Driscoll’s message. “The IUP Emergency Response Fund, which was established to provide financial help to students negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and which was funded by donations, will continue to support students as funds are available.”
IUP was among the last of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities to formally abandon face-to-face classroom instruction in mid-March as the COVID-19 outbreak spread in the U.S.
“Change — mixed with a lot of the unknown — has become normal. While life at IUP will be different going forward, some things will never change: incredible professors delivering classes that will interest and challenge you; an environment that will keep you safe; and a community that will always care for you and motivate you to greatness,” Driscoll concluded. “I can’t wait to see you this fall.”