Spartan Shield initiative outlines preparation;
Community urged to play a part in reducing viral transmission
After spending several months discussing, planning and preparing for students’ return to campus, The University of Tampa has taken proactive, unprecedented measures to resume a dynamic learning and campus experience with a combination of in-person, hybrid and remote classroom teaching.
Residential students will start moving into residence halls tomorrow, and classes begin on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Classes on campus will end at Thanksgiving break, and all final exams will be taken remotely.
While UT faculty and staff will strive to deliver the rich, in-person educational experience, students will find many changes in the classroom and in the ways that their courses are taught. Classroom, lab and studio capacities have been adjusted so that physical distancing is maintained. This will mean that fewer students will be together with their faculty members while others in the class will participate remotely. And some classes, taught by faculty members who are themselves at higher risk of illness, will be fully remote.
“We made decisions based on consultation with experts in a variety of fields, and with faculty and administrative leadership,” said UT President Ron Vaughn. “We have strived to balance the health, safety and well-being of our community with our shared commitment to develop each student through learning engagements conducted in personalized settings that are enhanced through application.
“But we need the compliance of every Spartan to minimize our shared risk.”
The residential and co-curricular experience will also be adjusted to help protect the campus community. For instance, all new students who will live on campus have signed up for a move-in time appointment, and students are limited to two persons to help them move in. Prior to move-in, all rooms and commons areas within the residence halls will be deeply cleaned and sanitized. And of particular note, non-UT visitors will not be permitted in residence halls, and masks will be required in all common areas of residence halls.
“Most of our students are eager to be back on campus, and we believe they will rise to the occasion and will practice healthy behaviors, including wearing masks, remaining physically distant and avoiding behaviors that endanger others,” said Stephanie Russell Krebs, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “While we cannot control all the factors that will make our semester a success, we have a plan in place for things that are in our control and feel optimistic about the path ahead.”
The dining experience on campus will also be adjusted, with Dining Services staggering and minimizing the number of patrons and keeping people six feet apart; using floor physical distancing decals along with signage on the walls and counter tops; adding visual cues or barriers to direct traffic flow and distancing; separating and clearly identifying entrances and exits; following government-mandated capacity rules; separating all tables to be six feet apart and marking off unavailable seats; using contactless and cashless payment; creating a pick-up station for each location; and increasing to-go options around campus.
This summer, UT’s COVID-19 Health Safety Task Force authored the Spartan Shield health safety initiative. It has outlined UT’s preparation for the fall reopening, and provided basic principles and practices to preserve an environment that is as safe as possible. It is based on four tenets:
Screening, Testing and Containment
All members of the University community are asked to conduct daily COVID-19 self-assessments to mitigate the spread of the virus and to protect those members of the UT community who are at high risk.
To facilitate self-monitoring and assessment, UT has installed hands-free temperature screening systems in locations across campus.
Staff and faculty with symptoms will be asked to stay home and seek medical attention; students will be advised to seek medical attention at the Dickey Health and Wellness Center. The health center will have extended hours, and has access to a temporary annex building to handle extra traffic.
Anticipating positive cases, UT has contracted with the local contract-tracing firm Rapid-Trace to identify close contacts of any infected individuals.
Any person who tests positive will isolate for 10 days and until symptoms have resolved. Residential students will isolate in a designated isolation space. Those who were in close contact will be notified and required to quarantine for 14 days.
Linda Devine, vice president of operations, said that COVID-19 has amplified the role of socially responsible campus citizens, and what might be possible if everyone does their fair share.
“As I think about this fall term and our re-engaging face to face as a community, I sense that it will be a test of Spartan strength,” Devine said. “Can we each do our part so that all among us can stay healthy?”
UT is committed to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 through a University-wide commitment to physical distancing practices while also fostering ongoing social connections and community building. Specific physical distancing guidelines have been developed to maintain academic quality, balance the health and safety of the students, staff and faculty while developing a sense of belonging and connectedness among students to support student success, and mitigate risk for those determined to be vulnerable or immunocompromised.
Recognizing that larger spaces that accommodate greater levels of physical distancing will be in high demand, essential University business will be prioritized.
Faculty and staff are being advised to use videoconferencing technology when possible if physical distancing measures cannot be met or to allow participation of higher-risk individuals who choose not to attend face-to-face meetings/activities.
Sanitization, Personal Hygiene and Personal Protection Equipment
UT is providing every member of the UT community with two branded cloth face masks. All faculty, staff, students and visitors, including vendors, are required to wear face masks/coverings in all common areas of campus facilities, including classrooms. Face masks/coverings are also required in outdoor campus areas where social distancing is not possible. Exceptions are permitted for the use of dining facilities, participation in athletic practices and contests, and instruction in selected fine arts.
Facilities Management environmental services staff members will ensure that classrooms are sanitized at the start of each class day, and they will conduct regular rounds through facilities.
Plexiglass barriers have been erected around campus to reduce viral transmission, as has educational and informational signage and messaging.
UT faculty have committed to the following practices in the design of their classes to maximize the mitigation of transmission risk in the classroom.
Some classes will meet in full, according to the posted schedule where classroom sizes and course enrollments allow for necessary physical distancing. In other cases, classes may employ alternative delivery methods that facilitate physical distancing while maintaining engagement with students. This may include some combination of smaller face-to-face class meetings and the use of a variety of educational technologies. Information Technology and Security has enhanced the AV equipment in almost every classroom on campus to ensure a quality audio-visual experience for students and faculty.
Some courses taught by faculty members who are themselves at higher risk of illness – according to CDC guidelines – may be taught remotely. In order to maintain appropriate physical distancing and accommodate student and faculty needs, some instructors will hold office hours and other meetings via Zoom or other online platforms that allows for synchronous interaction.
Lastly, faculty and students will be expected to wear masks during in-place instructional experiences, except for certain unique situations in the arts.
A comprehensive informational and educational campaign has been developed to provide daily reminders to the entire campus community about guidelines that will help ensure a safe and healthy semester. The campaign includes campus-wide signage, social media campaigns, advertising in the campus newspaper, notices on campus LCD screens and messaging on giveaways.
The University of Tampa is a private, comprehensive university located on 110 acres on the riverfront in downtown Tampa. Known for academic excellence, personal attention and real-world experience in its undergraduate and graduate programs, the University serves approximately 10,000 students from 50 states and typically about 130 countries.