Since March, members of Drexel Facilities have been assessing campus spaces, HVAC systems, transportation, signage and other practical matters to ensure social distancing when campus life resumes. Photo credit: Jeff Fusco.
Please visit the ‘
Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus’ website
for the latest public health advisories.
On June 17, Drexel University held a virtual forum to discuss the University’s phased approach to reopening, based upon recommendations from members of the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Task Force. Nearly 1,500 faculty members, professional staff and other members of the Drexel community watched presentations from the task force, who also answered questions from the audience.
The panelists included:
- Drexel President John Fry
- Westphal College of Media Arts & Design Department Head of Architecture, Design & Urbanism Alan Greenberger
- Interim Nina Henderson Provost Paul E. Jensen, PhD
- Executive Vice Provost for Research Aleister Saunders, PhD
- Senior Vice President for Student Success Subir Sahu, PhD
- Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Megan Weyler
- Vice President of Real Estate and Facilities Donald E. Moore
- Vice Provost for Community Health Care Innovation Marla Gold, MD
A lightly abbreviated version of the transcript is below. The Fall 2020 Virtual Forum can also be viewed here.
Drexel President John Fry: Hello, and welcome. Today, we’re going to talk in more detail about the next steps regarding how the University plans to ready our return to campus in September.
Given the fluidity of the situation, we are going to need to remain flexible and adaptable. Nor does this conversation start and stop here. Over the weeks and months to come, communication will be key to our collective success.
I am convening a new working group to implement the recommendations set forth by the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Task Force, and they will be working expeditiously. At the same time, they will be keeping a watchful eye on the ever-changing situation with regard to Philadelphia’s success in minimizing the spread of coronavirus infections.
The safety of our entire community will continue to guide our decisions as we move forward.
I know that you have concerns that some students will be relaxed — or even resistant — about wearing masks in classrooms, labs and other public settings on campus. But we are going to work closely with our students, setting clear standards and expectations. We’ll tap into expertise we have on campus to help shape healthy behavior. And we’re going to use public health messaging across the campus. In short, we’re going to do everything we can to create the safest conditions for all.
Today’s discussion will cover an overview of the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Task Force’s recommendations, with the goal of providing additional insight into their decision-making process and conclusions. We’ll also share some key protocols and procedures that will continue to be developed and outlined as we move forward.
Communications will be provided in a timely manner to faculty and professional staff to ensure that you and your teams have as much time as possible to prepare for the fall.
Westphal College of Media Arts & Design Department Head of Architecture, Design & Urbanism Alan Greenberger: Good afternoon, everybody.
We looked at three key scenarios for the fall — all contingent on the health status of this region determined by the governor and his health secretary.
The first scenario, rightly labeled Scenario One, is based on that status, which a couple of weeks ago was "red" and now is "yellow." But both cases still has the University as a campus largely closed except for critical research. Scenarios Two and Three are based on the region's status going to green.
We focused the work on the task force on Scenario Two as it appears to be the most likely outcome in September. It also positions us in the middle of various possibilities for a change in status. This is important because we know that things could change. It could change for the worse. It could change for the better. And we need to be prepared to alter our plans accordingly.
We enhanced the work of the task force by issuing a University-wide survey asking for people's comments, concerns and mostly their ideas for how we should proceed. We received over 1,300 responses.
Our report, which is over 90 pages long and arguably it's a thousand pages long if you include all the material in the appendix, is supported by over 80 specific recommended actions. To summarize, here are the essential recommendations of the task force, boiled down to nine critical items.
The first is about reopening. I mentioned we're planning for a full reopening of campus, but it'll be under a litany of new practices. Things may change and we're going to need to be flexible, but the plan is based around this fundamental approach.
Second, we're planning on a full 10-week term that will commence as originally scheduled on Sept. 21. It will run for nine weeks through the Friday before Thanksgiving. And at that point, coursework on campus will be suspended. Many people will probably leave campus for the holiday and the remaining week of instruction and then finals will be delivered remotely as we've done this spring.
There'll be numerous health and safety protocols in effect. You'll be hearing more about that from each of our presenters, but particularly from Donald Moore and Marla Gold.
