So that’s what the University of Minnesota is doing in the fall?

It’s a plan suggested by our board of regents, I guess.

We recommend the resumption of in-person instruction and opening of residence halls, dining facilities and other campus services in a manner consistent with public health guidance. This will include adjusting capacity levels for classroom occupancy, residence halls and dining capacity, and other inperson experiences.

While faculty retain the autonomy to determine the modality of their teaching, and how to best achieve their learning objectives, classroom capacity constraints will limit how many classes may be offered inperson and when. Faculty will be strongly encouraged to develop courses that are multi-modal, to accommodate the flexibility described above, and will be provided support to aid in this development.

Labs and other experiential learning components of classes may be “front-loaded” in order to ensure they can be completed in-person in case of an outbreak or an early pivot. We have developed, and are committed to offering, a fully-distanced first-year curriculum for international students who might not be able to arrive on campus in the Fall, or for other incoming students who prefer to advance their education in that manner.

So we assume everything is normal, but we have to stand ready to shut down labs and switch to online teaching at a moment’s notice. I’ll probably enforce distancing in seating in the lecture hall, and request that students wear masks in lab (I’ll wear one too), though. I’ll prepare online lectures, just in case.

I have a feeling this whole plan might fall apart even before the start of the term, but we’ll see. The board is more confident than I am.

They’re also planning to adjust the academic calendar so the semester is over by Thanksgiving. I’ll have to see what that looks like — we have a fall break (2 days) and Labor Day (1 day), but turning those into work days won’t quite get us to the end. Finishing by 25 November leaves us 10 teaching days short of the scheduled end of classes on 11 December. We’re going to have to find an extra week and a half in the calendar, I guess. Start classes a week early? Add in some teaching on Saturday? Steal the Time-Turner from Hermione? It’s going to get interesting.


  1. says

    Since the USA, Brazil and Russia have all collectively dropped the ball on the pandemic, by now they have essentially become huge reservoirs for further waves of infection. I am not a physician, so my opinion is not worth much, but for whatever it is worth, I think second or maybe even third wave is inevitable and until a vaccine and/or reliable treatment are available, we in those countries where the first wave was succesfully quelled will have to be constantly on the outlook for outbreaks.

  2. komarov says

    Germany or parts thereof are trying to reopen schools. Some schools were reopened only to be closed again immediately due to outbreaks, leading to – justified, I believe – complaints that they were moving too quickly, doing too much all at once. The argument seems to be that a more circumspect approach coluld have avoided this or at least limited the damage, which is essentially a hard reset to zero and may end up costing more school time than limited teaching would have.
    As long as you have the choice, maybe you might want to take a slow approach wherever possible, e.g. reintroducing labs and while keeping everything else online, at least at first. Of course that might still fail if the university collectively opts for business as usual (or something on a similar scale) and falls into the same trap / has the same miserable luck.

  3. daved says

    The University of Alabama is reporting cases of COVID-19 among athletes who have already returned to campus. (Athletes were permitted to return sooner than regular students.) This bodes poorly.

  4. leerudolph says

    The board is more confident than I am.

    The board isn’t going to be there, are they? Easier to be confident in that case.

  5. Jazzlet says

    R in the northwest of England (where I live) is heading up again, 1.1 as of today. That covers a period of limited reopening of places like garden centres where distancing is easy and we are heading for more reopening soon. We have decided to try and get our food delivered, we’re 59 and 62, too many people aren’t observing distancing or wearing masks, which makes shopping in person very stressfull. I guess I can see how you could run labs safely with few enough students in each session, but what about all the other things students will be doing? sigh

  6. fishy says

    Around the beginning of May the factory I am working in shut down for a week. During that time they put up cardboard and plexiglass barriers between work stations and workers on the lines. They instituted protocols for sanitizing like hand sanitizer, no touch faucets, and paper towel dispensers. They have us line up for temperature checks before each shift. They require masks. They encourage social distancing.
    Very many people ignore the protocols. They pull down their masks to talk. They wear them under their noses. Many just wear a face shield which is accepted. They get right in your face to talk to you.
    It’s hot in the plant and fans are everywhere. It’s a large building with high ceilings and lots of space. It would be difficult to track the dispersion of anyone’s droplet cloud.
    I still see the same faces everyday.
    Maybe it’s working.
    In the back of my mind I am afraid people will relax and be less vigilant, even more so than they are now.
    A government proclamation won’t cure a plague.

