Updated: Jul 22, 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused many changes in lives across the country, and therefore will impact the way that Meredith College will operate for the upcoming academic year. Like many other college campuses in North Carolina, Meredith is preparing to reopen this fall by welcoming back to campus those who choose to return and providing options for students who wish to continue virtual learning as the pandemic lingers. In this first article of a two-part series, The Meredith Herald reports on how plans for fall are shaping up so far (click here to read part two).
Students returning to campus can expect a multitude of changes, which vary between specific departments. In terms of welcoming the Class of 2024 to Meredith for the beginning of their college experience, events such as orientation will be held virtually. Beloved orientation events like the Massey House tour and Honor Code Ceremony will be conducted in person at a later date. For freshmen moving to campus for the first time, move-in days will be staggered so as to practice social distancing. “Orientation events will be held Friday, August 14, through Sunday, August 16. There will be a few items that happen each day that freshmen will have to complete via MC Connect,” Co-Director of First Year Experience Holly Weakland said. “Move-in will be happening on that Tuesday, August 11, Wednesday, August 12, and Thursday August 13.”
Additional rules will be mandated in residence halls and the Oaks apartments such as allowing only one Meredith guest per resident and prohibiting off-campus visitors. “There is a limit of one guest per resident per visit in a resident’s room; note that the visitor can only be another Meredith resident,” director of residence life Heidi LeCount said in an email on Jun. 30. “Overnight stays are not permitted until further notice, and off-campus guests are not permitted in the residence halls or Oaks apartments.” LeCount was not available for further comment.
To make time on campus as safe and risk-free as possible, the Fall 2020 academic calendar has been altered. The first day of classes will be held on Aug. 17, with students leaving campus for winter break the week of Thanksgiving. Exams will be held virtually the following week, December 1-8. This decision was made by an ad-hoc working group composed of Meredith faculty council members, academic council members and department heads.
“We were asked to make a selection of scenarios that would make the fall semester work,” ad-hoc chair Laura Davidson said. “[We wanted] nothing too drastic that would greatly impact the typical schedule, something that would balance the workload between students and faculty, and would project any training needed for faculty if we went to a different modality.”
Classes are being offered in one of five ways: face-to-face, hybrid, online synchronous, online hybrid or online asynchronous. This decision is made by each professor, taking into consideration the number of students enrolled, the size of classroom space and the ability to practice social distancing in the space provided.
“There were a lot of conversations about different ways you could teach classes, but the provost said that the faculty members needed to decide what they were comfortable doing,” Davidson said. “We looked at what that meant in terms of overall [course] offerings, and sometimes faculty members and department heads discussed it further. In the end, we decided that the decision-maker for an individual course is the faculty member.”
Safety Protocols on Campus
To further ensure that students prevent the spread of COVID-19, protocols recommended by doctors and government leaders will be enforced.This includes the requirement of face masks.
Along with these measures, campus leadership is committed to doing all that they can to stop the spread and prioritize the physical health of the Meredith community. However, Dean of Students Ann Gleason reminds students, faculty and staff that they also play a role in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“Can we really assure one hundred percent safety? I think people really need to take responsibility for their own health and safety as well,” Gleason said. “[We are really thinking about] what we can do as a campus to limit the spread.”
In the circumstance that students or staff members test positive for COVID-19, Meredith’s Health Center has a system in place to conduct contact tracing and quarantines.
“We will have [COVID-19] testing, and we will also have contact tracing. Dr. Johnson is working with Meredith’s public health department to build a contact tracing team,” Gleason said. “If someone at Meredith gets diagnosed with COVID-19, they will fill out a form to know where the person has been. Contact tracing happens and people will be alerted that they have been in contact or close proximity with someone who has tested positive.”
Stay tuned for the second part of the “Beginner’s Guide to COVID-19 on Campus” series, coming Wednesday, which will take a look at the state of clubs and traditions, the Honors Program, Teaching Fellows and international programs.
By Hannah Porter, Staff Writer