Official University Messages
September 1, 2020
Dear students, faculty, staff and parents,
Entering our second week of classes, I’m writing to share observations and updates as we continue to navigate the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19.
On Friday, Aug. 28, a group of university leaders and I met on campus with Dr. Thomas Dobbs and Dr. Paul Byers from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss MSDH guidance to the state’s universities regarding isolation and quarantine processes, and to share what we have learned in navigating a number of complex and ever-changing scenarios. Dr. Dobbs added that he recognized the challenges facing universities, but was encouraged by the detailed plans and on-campus safety protocols employed by our university.
I’d like to share a big Thank You to all in our university community who expressed support to our colleagues who are working earnestly, diligently and tirelessly to make this environment work. Managing through a pandemic is difficult, and it affects everyone on every level, personally and professionally. Thank you for sharing constructive feedback, which we are using to improve our processes, approaches and overall response.
Below are updates and clarifications to keep you apprised of where we stand. Additional details are provided in the links incorporated below.
Monitoring the impact of the virus on campus
Last week, the Future Planning Task Force launched a dashboard to share data and metrics that we are tracking to assess the impact of COVID-19 on our campus. It is important to note that there is no single data point that will determine whether we need to implement additional measures. Rather, decision-making will require us to consider a number of factors affecting our ability to address the needs of current cases, mitigate risk for our campus constituents and manage the resources we need to respond.
For example, the number of active cases is considered in conjunction with other metrics such as capacity of hospital beds for our local hospital (Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi), or in tandem with availability of designated isolation or quarantine space on campus. Such considerations will more fully reflect the impact of the virus on our community and our ability to respond.
Thanks to our robust contact tracing efforts through our team of expert volunteers from the School of Applied Sciences, we have discerned that spread of the virus on our campus is not prevalent in classrooms and academic spaces. The experiences that have been shared with us about the classrooms and learning experiences have been positive. People are following the protocols in our academic and research spaces, and those protocols are working there.
We have linked a number of cases and outbreaks to a failure to follow the protocols in other settings, primarily off-campus social gatherings. We once again ask all members of our community to embrace the shared responsibility of adhering to the protocols – on and off campus. It is imperative that all of us take precautions to protect our entire community, especially vulnerable individuals among our students, faculty, staff and neighbors in Oxford.
Isolation and quarantine processes for on-campus residents
There has been some confusion related to isolation and quarantine, so I want to clarify our approach in this area.
The university is required to manage these processes in accordance with MSDH guidance, which continues to evolve as MSDH’s understanding deepens on how the virus may spread in various areas and populations. On Aug. 21, we learned that an outbreak in a university setting was defined by MSDH as three or more positive cases among a defined group, such as residents of a floor in a residence hall or members of a team.
Subsequently, MSDH updated its written guidance on Aug. 27 regarding isolation and quarantine on college and university campuses. In the on-campus meeting last Friday (Aug. 28), MSDH verbally communicated its plan to clarify further its guidance to colleges and universities on how to quarantine individuals affected by outbreaks. As a result of these discussions, we updated the information about these processes for Student Housing residents on our university’s COVID-19 website. Please visit this information page for additional details and FAQs.
This is just one example of how our processes continue to evolve as new information becomes available, and it requires time to understand such changes before we can communicate them to you. We remain committed to keeping our campus community informed as we navigate this period together.
As a university, we are working diligently to provide the best living and learning environment possible within the limits posed by these challenging times. While we may have to do things differently in the short term, we must remain focused on our long-term goal of reducing the impact of the virus in our community while keeping our students on track toward earning their degrees. We are grateful for everyone who is doing their part to help us get there.
Stay healthy, stay well.
Glenn F. Boyce
All students have an essential role to play in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. All day, every day. On-campus and off-campus.
Let me get right to the point – we need your help. The entire student body has an essential role to play in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. All day, every day … on campus and off campus – students are expected to follow campus protocols and public health best practices. Hold yourself and your peers accountable to slow the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in our community by following these steps for a safer fall 2020:
- Wear a mask! Properly wearing a mask (covering both the nose and mouth) is vitally important both on and off campus. The university requires students, employees and visitors to wear a face mask or cloth face covering in all indoor spaces on campus. Masks are also required outside when social distancing can’t be maintained. If your mask is reusable, wash it! Students who forget their mask may pick one up at the Student Union, the J.D. Williams Library or the Welcome Center.
- Avoid parties and large gatherings. I know, it’s college, but there will be time in the future to gather with friends. If you socialize with a large group now, you may infect another person’s parent, family member or someone with a compromised immune system. You may unintentionally infect your closest friends. Consider how your actions can harm others when you make decisions about off-campus activities. And remember, current executive orders for social gatherings are 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors, but mask wearing and social distancing is still essential.
- Use the Daily Symptom Checker before heading out every morning. The symptom checker and many other COVID-19 resources are available on our COVID-19 website.
- Call Student Health if you test positive. Students must report positive tests to Student Health at 662-915-7274. The anonymity and confidentiality of persons with COVID-19 will be protected during this process. Student Health will collaborate with the Mississippi Department of Health for contact tracing.
- All students must complete the Campus Ready Student Module, found in Blackboard under “Courses,” by Sunday, Aug. 23. This training module outlines required safety measures and how students can protect themselves and others.
- All students are strongly encouraged to visit the COVID-19 Student Action Response Tier webpage, which details the expectations for conduct and behavior as well as potential disciplinary referrals for students and residents who do not meet these expectations. The behavior regulations apply to students and residents both on and off campus, student organizations, events and activities on and off campus, and when riding transportation provided by the OUT and university entities.
- Hold yourself and your friends accountable to help stop the spread of COVID-19. All students are invited to take the voluntary “Are You Ready?” Pledge to act with our community’s health and safety in mind. The pledge was written by University of Mississippi student leaders to unite the UM family in the fight against COVID-19. Take the pledge here!
