University of Louisville’s plan for a safe return to campus this fall Monday, Jul 6 2020 

By Madelin Shelton–

On June 23, University of Louisville Provost Beth Boehm sent out the university’s “Pivot to Fall” plan that laid out the university’s strategy for welcoming students, faculty and staff back for the fall semester.

The plan–drafted under the direction of the Pivot to Fall Coordinating Committee, Safe Return to Work Committee, and Academic Scenario Planning Committee–was split into two major sections: “Return to Campus” and “Student, Faculty and Staff Safety.”

The “Return to Campus” section announced that fall semester classes for undergraduates will begin on Aug. 17 and Fall Break will remain on Oct. 5-6, as previously scheduled. Move-in for students living on campus will include multiple days with extended time periods to promote social distancing.

In-person classes will meet regularly until  Nov. 25. After this date, all in-person classes will transition to online-only until the end of final exams. Dorms will remain open to students needing a place to stay through or after Thanksgiving break.

Over 50% of classes will be offered in a hybrid model, part online and part in-person, to allow for a quick switch to online-only should this necessity arise.

The university also disclosed that the Fall 2020 and Spring 2020 commencement ceremonies will both be held in the upcoming December, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the postponement of the Spring 2020 ceremonies.

The key actions for “Student, Faculty and Staff Safety” included several items. Among the most notable announcements, all students, faculty and staff will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing in public areas.

U of L is also making testing available to all members of the campus community and will conduct contact tracing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, the university will increase hand sanitizer, cleaning and disinfecting throughout campus, among other preventative actions.

While the “Pivot to Fall” plan acts as a guide, the university administration acknowledges changes will likely still need to be made.

“We will continue to respond to the guidance of our public health officials and the governor of Kentucky, the latest science and research into COVID-19, advice from our colleagues at other universities and colleges, and input from our employees and students over the next to two months,” Boehm said.

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L releases draft of plan for students’ return to campus in the fall Thursday, Jun 4 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

University of Louisville Provost Beth Boehm sent out an email to the U of L community on June 1 addressing concerns about the fall semester and releasing a draft of the plan for a safe return to campus.

“I want to acknowledge that many of you are anxious and want answers to all of your questions at once,” Boehm said in the email. “I understand your anxiety about ‘reopening’ campus, even as I ask your patience as we methodically work toward something resembling a final plan.”

Boehm went on to clarify that U of L never completely closed during the COVID-19 outbreak. She pointed out that many students remained in on-campus housing, Ekstrom library stayed open and many dining options on-campus were still in operation.

She went on to explain that U of L is working to maintain a balance between giving students the best education possible while also keeping the U of L community safe.

Boehm then linked to the draft of the plan for the return to campus this fall. The plan includes guidelines for personal protective equipment, social distancing, changes to food service areas, testing, required flu shot, class guidelines and changes to the academic calendar.

Masks will be required in all public areas on campus, including classrooms. Professors will be allowed to take off their masks when lecturing as long as they maintain an eight-foot distance from the rest of the class. Students will be given a washable cloth mask at the beginning of the semester, but they are encouraged to bring their own backup masks.

Social distancing will also be expected in common areas on campus. Floor markings and table spacing will be used in high-density places to encourage distance.

In addition to socially distancing in dining areas, hand sanitizer use will be required for entrance to those areas. Barriers will also be installed between food service employees and customers.

U of L will also make COVID-19 testing available to all faculty, staff and students. The testing will be focused on those showing symptoms and those believed to have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Students are encouraged to get tested before returning to campus.

In an effort to reduce flu-like symptoms on campus, students, faculty and staff will be required to get a flu shot at the beginning of the fall semester. U of L will provide free flu shots, but those who wish to get their flu shot elsewhere can do so as long as they provide U of L with evidence of getting vaccinated.

The guidelines also indicate that all classes, except for online-only classes, will be taught as hybrid classes. This means that 25%-75% of the class will be taught in person, with the remaining 25%-75% being taught online. Instructors will also be asked to post required assignments and lectures online to increase accessibility for those unable to attend class.

The academic calendar has also been adjusted to accommodate concerns related to COVID-19. The semester will begin as planned on Aug. 17, but face-to-face instruction will end at the beginning of Thanksgiving Break, Nov. 25. The remaining two days of instruction and finals will take place online.

