As the first summer session comes to an end at Tech, President Lawrence Schovanec provided updates about campus as well as what might change in the upcoming semester.
Schovanec said the partial opening of campus during the Summer I term has gone smoothly so far. Those who wanted to return to campus to conduct research and other projects had to submit the request to be on campus to the Vice President of Research, Joe Heppert. Once approved, doctors said to make sure those who are on campus adhere to all of the health and safety protocols Tech laid out.
"But in general, I think the process reveals that we're very serious about the rules we played out. And I would hope that people would be patient and understanding. The sanitization and cleaning processes, I think have been very thorough and those were laid out the (Texas Tech) commitment," he said. "There aren't a lot of people on campus now, but with summer two offering some face-to-face, it will be a chance to test some of the policies and protocols we have in place as it relates to use of classrooms."
The number of COVID-19 cases has continued to rise in Lubbock over the last two weeks, and Schovanec said they have a Plan B in place if the case numbers ever rise to a level where they need to react with more traumatic measures. He said they have set aside rooms in dorms to accommodate those who might test positive that would allow for isolation.
With the announcement of the Texas Tech Commitment program, Schovanec said many units around campus have already been greatly impacted. The Tech custodial department has already modified the usual cleaning processes, doing a deep cleaning of buildings regularly, performing maintenance operations and filter changes on the airflow system. For on-campus dining and housing, how meals are delivered and the process people have to go through has changed, and the occupancy in triple rooms and quad rooms has been reduced.
While the number of cases of COVID-19 in Lubbock is rising, Schovanec they are unsure at the moment how many cases it would take to move back to online-only instruction as they have done in places like South Carolina, where the case count is nearly 150 per day.
"At this point, we're not prepared to say, what would be the level of positive tests that would cause us to change. But we discussed that yesterday, we began to discuss a Plan B," he said. "I think also we need to be prepared should the number of cases go way down. And we discussed this…so we're prepared to go either direction. In light of the current situation, (we are) not that optimistic that we're going to be increasing face-to-face instruction, as you probably saw in our announcement with (Texas Tech) commitment."
As a little over 30 percent of courses have been moved to online-only instruction and the others a mixture of hybrid and face-to-face, Schovanec said the process of deciding which courses would be which type of instruction depended on multiple factors.
First, there was a committee of faculty and staff who made recommendations to the provost on what the principles guiding the delivery of their instruction would be, and Schovanec said he and the provost gave instructions to the dean and the chairs to guide their processes of making their schedules. Over 80 percent of 1000 level courses will be face-to-face.
"We did emphasize that we wanted face-to-face instruction available, especially for first-year students. And so, we did recommend that they consider that as they developed face-to-face schedules and a mixture of face-to-face and online, what we call hybrid, to consider the option of these little semesters within semesters, and then the purely online. And so what came out of that, there are was basically those three options," he said.
Moving up the start date of the semester and ending it around Thanksgiving was an option discussed, but Schovanec said he did not see it making a difference if 40,000 students came in earlier or later.
"But at this point, we're planning to go ahead and have the full semester, even if we were to have an increase in cases. What we are planning to do now, at least at the current time…is we're not anticipating that we would have a shutdown," he said. "We would deal with the situation as it's presented to us, trying to keep students on campus, you know, exercising social distancing and the proper isolation protocols, but we're going to try to avoid at all possible any shut down like we had last March."
As COVID-19 continues to make its way through Lubbock, Schovanec said he wants to remind students to continue being mindful and responsible toward their peers. There will be an announcement shortly about Tech's final recommendation regarding face coverings, but he said more than likely, they will be required in the fall.
"You know, we have to ask students to be extremely responsible and considerate of others during those times that they're not on campus," he said. "This is going to be a collective effort that we have to make sure we hold each other accountable."