Greetings, Marshall Family,
Today, I write to share a high-level overview of the plans for our upcoming semester, which officially begins next Monday, Aug. 24.
These policies and procedures include intensive and structured safety and health elements to guide us through the fall semester. Details of our Return-to-Campus plan include the specifics of our strategy and can be accessed 24/7 on our Marshall coronavirus website. Indeed, this coming semester will be like none we have ever experienced, but like every family, our Marshall Family will navigate the days ahead together.
As president, my top priority remains the health and safety of everyone on our campus by mitigating as much risk as possible in a pandemic. I remain committed to a learning and working environment that allows our students, faculty and staff to feel secure. Make no mistake, the situation is fluid and we may have to make decisions about certain aspects of university life very quickly. The university’s senior team and I will communicate any changes as efficiently as possible.
Our readiness plan has taken months to develop and evolved as more information about COVID-19 has become available. Suffice to say, there is still much to learn about the novel coronavirus and only research and time will have the answers, which, hopefully, will soon include an effective vaccine. Until then, we will continue with the current health and safety recommendations from state and local public health experts and our medical school. Below, you will find a brief synopsis of some of the areas of emphasis and accommodations for COVID-19. Details, including a robust FAQs section and Marshall testing data, are available on the website.
Health and Safety: The university, in accordance with directives from the state of West Virginia, has mandated the use of face coverings in all buildings, including during class and when out of personal residence hall rooms and workspaces. All students on campus, even those who are on campus sporadically, must use MarshallU Healthcheck® every day to complete a brief health self-assessment. The health check also must be completed daily by any Marshall employee in self-isolation or quarantine for COVID-19. Testing is required for all on-campus employees and students, and sentinel testing of the Marshall population will continue during the fall academic term.
Cleaning and disinfection of facilities is done following protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using Environmental Protection Agency-approved products effective against the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, all employees are expected to submit the COVID-19 Employee Return to Campus Acknowledgement form and complete an online Covid-19 Training Module and Quiz. The training module is available in MUOnline and can be accessed through MyMU/Blackboard, under the My Organizations > Safety Training menus. For assistance accessing the module, click here or e-mail email@example.com.
Shared Spaces: Physical distancing of at least six (6) feet is always to be observed. All buildings are open, but there are limitations as to what activities and how many people are permitted. For example, residence halls are open to students who live there, but no visitors, even students from other residence halls, are permitted to visit.
Dining halls are open but have been reduced to 50% capacity. Cleaning of tables will occur after each use and there will be no self-service. Classrooms where Face-to-Face classes will occur have been reduced to 50% occupancy. Instructors will teach with a face cover/face shield or perhaps both and, in some cases, behind a plexiglass sheet. The Memorial Student Center, libraries and other common spaces will be open with reduced capacity as well.
Academics: Marshall University will offer three types of formats for students this fall. They include Face-to-Face, meaning a traditional classroom experience; Virtual, meaning class sessions held live via Blackboard and peripheral software, with instructors leading class and engaging students at the specified class meeting day and time (Sessions are recorded for playback for students at any time); and Online, meaning no live/real-time class meetings. Please direct any student who has a question about their schedule or education to consult with their academic advisor for assistance.
Athletics: As of 8/17/20, Conference USA is moving forward with its 2020 football schedule, playing a reduced number of games because of decisions made by other conferences. Attendance policies and procedures are still being determined.
Events and Gatherings: The fall term will have a reduced number of in-person events and gatherings, although there will still be many activities available for students on campus. Student organizations are being encouraged to hold events and gatherings outdoors when possible, but may be limited to a maximum number of attendees per current Cabell Huntington Health Department and/or state or CDC guidance. More information about extracurricular activities is available in the Return-to-Campus plan or by calling 304-696-3422 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Budget: We continue to monitor our revenues related to enrollment and are now certain we will experience a multimillion-dollar reduction in revenues this fall. Although we have managed our budget so far without any reductions in force, that may not be possible throughout this academic year. We will continue to keep you informed as we gain a better understanding of our financial situation.
The upcoming semester will require flexibility, understanding and, frankly, a few inconveniences. I know there are still many questions about how the semester will unfold and we are working every day to work out a variety of scenarios. Finally, I know that by working together, our Marshall Family can succeed and succeed successfully.
Stay safe and healthy.
Jerome A. Gilbert, Ph.D.