Other calendar concerns include fall break, which will continue as planned Oct. 5-6, and the Kentucky Derby, which is expected to take place on Sept. 5. Sept. 3-4 will be online instruction days in order to address traffic concerns related to Derby festivities.

Members of the U of L community are encouraged to read the full draft plan and share their thought through a feedback form by June 5. Boehm will also be holding an online forum for students, faculty and staff on June 5 at 2 p.m.

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

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President Bendapudi gives summer update to U of L community Monday, May 25 2020 

By Madelin Shelton–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi sent out an email on May 21 regarding U of L’s decisions through June and July amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These months are expected to be a transitional period for the pivot to the fall semester. This transition will include various policies to help protect the health and safety of faculty, staff and students. 

Among them, Bendapudi announced that the university has “extended the remote-work policy through June 30 for those employees who can continue performing their duties off campus.” 

In addition, June 1 will mark the first day that certain units may begin to bring some employees back to campus who provide critical on-campus needs. June 1 will also be the first day that small meetings and events of up to 10 people can begin. 

The other policies of the transition include a confirmation that pay reductions and furloughs scheduled between now and June 30 will continue as planned and “some research labs and clinical research programs will begin to open following strict health and safety guidelines.”

Bendapudi said that the university would continue to evaluate the evolving situation and update the U of L community on further developments before July 1. 

She also pointed to the work Provost Beth Boehm is doing to craft a smooth transition for the fall semester, including the formation of three separate committees comprised of faculty, staff and student representatives. 

These committees include a coordinating committee in charge of developing plans for “campus operations, student services and other key functions,” a safe return to campus committee with the responsibility of planning necessary COVID-19 testing for the U of L community, and an academic scenario committee “to address delivery of academic programming.”

In response to much uncertainty regarding the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bendapudi said the university and its leadership “are working diligently to ensure that the University of Louisville will be prepared for any eventuality.”

File Graphic// The Louisville Cardinal

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Bendapudi announces classes will return on campus in the fall Thursday, May 7 2020 

By Madelin Shelton–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced in an email on May 3 that the University of Louisville is expected to return to regular campus operations for the fall 2020 semester. This includes students living on campus and attending in-person classes.

Bendapudi said that U of L never did close during the Spring 2020 semester and that it continued to serve the 2,700 students who remained in campus facilities or affiliated housing.

She also said that U of L’s research and healthcare infrastructure and recent experience of moving swiftly from in-person to online classes has well prepared the university to respond to future rises in COVID-19 cases.

Bendapudi said that the principal concern is the health and wellbeing of the Cards community.

In preparation for the fall semester, U of L is employing several strategies, including having the Executive Vice President for Research, Kevin Gardner, work with U of L researchers and Campus Health Services to ensure quick testing of students, faculty, staff and contact tracing.

In addition, Executive Vice President and University Provost Beth Boehm is leading a work group to help U of L students get the best education in the fall and to support faculty and staff.

Bendapudi said that the university will continue to consult with local and state health officials and U of L experts as the situation progresses. She also addressed the still-present uncertainty with a situation like this.

“We know there are many questions that we need to answer between now and the start of the Fall semester. We will be providing a more comprehensive update on our path forward by the first week of June,” she stated in the email.

U of L Executive Director of Communications John Karman said that the university will be prepared to switch back to online only instruction if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases.  But he also made it clear that there will be measures taken to try to prevent an outbreak at U of L.

“The university will have significant health and safety protocols in place for students returning to campus this fall. Details of those measures should be revealed in early June,” Karman said.

Bendapudi ended her announcement with words of encouragement.

“What I have seen of our U of L family is that we are uniquely able to rise to a challenge and overcome it. This global health situation is no different. I have full confidence that the U of L students, staff, and faculty I interact with each and every day are ready for anything, and that is true in this situation as well,” she said.

Graphic by Alexis Simon //The Louisville Cardinal

 

 

 

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U of L suspends searches for provost and A&S dean Friday, Mar 27 2020 

By Eli Hughes —

Interim Dean of College of Arts and Sciences David Owen announced March 23 that the University of Louisville’s search for a new A&S dean and a new provost will be suspended until the fall due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Owen said in the email announcement that the searches are suspended because it is not currently possible to conduct in-person interviews for the jobs.