- Keep Learning! The Keep Learning website provides advice, resources, points of contact for academic questions, and strategies for successful remote learning, whether you’re studying on or off campus. Student Zoom Stations are available for students on campus who need a place to Zoom for an hour or two for a remote or hybrid course. These spaces are designed for students to bring their computer and sit at a desk/table to Zoom for a course. They are not designed as study stations, but rather as a place to join a Zoom call for a course while on campus. A list of spaces with the number of Zoom stations available is listed below. Students may also use the Wi-Fi in the Grove and other outdoor spaces, or in some classrooms/buildings that may not be occupied. Students should remember to follow all safety protocols while Zooming, including wearing a mask and physical distancing.
- Tad Smith Coliseum (20 spaces)
- Yerby Lobby Area (22 spaces)
- Lamar 208 (8 spaces)
- Lamar 315 (8 spaces)
- Hume 113 (9 spaces)
- Bondurant E114 (5 spaces)
- Bondurant 116W (10 spaces)
- Get involved! Check out the ForUM, where you can find unique activities that are both virtual and in person. You can also head to Whirlpool Trails for a walk or enjoy the new state-of-the-art South Campus Recreation Center.
- Care packages are available to everyone on campus! Pick up your free care package, which includes a mask, hand sanitizer, gloves and health information Monday, Aug. 24 through Wednesday, Aug. 26 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at any of the following locations: UM School of Law, Business Row, Student Union, Lamar Hall and the Lyceum Circle.
Be safe. Be responsible.
Charlotte Fant Pegues, Ph.D.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
We are now just weeks away from the start of the fall semester and a new academic year. In the 28 years that I’ve been with the University of Mississippi, the Fall 2020 semester is sure to be like no other. Some of us are curious, and maybe a little anxious, about what our campus will look like, while others are counting down to the start of classes. To get a jumpstart on life as an Ole Miss student in the time of COVID, I want to provide you a few handy checklists.
START DEVELOPING YOUR “CAMPUS READY” HABITS NOW
Get comfortable with the Daily Symptom Checker
- Make it a daily habit to check your health status and symptoms, even if you feel healthy. The purpose of this self-checker is to help you know whether you need to seek appropriate medical care.
- If you develop symptoms or don’t feel well, please stay home and contact your local healthcare provider right away for guidance.
Practice social distancing
- Inside your home: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If possible, maintain at least six feet between a person who is sick and other household members.
- Outside your home: Maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
- Remember: Wearing a face covering is NOT a substitute for social distancing.
Wear a face mask or cloth face covering
- The university requires students, employees and visitors to wear a face mask or cloth face covering in all indoor spaces on campus and outdoors when social distancing is not feasible. In the next few weeks, the university will share information about university-provided reusable, cloth face masks.
- As part of your countdown preparations, start the practice of wearing a mask for extended periods now. In addition to the university’s requirement, the City of Oxford requires everyone to wear a mask or face covering in businesses and restaurants other than while dining.
- Find a mask that is comfortable for you and covers both your nose and mouth. Follow CDC guidelines for wearing face coverings correctly.
Practice good hand hygiene
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
Update your cell phone number in myOleMiss (in Contact Information under My Profile)
- Now more than ever, we want to be able to communicate with you in a timely manner.
Complete the student training module via Blackboard
- In the next two weeks, we’ll launch a COVID-19 training module that all students are required to complete before returning to campus
PACKING FOR THE FALL SEMESTER? MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE THESE ITEMS
- a thermometer to take your temperature daily,
- a supply of masks or face coverings that you can wear comfortably for an entire class or longer, and
- plenty of hand sanitizer — we suggest keeping a bottle in your backpack or purse at all times.
Please remember that Oxford is a small town and certain products may be in short supply, such as hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, when students return.
TO OUR NEWEST STUDENTS
In Student Housing, procedures are in place for the health and safety of all on-campus residents this year, including social distancing protocols; plexiglass barriers at all front desks; frequent sanitizing of public spaces, traditional hall bathrooms and high-touch surfaces; and, providing hand sanitizer in each lobby. Fall move-in will be August 15-21, and masks must be worn during move-in. Staff will be on-site to assist and answer questions. Student Housing will share additional details through direct communication to all 2020-21 residents.
CAMPUS LIFE CHECKLIST
- Get involved. Check the status of services, events, activities, and programs across campus. Be sure to check out the videos from Virtual Involvement Week, which feature panels from various student organizations as well as leadership opportunities and campus activities.
- Campus Recreation facilities and programs opened on July 13 and will be available this fall in accordance with state and local orders. Students can visit the Campus Rec website to learn about facility hours and access, program offerings, and participatory experiences.
- Student employment opportunities will be available as departments across campus, such as Campus Rec, will hire for staff positions.
We encourage all students to watch this video for answers to top-of-mind questions or review our Campus Ready Plan to familiarize yourself with health and safety protocols for our return. In addition, be on the lookout early next week for more important information to help our community stay healthy.
NOW, DO YOU THINK YOU ARE READY?
If there is one thing to take away from this letter, it is this: It is essential to our success this fall that each student practice the health and safety protocols adopted by the university. If we act responsibly on and off campus, work together (while six feet apart!), wear masks, and practice good hand hygiene, we can combat COVID-19 on our campus. We are eager for your arrival, and we’re here to help. Can’t wait to see all the ways you are going to help make this a wonderful year at Ole Miss!
Charlotte Fant Pegues, Ph.D.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while returning to in-person operations, the university is implementing new protocols and expectations for everyone on campus, a modified academic calendar, new forms of course delivery, mandatory training for employees and students, daily symptom checks and COVID-19 testing and tracing.