Coursework, and academics, will be complicated. It's possibly the most complicated thing in this proposal. And it would be incumbent on every single academic unit to determine how best to deliver one of our core missions, education, through a combination of all face-to-face, mixed mode and remote methods. Our provost, Paul Jensen, will be discussing that in his presentation.
In order to enhance the abilities to offer high-quality online education, additional training and resources will need to be made available to faculty and staff, and these are outlined in our report.
We have a very wide-ranging research agenda at this University and it will need to be reintroduced gradually and with care to create healthy and safe working conditions. Our vice provost for research and innovation, Aleister Saunders, will discuss that in his presentation.
There needs to be a comprehensive plan for bringing students back into the University and affiliated housing. Subir Sahu will talk more about that in his presentation.
And lastly, a series of new policies and procedures must be put in place to plan for the implementation of this plan. Megan Weyler will discuss some of those policies that come through HR, but at all levels of the University, each functioning unit, each college, each research institute, each administrative unit, must create an implementation planning group right now to guide planning that can only happen at more local levels than would be possible with a five-week task force.
Classes and Course Delivery
Interim Nina Henderson Provost Paul E. Jensen, PhD: I will make brief remarks about our course delivery for the fall and faculty support over the summer. I want to start by recognizing that health and safety will be paramount. It is absolutely our intent to accommodate the needs of our faculty and students in the classroom. This is, of course, going to require greater flexibility in how we build the course schedule and how we deliver the courses. In terms of course delivery, we are working to deliver courses in ways that best match both student and faculty needs. We, of course, will also be limited potentially by any legal constraints from the city or the state in terms of the size of gatherings we can have, but we don't know with certainty what those guidelines will be yet, so we will have to pay attention to those.
But besides that, our primary focus will be thinking about the facilities needed to teach a course effectively, and the learning goals and what's needed to achieve those goals.
Some classes are really best taught face-to-face. These might be labs, studio courses, clinical experiences. And so, our first objective is to identify a subset of classes that will need to be taught face-to-face. There is a second category of courses — these may be large lectures — that can be delivered effectively online. And then there is a third category of courses that maybe combine the two. And this is going to require more flexible mixed-mode delivery.
Our intent is to identify basically three sets of courses, three different delivery modes. We are working with the schools and colleges currently to make these determinations. This is in process and we'll be all learning more about that as we work with the schools and colleges.
Let me shift my remarks now to faculty support. The spring term I know was very trying for all of us and many people just finished spring and are preparing now to teach for summer. So I know it's been a heavy lift and I just want to commend and thank all of you for the tremendous effort.
That said, we know that we have work to do over the summer to prepare for fall. And so I want to talk about some of the things we are doing in terms of supporting faculty for the fall.
The first is training. We're meeting individually with the leadership in the schools and colleges to tailor training and development programs over the summer to ensure we end up with high-quality, innovative and engaging courses in the fall. Training will be provided by several groups. We have the Teaching and Learning Center, we have our Online Learning Council and we have the Instructional Technology Group. The goal is to help faculty teach better, smarter and more efficiently, and a lot of the training will focus on how to more effectively use online tools.
The second thing that we're also working on is to mobilize resources to better support faculty. In terms of course facilitators, we're setting up peer support groups and working to increase graduate assistant and teaching assistant support.
These are the main areas of focus now. Over the summer we'll be sharing information as we work with the colleges to start building the course schedule.
Executive Vice Provost for Research Aleister Saunders, PhD: Back on March 18 we ramped down on-campus field-based and clinic-based research, scholarly and creative activities. Since then, most of these activities have occurred remotely and they've done so quite successfully. However, Pennsylvania has designated research a life-sustaining activity and with that, a very limited number of critical research activities that needed to occur on campus, in the field or in the clinic were approved to continue.
Beginning in April, the Research Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee has been engaging in a multi-stakeholder process to develop guidelines to ramp up research activities that could not occur remotely. In doing so, we created a number or set of core principles. The two most important are the health and safety of the research community and the need for agility given the uncertainty of a pandemic. Those guidelines were published on May 28. The chart on the slide shows you that plan in a summary form and the four phases that it's made up of.
