By Jonathan Meilaender
Saint Vincent has joined the growing number of colleges and universities cautiously planning to re-open campus for the fall semester. Fr. Paul Taylor, SVC’s president, made the announcement via email on May 15.
“We are preparing to begin the fall semester in the manner we are accustomed, as a residential campus with face-to-face instruction,” the email said.
Nothing is set in stone, though. In particular, it’s unclear just what a reopened campus will look like. Saint Vincent has formed a committee, called the “Forward Together Advisory Committee,” to work with the President’s Cabinet to ensure a safe reopening, the email said. The committee includes “administrators, faculty members, and health care professionals,” according to the email.
The committee is looking to modify several elements of the campus experience to increase safety. These include cleaning procedures, food
services, new protocols for visitors and gatherings, “additional support services through the SVC Wellness Center,” and “adjustments to course delivery, academic policies and the academic calendar.”
The email did not address the precise nature of these changes. But many other colleges are grappling with similar issues. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, offered a number of suggestions to colleges and universities in a recent interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education. Fauci noted that many colleges are considering procedures to test most students and faculty to determine a “baseline” COVID infection rate at the start of the semester, and then “intermittently survey the students” over the course of the semester.
“You have to have the capability when students get infected, which they will, to then get them to a situation where they would be able to be comfortably isolated,” Fauci said. “With the newer test coming online this summer, particularly the antigen test, you could literally test thousands of people reasonably expeditiously,” he added.
Current Pennsylvania testing guidelines permit testing for any patient, symptomatic or asymptomatic, with prior approval by a physician. There is currently one testing site in Latrobe.
The New York Times reported that many colleges and universities who are modifying academic calendars are hoping to shorten semesters and remove breaks. That way, coronavirus spread by travel can be limited. For example, Notre Dame university plans to start classes on August 10 and eliminate breaks in order to end the fall semester by Thanksgiving.
Mike Hustava, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, told The Review that more details on SVC’s response, including any potential testing or changes to the academic calendar, are not yet available.
“The planning for fall 2020 is an ongoing process and, at this time, we do not have any additional information, aside from what Father Paul provided in his letter to the Saint Vincent Community on May 15. As Father Paul explained, we have been following and will continue to follow directives from the authorities responsible for reopening our community, region, state, etc. As the Forward Together Advisory Committee continues its work in identifying and implementing the guidelines and procedures that will be necessary to safely resume on-campus instruction, more information will be shared. The health and safety of everyone at Saint Vincent remains the highest priority,” Hustava said.