June 30, 2020
Dear faculty, staff and students,
This message marks the release of the university’s “Campus Ready” plan that outlines how we will operate for the Fall 2020 semester. The plan is the product of extensive and exhaustive planning efforts designed to resume daily operations and return to instruction on campus safely. As a result, this message is lengthy and backed by additional supporting documentation in an effort to share with you what is known now and identify what remains to be determined.
The “Campus Ready” plan reflects the collective efforts of dozens of faculty, staff and students, and I thank them all for their commitment to our shared success. Our response and planning to date have been and will continue to be driven by four guiding principles:
- Prevent the spread of the virus to safeguard our community by following guidance of public health officials and agencies,
- Resume an on-campus learning, residential and working environment that prioritizes the safety and well-being of the campus population,
- Fulfill our core mission of education, research, and service, and
- Enable our students to maintain academic progress toward earning their degrees.
As demonstrated by the recent increase in confirmed cases in Mississippi and dozens of other states, one point cannot be overemphasized: Compliance with the parameters and protocols by all members of our university community will be essential to our success in the upcoming academic year. Wearing facemasks or appropriate cloth face coverings properly, maintaining six feet of physical distancing, and practicing proper hand hygiene will be required and vital to preventing virus spread. Many of these protocols are outlined on the university’s COVID-19 website, and additional protocols will be posted on the site as they are finalized in the coming weeks.
If we cannot achieve full compliance with the protocols across our entire community and the university experiences prolific spread of the virus, we will have no choice but to scale back on-campus operations and take more drastic measures to prevent further spread. If we all do our part to prevent the virus from spreading using the protocols, our level of activity on campus in the fall can be greater.
Version 1.0 of the “Campus Ready” plan is now available online. Please note that the plan will evolve as campus protocols are finalized, the pandemic unfolds and new information and updated public health recommendations are made available. While we remain focused on preserving the on-campus experience, COVID-19 has forced us to rethink everything we do.
Highlights of the Plan
“Campus Ready” is a comprehensive plan that encompasses all aspects of campus life, from academics and student experiences to offices and research labs. Below is an overview of key aspects of the plan that will be necessary to contribute to a successful Fall 2020 semester. Please note that we previously shared the Return to Work on Campus section of the plan on June 15. You can also review this highlight document of the “Campus Ready” plan and see FAQs. Additional information and protocols will be posted to the COVID-19 website as they become available.
- Preventing Spread of the Virus: Wearing facemasks or appropriate cloth face coverings properly, maintaining six feet of physical distancing, and practicing proper hand hygiene will be required and essential to prevent virus spread.
- Modified Academic Calendar: To mitigate the potential impact of COVID-19 during the late fall months, the Fall 2020 semester calendar has been modified so that classes and final exams will conclude on Tuesday, Nov. 24, which falls on the week of Thanksgiving.
- Course Delivery: Deans, chairs, and faculty are evaluating each course section using a set of considerations and factors to decide how each course will be offered using one of four delivery methods: in-person, hybrid, online or remote.
- Mandatory Training: Before returning to campus, all employees and students will be required to complete an online training module related to COVID-19 protocols.
- Daily Symptom Checker: To ensure that we are all “campus ready” each day, all faculty, staff and students will be required to use the university’s COVID-19 Daily Symptom Checker to assist in self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Testing and Tracing: University Health Services (UHS) will continue to provide services to students, faculty, and staff via in-person and virtual visits. Additionally, we will conduct contact tracing in collaboration with MSDH.
Health and Safety Protocols
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. To that end, we have redesigned fundamental aspects of campus life in an effort to mitigate the risk of virus spread and help us all keep each other healthy.
First and foremost, our protocols are designed to prevent what is thought to be the most common ways in which the virus is spread:
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), and
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings. These droplets can land on nearby surfaces or in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
All members of the UM community should keep in mind that there will be individuals on campus this fall who may have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Each community member is expected to commit fully to protecting our community’s collective health and well-being. Visit the “Campus Ready” plan website for more details on the protocols.
University Health Services
University Health Services (UHS) works closely with the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and state and local authorities to closely monitor the spread of the virus in our community. This includes serving as a testing center for students, faculty and staff who exhibit symptoms of the virus or those who have been exposed to someone who tested positive.
Students, faculty, and staff who develop symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been exposed to someone suspected of or confirmed with COVID-19 should call UHS or a medical provider immediately. Employees must report positive tests to their supervisors and Employee Health at 662-915-6550, while students must report positive tests to Student Health at 662-915-7274.
For Fall 2020, the university will operate under a modified academic calendar as part of our efforts to mitigate the potential spread of the virus, account for other health threats that manifest during the winter (e.g., flu), and acknowledge the increased likelihood of travel during the late fall months.
- Classes will begin as scheduled Monday, Aug. 24.
- The last day of classes will be Tuesday, Nov. 17.
- Final exams will be administered on Wednesday-Friday, Nov. 18–20 and Monday-Tuesday Nov. 23–24.
For more details, visit the Office of the Registrar website.
