President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., announced in April the university’s plan to reopen campus in fall 2020 and appointed 12 members to the President’s Task Force on Reopening Fall 2020.
Co-chaired by Provost Shane P. Martin and Executive Vice President Tim Leary, the reopening task force (RTF) has organized its work in three main areas: Instructional Continuity, Student Care and Experience and Safe and Healthy Campus. Faculty, staff, deans and other administrators are serving on working groups in support of each of these planning initiatives.
The Instructional Continuity group is assessing options for what the fall quarter academic programs and schedule will look like, based on the still-evolving information about the virus. Work is also being done on innovative approaches to teaching and learning.
The Student Care and Experience group is studying options for housing, communal dining and student interaction and engagement, while maintaining physical distancing to prevent exposure and infection.
The Safe and Healthy Campus group is focusing on testing, contact tracing, self-isolation and quarantine, physical distancing protocols, personal hygiene, daily health screenings, PPE, masks and face coverings and human resources issues.
The work of the task force is guided by two principles: ensuring the health and safety of all members of the Seattle University community; and delivering an education that is distinctly Seattle University and true to our Jesuit mission. As important, the task force is building into its plans a high degree of flexibility as we recognize the need to prepare for multiple and potentially shifting scenarios.
The university is giving extra attention to individuals in our community at high risk for serious outcomes from potential COVID-19 infection while also considering how different scenarios may impact community members based on socioeconomic background, learning differences, disability needs or international status.
The work of the RTF is grounded in the latest science, medical advice and federal, state, county and local regulations and guidelines. In addition, the work of the RTF engages a wide-variety of professional networks such as the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), American Council on Education (ACE), National Association of College and University Attorneys and the Independent Colleges of Washington (ICW). The task force has also engaged local physicians and health care providers with an expertise in infectious diseases to assist us in our planning.
Critical elements of the university’s reopening plan include:
The RTF has sought input and suggestions from a wide variety of campus community members through its committee structure and virtual outreach, including surveys of faculty and staff. In addition, approximately 35-45 staff members (key stakeholders) have gathered weekly throughout the past three months to share their professional advice on issues that are related to campus operations surrounding the reopening.
The university is closely tracking the State of Washington’s 4-Phased Approach to reopening. The hope is that by August, the Governor and King County will have approved a move to Phase 3 or 4 in the reopening measures, thus allowing the university to implement our plans for fall in a careful and measured manner.
However, the task force is also preparing for less hopeful scenarios that would slow SU’s reopening in-person plans and necessitate a model that emphasizes more of a virtual approach, while continuing to focus on the educational needs and progress of our students.
It is important to remember that this is a fluid situation and a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area could require the RTF to rethink and adapt its plans.