Importantly, this ramp-up must be gradual. We're turning on the University and all pieces need to be up and going, to some extent, for research to ramp up. Another critical point here is that all remote work that can occur should continue to occur.
Phase one of our research ramp up began on June 8th. Given the extent and duration of the University shut down, ramp up will be bumpy.
So, coordination between the academic units and administrative units will be key because we're trying to minimize risks to our research community and our support staff while maintaining our mission as an R1 research university. As always, communication will be key. So please visit the Office of Research and Innovation's website on COVID-19 response. There's lots of details there.
Students Returning to Campus
Senior Vice President for Student Success Subir Sahu, PhD: I'll start with Welcome Week, which is our orientation for our new and incoming students. We're going to move forward with our Welcome Week plans. We've established a really good structure in place led by Dr. MacKenzie Luke, so we're going to continue with that framework. We're going to bring students to campus one week before the start of the fall term, but we're going to go about our programmatic efforts a different type of way and essentially in a hybrid manner. We're going to do a lot of our bigger events remotely that we've done in the past. We will have some specific programs and activities throughout the week, but we will have social distancing measures in place.
As we move toward campus housing, I'll start with the moving process. Our Move-In Weekend for new students has been a really joyous celebration as students start their college career. We're looking at a different model. We’re still looking to bring in our outside partners in USS [University and Student Services, a third party company that helps with Drexel’s move-in process] to help with the planning of the moving process, but we're exploring a shipping service for students who actually mail the bulk of their items to campus and we place them in their rooms well before they arrive on campus. This will help reduce the number of people on campus, so that students and families can really come and go directly to their rooms.
As it relates to housing, we're putting in place housing assignments that make sense for social distancing. In our traditional-style halls, students typically have a roommate and common-area bathrooms and common-area kitchens and spaces. For this fall, those will convert to single rooms. We will look at enrollment numbers to see if we keep those singles or we'll move to roommates as we move along. But our goal is to keep those as singles for as long as possible. We will have doubles in our suite-style halls, because those are smaller spaces. We have less students who are sharing bathrooms and common areas within their suites.
We will also set aside isolation spaces so that if students test positive or need to be quarantined for any purpose, we have spaces that are completely empty.
We will also look at our shared spaces and strategize how we place furniture in these spaces to maximize student engagement, but still allow for social distancing.
I'm going to leave cleaning and sanitation protocols to Donald during his presentation. But we're working very closely with them. We are working closely with our colleagues for a communication plan so that we can communicate well to our students our expectations as it relates to wearing masks and following social distance guidelines. We do have policies and plans in place to hold students accountable though our student conduct process. But ultimately, our plan is to engage with our student leaders, help them be a part of this. We want students to understand why they need to do the things that we're asking them to do, and have a voice.
Further down the line, we’ll look at resident assistant (RA) training. Our resident assistants are always wonderful staff members who help us ensure that we get the pieces in place for our student body. So we'll work with them amongst other student leaders.
If it comes to evacuation and reintegration, we will follow the same procedures that we set in place this past year should we have to move students from campus. We have a lot of those structures in place. For international students, we're working closely with our campus colleagues in ISSS, who have an updated FAQ on their website. We're going to continue to make sure that we're in line with them and our protocols and policies to support our international population.
Same from the standpoint of our student-athlete guidelines. We're working closely with [Director of Athletics] Eric Zillmer and his team. They will likely come to campus in early August, and then we were working with the CAA and NCAA as it relates to what seasons will look like and likely look at playing games that are closer to campus and limiting travel. We're also working with that team as it relates to the Rec Center and reopening following state and city protocols.
With the additional support through this leadership of [Assistant Vice President of Business Services] Don Liberati on the Business Services side, we are working closely with our campus partners and Aramark regarding seating in our dining halls and potentially having seating outside, in coordination with city and state guidelines. And we are looking to add different pieces to our parking strategy so that we can take care of the increased parking demands that are likely to come.
Human Resources Issues
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Megan Weyler: I would like to take a moment just to acknowledge the personal strains that we have experienced over the past few months due to the pandemic. This has been an exceptionally trying time, and all the while you have continued to care for your Drexel family as well.
