Relying on the recommendations of two working groups, and recognizing the desire of students to return to campus for classes this Fall semester with their classmates and their professors, the Ball State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously today (May 27) to approve plans for face-to-face instruction to begin on August 24, as scheduled, and the Board authorized the administration to take several steps to advance the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors.
“We have heard from many returning and prospective students that they value the personal education that we uniquely provide,” President Geoffrey S. Mearns said. “Our students told us they also want to participate in immersive learning projects, student life, and our vibrant campus experiences.”
“We will also implement several health and safety protocols grounded in our paramount priority — the health and safety of our students, our faculty and staff, and our campus visitors.”
President Mearns said research shows that students often choose the University because of the faculty-student partnerships for which Ball State is known.
“Our students want to come back to campus for this reason,” he said. “I am also confident our faculty and staff will be ready to safely provide distinctive, high-impact learning opportunities when our students return.”
President Mearns said that in the past month, the Academic Planning Group assembled and led by Provost Susana Rivera-Mills, reviewed a vast array of courses that Ball State offers to undergraduate and graduate students, and evaluated how faculty can use technology to improve learning.
Key components of the plans include:
- Faculty will prepare classes that can quickly shift from being taught in-person to online, depending on conditions on campus and in the community.
- Faculty will front-load learning activities that are best facilitated by face-to-face instruction so that those activities are completed before the Thanksgiving break. After the Thanksgiving break, all remaining instruction, as well as all final projects and exams, will be completed online.
- The University will cancel the two-day Fall break and will schedule class sessions on Labor Day. These changes enable students to have 13 weeks of on-campus instruction before the Thanksgiving break.
- To accommodate faculty and students who may be in high-risk populations, the University will offer more online courses.
“The Provost and I fully appreciate that these adjustments will require additional preparation,” President Mearns said. “We have great confidence in the dedication of our faculty and staff —and their determination to adapt and to innovate in order to serve our students and to fulfill our mission.”
Within two weeks, Provost Rivera-Mills will provide faculty and staff with more detailed information. Provost Rivera-Mills said the University is putting systems into place to support faculty as they design their bimodal courses.
“Our success is in the hands of our faculty and staff,” she said. “As a community, we will do all we can to support each other in this challenging time.”
The Board of Trustees also authorized the University to implement a Housing and Residence Life plan to provide on-campus housing options for students. The plan will retain a sufficient number of rooms in residence halls and in other University-owned facilities to quarantine and isolate students who may be exposed to or who may test positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Also, to mitigate the risk of students transmitting the novel coronavirus while living in a residence hall, the University will adjust the room assignments to reduce the number of students who use the same restroom and other common areas.
The Board also approved the Return to Campus Plan to put additional health and safety protocols into place, making COVID-19 testing readily available while supporting contact tracing, maintaining an ample supply of personal protective equipment, and expanding availability of annual influenza vaccinations.
The University will incorporate staggered and alternating work schedules, reconfigured workstations, remote work, and other accommodations to limit density on campus and maximize safety. Other new policies and procedures will focus on social distancing, employee health screening, crowd limits for public gatherings and University-sponsored activities, and travel restrictions.
Ball State’s operations will remain aligned with guidance from governmental agencies, public health officials, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After regular review, any changes will be posted on Ball State’s COVID-19 website.
Board Chair Renae Conley believes the University will fulfill its mission to provide an exceptional educational experience, which has been recognized nationally.
“I am confident in our plans knowing that so many people carefully developed the recommendations that are based on the best available research,” she said. “They worked with deliberate speed to create our plans. We are on the right path.”
Vice Chair Matt Momper said he is confident about the upcoming school year.
“As one of three trustees who have children attending Ball State, I know we are doing everything in our means to promote a safe and healthy environment for our students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” he said. “My daughter, who is a graduate student, also teaches two classes. From that perspective, I am confident in our plans to keep our classrooms as safe as we possibly can.”