As the start of the fall 2020 semester draws closer, DePauw University scrambles to provide students with information about housing, classes, athletics, special events and safety requirements under the new reality of COVID-19. Students are expected to make a decision about their fall plans by July 8, or they are subject to a $500 fee.
Here’s what we know from the emails, the university’s website, and a conversation with Julia Sutherlin Proctor, chair of the COVID-19 task force:
Online classwork will start Aug. 17 as announced in an email on June 5. The email said coursework such as reading assignments and forum posts will be assigned for each course, but “because students may be traveling during this time, this online coursework will be structured so it can be completed on student’s own time.”
Normal class work will begin Aug. 24. Fall break is no longer in October. Instead, students will have a break the week of Thanksgiving, Nov. 23-27. That break Thanksgiving week also marks the end of in person classes. Students will move home and complete final assignments away from campus.
For students returning to campus, move in is tentatively planned to begin the week of August 15th. Proctor said in an email that “fall sport student-athletes, Resident Assistants, Mentors, and students traveling internationally may have alternate move-in dates, which their programs will communicate with them directly.”
Students moving in will likely have to adhere to a specific arrival schedule. There may also be limitations on who can help them move in. This information will be communicated to students in late July.
Proctor said in an email that there has been no discussion of discounting tuition for students taking only online courses.
According to an email from the university, three washable face masks will be provided to all students and staff.
DePauw University’s Community Mask Usage Policy says that “students are required to wear cloth face coverings or non-medical masks, except when they are in their own private room,” however, there already seem to be many exceptions.
According to the same policy, the Health and Safety pod of the COVID-19 Task Force will evaluate situations where masks may inhibit learning on a case by case basis. Such situations may include playing an instrument or learning a foreign language. Masks that allow for lip-reading may also be provided in situations as deemed necessary by the task force.
Housing will not be finalized till mid-July after survey answers have been taken into consideration. Proctor’s email stated that current assignments for upperclass students may change.
As for health procedures within dorms and university owned apartments and houses, Proctor said that procedures will be more at student discretion. Proctor said that they are strongly encouraging roommates and housemates to “begin conversations about how they will adhere to the Health Practice Recommendations and Requirements.”
Guidelines on hanging out with other students within rooms and houses have yet to be set.
Proctor said, “We are being very cautious about preserving residence hall rooms as spaces where students can feel safe and be able to not wear their mask. With the typical size of residence hall rooms, physical distancing of guests would be a challenge, but we also recognize students’ desire to spend time with friends.”
In an email on June 30, students were provided with tentative modes of instruction for classes in the fall semester. Proctor said this information was expedited following numerous student requests.
The Office of the Registrar will update students with information on adjustment, add/drop, withdraw deadline, etc as it becomes available. Students will then be able to work directly with their academic advisors to adjust their schedules.
Students who choose to take courses remotely, will be “required to prepare a remote education plan indicating whether they have access to a laptop and appropriate technology for attending courses remotely or indicating the need for assistance in procuring devices.”
If students have issues with technology and require financial assistance, Proctor said they should email the Student Academic Life office. “We are not creating any sort of emergency fund, but Student Academic Life has long had ways to support students who have needs.”
Hoover Dining Hall will be open. However, plans for what eating in Hoover will be like are still being developed. According to the university’s information page, “Dining modifications in all food service venues on campus, including within University approved housing units, are required to include enhanced cleaning, physical distancing practices for staff and diners, and no buffet style or shared food service.”
When asked if students should expect to eat alone or if individuals will be left to decide who they eat and socialize with at meals, Proctor said that more information will be forthcoming.
Events may still occur on campus in accordance with new health and safety requirements. If you’re off campus, don’t worry. You won’t miss out as all in person events are required to be shared virtually “in order for all students, on and off campus, to have access to the same opportunities.”
Students will still have access to buildings like the Union Building and Percy L. Julian Science and Mathematics Center to study. “We will need students to maintain, you know, a distance from each other. And they will still need to wear their masks, because they’re in an indoor space,” Proctor said.
Plans for usage of the Welch Fitness Center and other spaces in Lilly are still under development, according to Proctor.
The fall plans survey sent to students June 24, asks students about where they plan to live and to pledge to comply with health procedures established by the university task force. Proctor said that while students who continually violate procedures will go through the community standards process, she’s hoping students will take some personal responsibility.
She said, “We need more people talking about how you will step up and confront your peers if they’re not wearing a mask when they should be—empowering students to do that peer to peer low level accountability.”