Dear Night Hawks,
The following is the strategy for opening Thomas University for 2020 Fall semester. The framework for the plan was developed in Connecticut and promoted by the National Governors Association. Since the start of the pandemic, TU has consistently stated that we will follow the guidance of the CDC and other health care authorities. That is not changing. Health Care experts have warned of a second wave of infections that will accompany the regular flu season. Since there is no way to predict the path of the pandemic, this plan contemplates reopening campus but with significant adjustments to both on-ground operations and academic instruction. Nevertheless, TU will be open and classes will begin on August 17.
Given the considerable health risks that the communal aspects of higher education entail, we are taking steps to limit the number of people who engage on campus. Dispersing our population will help to reduce those risks for all stakeholders while honoring the unique culture that makes Thomas University a special place.
This strategy for reopening is in four parts:
- Re-population of Campus
- Monitoring Health Conditions to Detect Infection
- Plan for Containment to Prevent the Spread of Infection
- Plan for Shutdown if Necessary
+Re-Population of Campus (Faculty, Staff, Students, Trustees and Guests)
Thomas University fulfills its educational mission both online and on-ground. The population of the University includes Faculty, Staff/Administrators, Students, Trustees, and Guests. Consequently, the plan for repopulating the university according to the functions for each group is itemized below. It is anticipated that personal protective equipment (PPE) needs will vary according to the jobs that are performed across campus. Consequently, employees should direct questions about PPE to their supervising Vice President.
A. The Graduate School and the Professional School are conducted online. Consequently, they will run according to the established schedule and normal academic protocols.
B. Faculty who teach on-ground in the School of Arts and Sciences are asked to deliver their classes online. Some face-to-face instruction is permitted under the following conditions:
- The instructor’s syllabus and Canvas course shell must clearly indicate the conditions for the meeting and include:
- A classroom policy insisting that PPE (e.g. facemasks) be worn at all times.
- An acknowledgment that no in-person gathering will exceed 10 people.
- The date, time, and location of in-person meetings will not deviate from the published fall schedule.
- A message will be inserted administratively into each SAS course Canvas shell, requiring students to acknowledge that by attending class in person they are knowingly risking potential exposure, and prompting non-residential students with comorbidities to contact their advisor to either drop the course or make arrangements for an alternate format.
C. Faculty are encouraged to conduct as much of their work as possible online. This includes office hours, divisional meetings, faculty senate, and co-curricular programming such as concerts, lectures, etc. In the event that face-to-face meetings are required, they should be scheduled in advance, plant operations must be notified of the time and venue, and PPE must be worn at all times. No in-person meeting should exceed 10 participants and seating arranged to accommodate social distancing (i.e. 6 feet apart) is required.
D. The VPAA will be on campus two days per week. On campus meetings will require PPE and observe social distancing.
E. The Registrar’s Office will continue to work online but come to campus when requested by the VPAA.
F. Online (Dynamic) Learning will continue to work online but come to campus when requested by the VPAA.
G. The Library will be open to students and TU personnel with modified traffic flow, seating, and services.
- Curbside service is planned for all hard-copy materials.
- Tutoring and research help will remain online.
- Study rooms will be removed from service.
- Computer lab occupancy will be reduced to allow for social distancing requirements.
- Hours will be reduced to facilitate sanitation protocols.
Staff and Administrators
A. The IA staff will be on campus two days every week for processing paperwork. PPE must be worn and social distancing observed.
B. Donor calls should take place electronically where possible. In person visits to private homes must be ‘contactless.’
C. Donor events may not exceed 20 participants. PPE must be worn and social distancing observed.
A. All business affairs officers, including HR and payroll, will continue to work online but be available for campus as needed.
B. Individuals needing to speak with financial aid may schedule an appointment on Calendly at this link: https://calendly.com/finaid-3
C. Individuals needing to speak with student accounts may schedule an appointment on Calendly at this link: https://calendly.com/student-account
D. All National Employees will report to campus and adhere to the NMRC COVID-19 Exposure Mitigation Protocols.
A. Advisors will continue working online and, in general, should plan to avoid campus. The VP for Enrollment and Director of Student Success will set a rotation so one person is available on campus. Students must schedule on-campus appointments through Calendly at this link: https://www.thomasu.edu/contact-advising/
B. Admissions will continue working online and, in general, should plan to avoid campus. The VP for Enrollment and the Associate Vice President for Military Affairs and Business Development will set a rotation so one person is available on campus. All on campus appointments must be scheduled through Calendly at this link: https://www.thomasu.edu/contact-admissions/
C. Marketing personnel will continue to work remotely but be available to campus on an ‘as needed basis’.
D. The Director of International Programs will be available on campus as needed. All on-campus appointments must be scheduled through Calendly at this link: https://calendly.com/kwainright
Face-to-face meetings will observe social distancing, PPE and will be held outside if possible.
A. The Assistant to the President will continue to work online but be available upon request of the President.
B. The Director of Institutional Research will continue to work online.
C. The President will be on campus a minimum of two days per week. On campus meetings will require PPE and observe social distancing.
A. The VP for Student Life will set a rotation so one person is available on campus M-F.
B. Food Service will operate but follow MMI food service safety standards.
C, Shuttle service will be reduced to once or twice a week for shopping trips.
D. Athletics staff (NAIA practice start date is August 15. Other guidance TBD.)
E. Student Activities personnel will come to campus as needed. Student meetings will be online. Small, outdoor, events that observe social distancing are anticipated as are online student activities.
A. Graduate students will be online and adhere to the established course schedule/academic Calendar.
B. Students in the School of Professional Studies (i.e. undergraduate online) will be online and adhere to the established course schedule.