  7. Bruce says

    Every autumn, when daylight savings time ends, the clock is turned back and one hour is relived. The Board will just order the students to do this twice a week and watch their lecture videos at home at 1 a.m. each time until the instructional learning experience is complete.
    If the Board eventually decides that this is a solution, who are mere faculty to call the plan delusional or unworkable?

  8. says

    I did my 2 degrees at Macquarie Uni in Australia as an external student this involved listening to taped lectures, posted handouts and mailing in assignments. Tutorials and practicals were manged via residential schools held on weekends and holidays. It’s pretty intense doing a whole course of practicals interspersed with tutorials over a 4 or 5 day period with a couple of weekends thrown in but it works. That might be a way of controlling numbers and social distancing if you stagger blocks of repeated lab sessions to reduce student numbers at each session.

  9. hemidactylus says

    I totally fucking judge people in my immediate vicinity by whether they respect me enough to wear a mask. I look down on naked face POSs. I even hear BS about comparing COVID to the flu. I currently hate people and kinda wonder if COVID might be an apt way out of this madness at this point.

  10. lochaber says

    Might be being a bit of a worrywart, but I’m concerned that students graduating twixt 2019 and 202x are going to be unfairly penalized on the job market and graduate education.

    I guess we’ll have to survive this pandemic, the cops, and then the inevitable chaos that will come with the election first…

  11. whheydt says

    Re: lochaber @ #10…
    Not quite the same problem, but I’m anticipating (on behalf of my 12-year-old grandson) that the coming school year is going to have perhaps a third of the year spent just getting everyone back up to speed. It may turn into a “lost year” for many students. The best outcome assumes that school will start as scheduled, a thing I am not sanguine about.

  12. chrislawson says

    Well, my university informed us 2 weeks ago that all non-permanent teaching staff will be getting a 60% pay cut with no reduction in responsibilities, effective immediately (including sessions that had already been worked but not yet paid for). And by the way, they explained, this has nothing to do with COVID and is a permanent measure. My new hourly rate is less than a first-year graduate.

    I feel so pleased that I put in all that extra effort to make the shift to online teaching as smooth as possible. (Actually, I do because of the students…unfortunately this is the stick the uni uses.)

  13. Rich Woods says

    @komarov #2:

    Germany or parts thereof are trying to reopen schools. Some schools were reopened only to be closed again immediately due to outbreaks, leading to – justified, I believe – complaints that they were moving too quickly, doing too much all at once.

    Here in the UK I don’t expect this to be a problem. The piss-poor, overblown, outsourced, untrained Covid-19 testing and contact tracing service now being belatedly put into place won’t be able to detect let alone affect local outbreaks. So we’ll be fine.

  14. says

    Germany or parts thereof are trying to reopen schools. Some schools were reopened only to be closed again immediately due to outbreaks, leading to – justified, I believe – complaints that they were moving too quickly, doing too much all at once.

    We aren’t trying to, we already have. Little one and me have been back for a couple of weeks now, older kid went for the first time this week. All kids go to school for a couple of hours a week, which does nothing for parents who need to organise childcare.
    We do have a really good hygiene concept, with small,, fixed groups, masks whenever you’re moving, distance, etc. which works really well to the exact moment they leave the school premises, tear off their masks and wait for their friends from the other groups.
    Thankfully so far things are holding. We only have a handful of new cases each day. We learn more every day.
    What is missing for the schools is some kind of plan for the next term. Covid 19 won’t kindly leave because we’re sick and tired of it. So far the plans have not included renewing my contract.