(TSU News Service) – With new coronavirus hot spots emerging across the country as states continue to ease restrictions, and some universities consider re-opening for the fall, a TSU infectious disease control expert says: “not so fast.”
Dr. Wendelyn Inman, professor and director of public health programs in the College of Health Sciences, says when it comes to universities, re-openings and easing of restrictions must be done in phases, “not all the way.”
“Our students come from all over the world and from so many different backgrounds, and for some, it is not feasible to work remotely, long term. TSU is their home, their jobs are here,” said Inman, a public health professional who was previously the chief of epidemiology for the State of Tennessee.
“Let some students come back to campus, especially if they need a place to stay, and a place to study. Provide them with essential tools to complete their education, and for many of them that includes a safe place to live and from which to work.”
In Tennessee, especially Davidson County where officials have seen a recent uptick in the virus, while some institutions, including TSU consider plans for fall opening, Inman says universities should limit in-person face-to-face interactions with faculty and staff, but require faculty and staff to provide digital, visual interactions.
In May, TSU announced it was planning to start classes in the fall, but under additional safety protocols to protect the public health and safety of its students and employees. President Glenda Glover appointed a Fall Course Delivery Task Force to help develop the best strategy for classes this fall.
“We are evaluating and developing operational safety measures, best practices, and academic related logistical options to prepare for the return of students in the fall with the focus on the health and safety of the campus community,” President Glover said recently in a correspondence with TSU faculty and staff.
“These measures will include the ongoing cleaning of campus facilities, the use of larger classrooms and hybrid in-person and online course presentations, and the implementation of appropriate social distancing standards.”
Like most higher education institutions across the country, TSU’s students completed the semester online and the majority of the university’s employees continue to work remotely.
Inman says as a part of a re-opening plan, and “to make a TSU education” even more special during COVID-19, the university should assess each student and each department for their ability to reach their students.
“Use COVID-19 resources to equip each faculty member with a cellular device, specifically to respond to student and university calls,” she said.
TSU is already implementing many of the things Inman proposes. Whether students are on campus or not, the university has taken steps to meet their needs. For those students who needed digital devices to complete their online coursework for the semester and summer, the university provided them with more than 40 laptops and tablets.
“TSU plans to phase in the reopening and return of its students,” says Dr. Curtis Johnson, Chief of Staff and head of the Fall Course Delivery Task Force. “we will be monitoring the virus, the number of people and areas impacted, and of course the university will do all due diligence to make it as safe as possible.”
TSU students say they appreciate the university’s effort to accommodate them, especially their instructors, but they acknowledge the distance learning has been challenging because of the absence of things like face-to-face interaction with their instructors.
“We were able to go to their office, now it’s mainly emails,” said Rekha Berry, a senior from Mobile, Alabama, majoring in history and political science. “I definitely miss the face to face with instructors.”