So, if you take anything from this portion, I would like it to be the opportunities that are available to you. Many of us could benefit from additional support during this time, and there are resources such as Health Advocate and Lincoln's employee assistance program. Drexel's employee assistance program is free and completely confidential. Faculty and professional staff can receive free counseling sessions from licensed professionals who regularly work with issues such as grief, isolation, anxiety and work-life balance. These benefits are also available to employees’ immediate family members.
In addition, support is available through your HR business partner. Your HR business partner can advise you as well as your manager on options for alternative work schedules, personal leave of absence, and family medical leave if it's applicable.
One of the greatest concerns we've heard over the past two weeks is, “What if I can't return due to my own physical condition or due to my child's school closure?” As of right now we know that we don't have all of the answers, but all along we have urged our department heads and our managers to remain flexible during this process. Drexel does have a flexible work arrangement policy that allows for compressed work schedules, telework and job sharing, if it's appropriate, as we start looking at our access to campus and coming back.
Although on-campus access is limited to essential personnel, if any of our faculty and professional staff have a need to access campus to retrieve belongings or resources for summer term or upcoming fall, you can contact your HR business partner. They will facilitate entry to campus along with Public Safety.
As President Fry mentioned, an implementation group is being formed to provide guidance in moving us forward. And while this group will provide the overall strategy, it's essential for each college and division to provide local implementation planning as there are going to be unique programs and situations that need to be addressed at the local level. So, to assist in communicating these plans, the COVID-19 website will be refreshed with plan details. In addition, ongoing communications will be provided to faculty, professional staff, students as well as their families as we move this process forward.
Prior to returning to campus, online training will be required for all faculty, staff and students. The training information covers information regarding COVID-19, preventing the spread of the virus, what to do if you have a possible or confirmed case, returning to work procedures as well as expectations for PPE and for social distancing and cleaning and sanitation while on campus.
Facilities and HVAC
Vice President of Real Estate and Facilities Donald E. Moore: My unit’s focus is on cleanliness and the ability to maintain distance and also space comfort. We cover a myriad of areas of responsibilities, including operation maintenance, space planning, design and construction, environmental health and safety, custodial, transportation and even shipping and receiving. So, all of these operations and units have to work in relative unison to make sure that the return to campus is safe, comfortable and efficient.
We have been on the ground since March. We worked hard to help to ramp down the facilities. And we retained a contingent of essential personnel who were focused on keeping the buildings running and operating the mechanical systems and making sure that they were safe and secure, and also perform additional cleaning and sanitation. Our expectation is that we will return a full complement of staff, primarily in custodial and building engineering, over the next 30 days or so, so that we can prepare the buildings and spaces.
We have already gone through each of Drexel’s buildings to assess classroom and office spaces, both from a space planning perspective but also from a HVAC perspective. We have red flagged spaces where there are deficient systems, and we'll be sharing that information with our partners in Student Life and Research and academics and also administration. So, our focus is to identify any shortcomings that we have and to make moves to correct some of those problems. That includes additional filtration where we can, upgrading filters, flushing buildings from a water perspective and also water treatment throughout our buildings. So that is actively taking place.
We've provided occupancy guidelines that have been shared with our colleagues so that they can assess how many people they can have in what space, given what particular use.
We have also gone into each building to assess the signage needs to be deployed to remind people of social distancing, and to give directional signage on traffic patterns.
We will have an enhanced cleaning protocol. We will have deep cleaning on a daily basis. But throughout the day, you will notice that there will be more custodial staff showing up, dealing with toilet facilities, deploying hand sanitizer stations and whatnot. And in addition to that, we are considering the placement, the deployment, of barriers, physical barriers, be they plexiglass or other form to help maintain social distancing.
Transportation is something we're looking at, too, both from a shuttle service perspective as well as from a parking space capacity. I'm sure there is some interest in what happens if there are more people driving to campus because they're concerned about using public transportation. That is on the table for assessment. We also expect that there may be a reduced need for student parking; that has to be assessed along with the forecast on how many people from the professional staff side need additional parking. Our shuttles will be cleaned regularly and will also be assessed for capacity needs. Do we need to have more or less frequent shuttle use, depending on how people migrate to campus and migrate from campus to campus? That's a near-term assessment we're making right now, especially because we have the ramp up of research taking place.
