UPDATE on Undergraduate Courses and In-Person Activities
Sept. 25, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
Below is the message I sent to students today regarding our plans to resume face-to-face classes and activities Monday. Human Resource Services will be in contact later today with student employees and their supervisors about returning to working on campus.
I appreciate all of the continued support and patience you have shown our students, especially during these past two weeks. My hope is that this time has been an opportunity for them to reflect, reset their priorities and act in accordance.
Lisa C. Freeman
I know that this two-week pause of face-to-face classes and activities has been challenging and counter to what you had hoped your fall semester would look and feel like. COVID-19 has necessitated that we all adjust in ways that seem unproductive, but our recent actions to reduce exposures has greatly helped address the negative behaviors and trends we were seeing.
During this pause, we identified new cases within our student surveillance testing population on Sept. 18 and were immediately able to quarantine groups of students who were likely exposed. Those students were tested, and the results are represented in Wednesday’s dashboard count.
Outside of this now-isolated population, our overall positivity rate has gone down. Importantly, through the DeKalb County Health Department’s contact tracing efforts this past month, there is no evidence that a classroom setting has been the point of origin for exposure. We also have seen a notable decrease in parties and social gatherings. These results show us that the vast majority of you are taking this situation seriously, and I am grateful.
With all of this information in hand, we have decided to keep the restrictions in place through the weekend. On Monday morning, we will resume face-to-face classes and lift the restrictions related to essential activities as outlined:
- Face-to-face classes can resume Monday at the discretion of faculty and will continue to follow all classroom guidelines outlined in Protecting the Pack. Students in courses that are face-to-face will receive confirmation from their professors by noon Sunday on how to proceed.
- University-approved, in-person events hosted by recognized student organizations can proceed as long as masks are worn, physical distancing occurs and the attendance falls within the space capacity guidelines in place. These are the only types of events/gatherings permissible anywhere on campus property.
- Students can gather in small groups, no more than 10, with their friends if masks are worn and they maintain physical distancing.
- Guests can return to campus, so long as they too wear masks and maintain physical distancing. Guests remain prohibited from residence halls.
- Parking restrictions will remain in place, and the lagoon will remain closed at sunset.
- We need all students to cooperate in an open and honest manner with NIU and public health officials about testing, tracking and tracing efforts. All students who have been exposed, have symptoms or test positive MUST notify the university (Helpline 815-753-0444), respond to any calls from state or local health departments and follow guidance of public health officials. A new COVID-19 symptom/exposure reporting form will be sent to students early next week to make notifying the university easier in the future.
- Human Resource Services will provide information to student employees later today about returning to working on campus. Students should continue to consult with supervisors about their work schedules and locations.
- Parties and unregistered events of any size are strictly prohibited as they remain high-risk activities that jeopardize the health and well-being of our community.
I want to be very clear: If we see a change in the positivity rate again, or a lack of compliance, we will be forced to take another pause or shift permanently to remote learning and related restrictions. On behalf of all faculty and staff who have worked tirelessly for months to help you be successful this semester, I assure you that we don’t want to have to take those steps. We also don’t want to have a negative impact on our region that could result in additional restrictions being placed on DeKalb County, so I implore you to adhere to the expectations outlined in Protecting the Pack.
Stay focused on what it means to be a Huskie, the education you are here for and the goals you want to accomplish. Be kind and respectful of one another, and we’ll continue to navigate this time together.
Lisa C. Freeman