“I count myself fortunate to lead A&S during these trying times—you all have truly demonstrated the Cardinal spirit in the past few weeks, and it is this spirit that makes us a community of care, and a family,” Owen said.

Owen shared in the email that he would stay on as interim dean until a new dean is selected. John Karman, director of media relations for U of L, confirmed that Provost Beth Boehm will also remain in her position until the new provost is selected.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L adds pass/fail option for the spring 2020 semester Friday, Mar 20 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

University of Louisville Provost Beth Boehm announced in an email to students March 20 that students now have the option to make any of their classes for the spring 2020 semester pass/fail.

A pass/fail system means that no matter the letter grade, a class that a student passes will not affect their grade point average but will be counted toward their degree progression. A failed class will affect their grade point average.

Undergraduate students who choose this option will earn a grade of “pass” for any class they get a D- or better in and a “fail” grade for any class they get an F in. Graduate students will earn a “pass” for any class they get a C- or better in and a “fail” for any class they get a D+ or below in.

Boehm explained the decision to offer a pass/fail class as a way to redefine what success means in a time where things are uncertain due to the spread of COVID-19.

“Success might mean something different this semester than it would in a ‘normal’ semester: it might mean not giving up when you are tempted to; it might mean finishing all of the courses you signed up for without stressing about grades; it might mean practicing social distancing to keep yourself and others safe and healthy; it might mean finding out that you are stronger than you thought,” Boehm said.

This decision came after students raised concerns about the switch to online classes for the remainder of the semester. One student, Chidum Okeke, started an online petition to persuade U of L administration to provide a pass/fail option.

That petition had 3,751 signatures at the time the decision was made. In his petition, Okeke explained why he felt a pass/fail system would be beneficial. “U of L students are driven and passionate, but under these circumstances, the amount of work and engagement can be exhausting and potentially detrimental to the success of our student body,” Okeke said.

“Giving students the option to make their classes pass/fail wouldn’t discourage students from doing well academically, but rather, would allow some cushion for those in tough situations.”

Boehm suggested that students talk to their advisors before deciding to switch to pass/fail or not. The decision can be made on a class by class basis and the deadline to switch a class to pass/fail is April 21, the last day of class.

Boehm attached the university’s official pass/fail policy to the email and said it will also be put on the U of L coronavirus website.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Provost Boehm shares update with faculty amid suspended classes Monday, Mar 16 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

University of Louisville faculty and students are returning from spring break to new territory: online classes. Amid this situation, U of L provost Beth Boehm shared an update and her thoughts on the situation.

Beginning March 18 all classes will be administered remotely, April 5 being the earliest date to return to in-person classes. For many professors, conducting online classes will be uncharted territory.

“I understand that many of you are stressed and worried about teaching remotely; honestly, I would be fearful too if I were teaching this semester,” said Boehm. “But we have an obligation to our students and our accrediting bodies to enable our students to complete their courses remotely.”

With faculty and students worried about the efficacy of these online classes, Boehm wants them to know that it will require patience on both sides.

“In a note to students, I asked that they be patient with their instructors, many of whom are teaching online for the first time,” she said. “Here, I am asking you to also be patient with your students, to be understanding of their anxieties, both about online delivery and the coronavirus itself.”

To reduce the stress of both parties, Boehm reiterated that faculty are being trained to properly administer their online courses to students. They have been working with the Delphi Center staff to ensure the online courses are a success.

In addition, Boehm reminded the faculty how important it is for the university to stay open during times like these.

“We are committed to staying open to help our most vulnerable students have food, shelter, and access to libraries and IT (and some other essential services) while they work to finish the semester,” she said. “Your leadership in modeling healthy social distancing practices, resilience in the face of stress and unfamiliar work conditions, and kindness and compassion according to our Cardinal Principles will help our students stay calm and healthy and will enable them to complete their semester successfully.”

She also urged faculty to provide students without internet access the information to receive a free 60-day period from Spectrum. “To enroll, students should call 1-844-488-8395,” said Boehm. “While we will be sharing this info with students, if you have students who indicate they are without internet access, please give them this information.”

In closing, Boehm said how this will be a stressful and difficult time for everyone. But with that in mind, administration, faculty and students all have to work together to make this transition seamless she said.

“I know we are a resilient institution, and I’m urging us all to call upon our best selves in the days ahead,” said Boehm. “We have a lot of work to do.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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