Lastly, we have worked with information and technology as relates to assessing the campus-wide infrastructure and the ability to support more remote activities; that will be undertaken and that assessment will continue.
And most importantly, we do have the summer to prepare for, and we've already started preparing. We've even started to restore some spaces that were dormant over the past year, restoring those to potential use once people return to the campus to allow for greater social distancing. We'll be posting FAQs on our facilities-focused COVID web site.
Public Health and Safety
Vice Provost for Community Health Care Innovation Marla Gold, MD: What we're doing here is fostering a safe and healthy campus community through adoption of evidence-based public health measures, informed as we go by emerging science in the context of our actual work settings. And what I mean by that is, as much as possible, remembering that we've only really been dealing with this virus for four months, not even, but we're doing our best to read up and work with the evidence that we can to institute public health measures. We're doing all this to open Drexel. This is, overall, a public health event. I can't stress that enough.
A core principle of public health has to do with containment. Our goal is to be the safest that we can, with the science that we have. Viral testing protocols for symptomatic and exposed students … we're going to have those in place. We do already. So symptomatic exposed students and we're identifying additional key populations such as those in congregate living, Greek life, athletics and so on. We'll have voluntary use of a Drexel Health Tracker app that's available for smartphones right now, also on the computer, and you can download it under Drexel Health Tracker in the Google or Apple Store right now. And that'll be to augment confidential case finding. But I want to stress it's voluntary. And while we use the term "tracker," it's tracking your health, not you. So, it doesn't have its geospatial tech on there. We're not watching you all over campus. We're trying to keep us as safe and healthy as possible.
We will be isolating and quarantining with protocols for students, staff and faculty. In public health, we use the term “isolation” for a known case. So in a case where we know someone has COVID, they'll be pulled and put in isolation. We're talking students. And if a student has been a known exposure through our contact tracing, that is called “quarantine,” and we have protocols to pull that person out as well. For staff and faculty, there'll be referrals, as there are currently, to their primary care physician.
But there is a way for us to alert and contact trace to keep us as safe and healthy as possible. What I mean is if someone that we know is infected or has COVID, we have protocols in place — again, with privacy of health information or attention to confidentiality. But just like if you were walking in downtown Philly or live in Montgomery County, wherever you are, you want to know that there are regular public health things going on and that contact tracing is occurring so that if you've been exposed and you get a call telling you that you need to take a 14 day-quarantine, that we're able to do that for you at Drexel. Consider us a mini city.
There will be detailed protocols for student and employee health. Many of these exist already. And you've heard us mention, both in facilities and other places, that there'll be frequent cleaning of high touch areas with, of course, approved disinfectants. And I put that all under the umbrella of containment.
Now, we also talk about distancing, handwashing and respiratory etiquette. We're using the term social distancing. There's a lot of talk out there about that it’s really physical distancing. We're keeping social distancing because it is used by health departments, including the Philadelphia Health Department, and we want to have matched up messages for all of us. Our policy is the use of masks in all campus buildings and where distancing is not feasible. The only time that you can take a mask off is when you're in your office with the door closed and no one else is with you.
We will be making masks available, should you forget yours. So, we're encouraging people to bring their own — I’ve had questions about this — but there will be masks available in key areas should you forget yours when entering one of our buildings.
There will be clear signage throughout all campus locations. Much of it is already on order. And there also will be links coming up very shortly on our website, where you can download the signage to put up in your area and throughout the campus, so in addition to what we've put out.
You've heard about the increased location of handwashing stations and behavioral reinforcement of messaging, of respiratory etiquette, as well as wearing a mask and distancing. The redesign of spaces you've heard about already from Donald to account for distance needs, appropriate HVAC controls and the mandatory health and safety training for students and employees. That'll be easily accessible. You heard a little bit about that from Megan, from HR. You can see that we're all working together and there is appropriate overlap.
