As UW-Madison students return to campus for the 2020-21 academic year Sept. 2, they can expect it to be historic.
Christine Olstad, dean of students, and Tanya Schmidt, assistant dean, along with several other faculty, have worked hard to prepare for their health and safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Christine and Tanya spoke to the Waunakee Rotary Club at its July 30 virtual meeting about some of the protocols in place to keep both students and faculty safe.
Health protocols will include free testing. It will be available to the entire campus, with surveillance testing of the entire student population, and targeted testing at residence halls.
Students and faculty will also be required to wear masks indoors and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible on campus. Additional cleaning will be done, and hand washing will be required. Symptom monitoring and contact tracing will also be in place.
All students will receive a safety kit including masks, hand sanitizer and information about staying safe. The campus will have 500 hand sanitizer stations where students can refill their personal bottles.
As for instruction, about 40 percent of classes will be held in person, particularly language classes and labs, Tanya said. A Waunakee resident, Tanya has a freshman entering UW-Madison and said one of her five classes was expected to be in person, but now will be virtual. Students who do not want to return in person can take all of their courses online.
After the Thanksgiving break, all classes will be virtual, mainly because students will be returning from travels and only one week and final exams are left of the semester.
Tanya said the university has a world-class faculty, and actually, students are finding more one-on-one interaction with advisors online than when they visited advisors’ offices in person.
Christine added that attendance has been higher at several virtual events. One recent international forum drew 1,000 people; a recent forum addressing bias on campus drew 400 with only 24 hours notice.
Some classroom settings may be a little unorthodox as physical distancing practices are in place. All space on campus will be used for instruction, so classes could be held at the Memorial Union or other areas.
Tanya noted that the mask requirement in classes is stressful for instructors, but said masks will be available in classrooms for students who forget theirs.
Tanya works in student affairs, addressing student conduct issues, so she may be asked to intervene when students are resistant to wearing a mask, she said. In those cases, she will try to educate them about the need for masks, and if they continue to refuse to wear one, they will be asked to continue the course online.
Residence halls are another focus. The plan is to reduce the density, increase cleaning, and require regular COVID tests. Isolation and quarantine areas will be available for those who become infected.
Also different this year, no guests from outside the residence halls will be allowed in.
And dining will be mostly grab-and-go options limited to students and staff within university housing.
A survey of is planned to gather students’ comments, and a mental health and retention initiative is underway to connect students who are at risk of “stopping out,” Christine and Tanya said.
Students will also be required to take a Badger Pledge that expresses student accountability and expectations.
“We know we can’t fear students into compliance, but we can appeal to their wants and needs of protecting their fellow Badgers,” Tanya said.
Other News:
-President Tom Kennedy is looking for ideas on how you’d like these Zoom meetings to be formated. Send him an email and let him know.
-Todd Schmidt (Mr. Tanya) said speakers are booked through October except for the Aug. 6 meeting. If you know of a possible speaker, let him know. If we don’t have a speaker, we could have club assembly.
Birthdays: Aug. 3, Drew Lawrence; Aug. 4, Jon Townley; Aug. 5, Tracey Graber.
Anniversaries: Aug. 10, Bob and Nancy Arntz; Aug. 10, Erick and Hillary Plumb.
Programs: Aug. 6???