Change in Move-in Dates
C. Residential Students may move on campus but academic work will be held synchronously online. Online course work allows necessary flexibility. It accommodates international travel restrictions; enables quarantined students to keep up, and ensures continuity in the event of a ‘lock-down’. Online reduces the number of venues for exposure to the virus and helps to disburse the population which reduces the risk of potential exposure. Move in day for University housing is August 1st for students participating in fall sports (soccer and cross country). All other residential students will move in on August 15th. Students who are unable to move in on the designated days should contact the Director of Housing, Samantha Gilbert (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make arrangements.
D. All residential students will be required to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of communal living during a pandemic.
E. All residential students will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to campus.
F. Guests are not permitted in the dorms at any time.
Meeting will be online. The President and Board Chair will re-evaluate to determine the appropriate course for subsequent Board meetings.
A. All guests must identify themselves to Dr. Bohman, VP Student Life prior to accessing a facility.
B. Access to public spaces is permitted during normal hours. Meetings that would normally take place in smaller offices should be relocated to accommodate social distancing. All guests are prohibited in Student Housing.
C. The Library will be open to TU students and personnel only.
D. The University will consider requests to use campus facilities but participants will be limited according to State Orders.
E. The University does not provide PPE which is expected of all participants at events.
G. Guests requesting use of university facilities will be required to sign a waiver acknowledging risks.
+Monitoring Health Conditions to Detect Infection
While TU cannot prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we are taking steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections. Since most employees will continue working online, it is expected that they will refrain from coming to campus if they experience any symptoms of illness or if they have been exposed to COVID-19. Employees experiencing any health adversity should follow normal institutional protocols for sick-leave.
In addition to dispersing the campus population, TU is contracting with a telemedicine provider for services that include an online/mobile triage questionnaire that can help to determine if a student needs to self-quarantine. Archbold Hospital is a nearby COVID-19 testing center and the telemedicine doctors can refer students there for testing if necessary.
In addition to the telemedicine program, TU anticipates contracting with a Nurse Practitioner who will come to campus in order to supplement the online healthcare regimen. Finally, early drafts of the NAIA indicate that screening that includes documented temperature checks will be required of all athletes prior to all practices and competitions.
+Plan for Containment to Prevent Spread of Disease
Measures to prevent the spread of the disease, as explained above, include minimizing the risk of exposure by dispersing the campus population and regular monitoring by health care professionals. The front line for containment measure to prevent the spread of disease is in the cleaning regimen, which is codified in the NMRC COVID-19 Exposure Mitigation Protocols. National employees will focus on enhanced sanitizing and disinfecting of all CDC recognized touchpoints such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, etc. and exposure points, e.g. workspace surfaces, break areas, equipment, etc.
Hand sanitizer will be supplied and available at every entrance to every building on campus. The university will also observe CDC case-notification protocols in the event that a positive test for the virus occurs on campus.
+Plan for Shutdown if Necessary
In the event that the university is compelled to close campus, notice will come from the Vice President of Student Life with direction and guidelines as to how students are to vacate the dormitories. As both instruction and administrative support are online, however, those services will continue uninterrupted in order to ensure that students continue making adequate progress toward their degrees.
If students are asked to leave campus, all student financial aid will remain in place and unused rent for housing will be returned. TU offers courses on-line and on-ground and does not differentiate tuition on the basis of delivery mode. Consequently, no adjustments in tuition will be made.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates funds to support individuals, businesses and organizations nationwide affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. The act includes several sources of funds for colleges and universities, including the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). A portion of the HEERF (no less than 50 percent) must go directly to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants (HEERF-student share). Students cannot apply for assistance directly from the U.S. Department of Education. Rather, institutions have the responsibility of determining how the grants will be distributed to students, how the amount of each student grant is calculated, and the development of any instructions or directions that are provided to students about the grant.
To that end the university has executed and returned to the Department of Education a Funding Certification and Agreement [for] Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students. This Certification affirms Thomas University’s commitment to use no less than 50% of the funds received under Section 18004(a) (1) of the CARES Act for Emergency Financial Aid Grants. The total amount of funds received pursuant to this Certification and Agreement [for] Emergency Financial Aid Grants is $187,765. All of these funds have been distributed as of the date of this report.
Those students eligible to participate in programs under Section 484 in Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 for purposes of this calculation was 484. This total excluded international students and students enrolled exclusively in an online program pursuant to U.S. Department of Education guidelines.
Thomas University used an application process for the students in this population to affirm to the university that they were financially adversely affected by the COVID-19 disruptions. The university accepted applications from May 11, 2020 through May 22, 2020 to finalize the eligible population. This date was extended later to May 27, 2020 at noon due primarily to the Memorial Day holiday. Consequently, the Student Financial Services Director distributed the HEERF-student share funds equally to the student population that met these requirements. There were 152 students who received $1,235.30 each through this grant process. Awards were disbursed directly to the student based on the student’s preferences, i.e. check or direct deposit. The award was not applied to any outstanding account balance. The following paragraph was included in the invitation to apply for the grant funds:
“The CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund-IHE/Student Aid provides funding to institutions to provide emergency financial aid grants to students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet. The CARES Act specifies that students who have completed a FAFSA and who were enrolled for Spring 2020 are eligible. Students who are not eligible include: international students, transient students, dual enrolled students, and students that were enrolled 100% online. If you are eligible for the CARES, we ask that you complete the questionnaire found here. The window to complete the application is from May 11, 2020, through May 22, 2020. At the conclusion of the window, the grant will be disbursed no later than May 31, 2020. To expedite the refund process, we ask that you log in to your Hawklink account to ensure your Direct Deposit Agreement is up to date.”