All students are expected to comply fully with the new classroom policies, protocols and guidelines, including mandatory face masks or cloth face coverings, social distancing and mandatory COVID-19 training. Consult the “Campus Ready” plan for more details on these protocols and guidelines.
Classroom capacities will be reduced to comply with CDC and national public health recommendations. Based on the facility protocols posted on the web, it is clear that not every instructional space will support the capacity booked for the fall due to the necessary protocols. Deans, chairs, and faculty are evaluating each course section using a principled set of considerations or factors to decide whether a course should be offered in one of four formats: face-to-face, hybrid, remote, or online. Refer to the “Campus Ready” plan for a detailed definition of each format.
Course delivery modes will be updated in the scheduling system over the next couple of weeks. We anticipate having all course delivery information updated in the system around July 20.
Student Services, Activities and Programming
The Division of Student Affairs is planning to provide for the range of needs and concerns of our students while remaining flexible to the changing public health guidance at the federal, state and local levels. Here are updates from several areas that serve our students.
The “Groovin’ at Move-In” opening for the Fall 2020 semester is scheduled for Aug. 15-21. Student Housing will facilitate move-in through an online, appointment-based system over the seven-day period. Programs that require an early move-in timeframe are being notified through Student Housing, which will provide details about early arrival needs and dates.
Students will be expected to wear face coverings and be limited to no more than two guests per resident who can accompany them during move-in. The number of volunteers will be significantly reduced this year and will not be able to assist with moving personal items. All procedures will follow social distancing and other public health guidelines.
Student Housing will share additional details soon through direct communication to all 2020-21 residents.
Ole Miss Student Union
All on- and off-campus gatherings, including events sponsored by registered student organizations, will adhere to the Events protocols, which are based on current executive and local orders as well as public health recommendations. Reservations for on-campus spaces will begin no earlier than Wednesday, July 15. Please note that maximum occupancy for these spaces is significantly reduced from prior years. For more information, consult union.olemiss.edu. For information about student organizations, visit the ForUM website.
The South Campus Recreation Center and the Turner Center Pool will reopen July 13 with capacity limitations. All patrons entering the facilities will be pre-screened and will adhere to social distancing guidelines. Intramural sports and sport clubs may be offered depending upon national, state, and local guidance at the time of the activity. Visit the Campus Rec website for more information.
Fraternity and Sorority Life
Fraternity and sorority recruitment will proceed in a hybrid format. New member education will consist of a combination of in-person and virtual offerings. Move-in windows for residents of sorority houses will begin Aug. 16. Move-in windows for residents of fraternity houses will begin Aug. 21. For more information, visit the FSL website or the FAQs on the “Campus Ready” plan website.
Student Disability Services
Student requests for accommodations related to pre-existing medical conditions or other disabilities should be made to the SDS Office.
For students requesting accommodations or exemptions with regards to face coverings, face shields will be required and will be available through the SDS office. Students are strongly encouraged to submit their requests as soon as possible.
The Testing Center will remain available to students during the fall semester though at a reduced capacity in adherence with social distancing guidelines.
University Counseling Center
The University Counseling Center will provide hybrid services this fall. Students have the option of in-person or tele-mental health services. For more information, visit the UCC website for specific information about how to access services.
In-person events on campus and sponsored by the university will comply with current executive and local orders and guidelines (including the Safe Return order of Gov. Tate Reeves’s reopening plan and the City of Oxford’s Serving Oxford Safely), as well as public health recommendations. Please refer to these orders for more specifics.
For Athletics, planning for the fall has involved two phases. The initial focus involved the parameters and protocols required to support a return to campus for voluntary workouts for student-athletes and coaches competing in fall sports and Athletics Department staff.
More recently, Athletics planning expanded to focus on events, based on guidance from the CDC, MSDH, state and local authorities and more. Athletics is working hard to ensure our stadiums can accommodate student-athletes, fans, and game personnel while adhering to the recommendations by experts. Final decisions regarding fall sports will be forthcoming, and those decisions will be made in conjunction with the NCAA, the SEC and their member institutions.
Our “Campus Ready” plan is aligned and consistent with government orders and public health recommendations from the Safe Return order of Gov. Tate Reeves’s reopening plan, the City of Oxford’s Serving Oxford Safely recovery plan, the IHL Safe Start Task Force, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), and the American College Health Association (ACHA). The online version of “Campus Ready” will be updated regularly and will continue to evolve as additional public health recommendations and direction from local, state and federal governing bodies is provided.
While this plan is a tremendous body of work, we recognize that there are still many unanswered questions. Our planning teams continue to work diligently to chart the best path forward for the health and safety of our university community. There will be additional components as we get closer to the fall as well as aspects that require modifications. We ask that you familiarize yourself with the requirements and expectations outlined in “Campus Ready.”
If there is one thing that we have learned through this pandemic, it is how much we all cherish and benefit from our campus life. I know we’re all eager to return and regain our sense of community and connections to one another. Fall will be here before we know it, and it will require all of us working collectively and in alignment to limit the spread of the virus and bring people back to our beautiful campus.
Stay safe and stay healthy,