In general, we will continue to build a sense of shared responsibility. People have asked, you know, how can we be sure that people are going to wear their masks? A sense of shared responsibility is important, but I also want to say that we're convening focus groups of students, working with experts on behavior change and messaging from the Dornsife School of Public Health and having students design campaigns and use influencer mechanisms such as Instagram and other social media to get other students also wearing them.
One of the things that we'll be telling families before students come to us is to get in the habit now, if they're not already in it. And I want to say a public health message here, which is it isn't just students. It's all of us. This is new to all of us. Many of us are still getting used to remembering the masks, putting them on, not feeling funny in them, assuming that others are going to be wearing theirs. So I often say when someone else isn't wearing theirs, they're not doing it because they don't care about you. They're doing it, or not doing it, rather, because it's a new behavior. And our goal, by the time that we open, is to have everyone following the rules here about masking, about distancing and saying about handwashing and so on, and to have strong messages and reminders all around.
We formed a return oversight committee with broad representation in the implementation phase. Importantly, we've created a science advisory group utilizing the intellectual capacity of those on campus. And that means that sometimes I get asked questions, many of us will in the return oversight, where the answer could be in a cutting-edge journal right now, the answer could be a new guidance coming out tomorrow from the health department, and we want to make sure that our interventions and the things we do in the campus community reflect the latest in terms of science. And so that's the College of Medicine, College of Nursing and Health Professions, School of Public Health, College of Engineering — but don't feel left out because we'll be tapping additional expertise as we go. You heard about implementation groups at the level of each unit that we'll be working with to make things happen. There's a robust communications plan.
For example, these 1,300 or so comments we got from the Qualtrics survey during the planning process: We mapped that. We mined it and we made a communications plan with FAQs that reflect the kinds of things that you have asked. So, we're trying to keep ahead and answer those kinds of things. We’ll be rolling out the signage. You heard about the facilities changes. These things will be happening very fast. For example, mask ordering, signage ordering; often we have to get to Procurement, order things for supply chain issues, before we're completely ready to show where we're going to put them, so bear with us as we get everything ordered and ready to roll. We’re ramping up health and safety services coincident with public health measures. And we have broad changes that you heard about for academic offerings; we’re working with these implementation teams and schedule consistent with recommendations. We’ll continue to work with HR to continue to craft policies as new science and new issues become available; once we get used to working in the workplace these are going to be important as well.
So those are our broad steps. Obviously, we're not getting too much in the weeds as we do this, even though I'm sure we'll have some questions that are a little bit in the weeds. But the point is that we understand, all of us do, there is the fact that we want to get on to be the safest that we can. Use our voluntary app and check in as we can. Know what to do if you don't feel well and certainly stay home if you don't feel well. Understand that there's a plan for students as we move forward for isolation and quarantine, as well as behavior changes that we'll be reinforcing as we go. And you see these other steps that we're talking about.
We are a community of caring, and taking care of one another to get through this is the same as taking care of one another in whatever family unit in your home and living with this is the same as the behaviors that we expect to do in the city of Philadelphia and wherever we go.
Alan Greenberger: Paul, I'd like to relay a question for you; actually, it’s maybe more by way of clarification. It was a conversation earlier about classes — some will be face-to-face, others mixed-mode, others online only. The clarification is: who determines what classes go where?
Paul E. Jensen: The short answer is colleges will largely be determining this. [Senior Vice Provost, Faculty Advancement and Undergraduate Affairs] Erin Horvat is heading a task force that's working on this and they're looking at this course plan, if you will, holistically.
It starts by looking at what our normal course offerings are in the fall, looking at our facilities to give us health guidelines and pedagogical requirements of technology available. And thinking through these various aspects of the course plan, that task force is developing sort of University guidance and parameters. And these will be things around, for instance, what's the maximum size face-to-face class we're going to have? How do we redefine room capacities in this environment? Offering guidance to schools and colleges about the logistics of getting students in and out of spaces in a way that's safe. So we will be sharing, through this task force, guidance and parameters with the schools and colleges, and then they will be determining the modalities of their classes given this guidance.
Alan Greenberger : The second question, is, will we be quarantining students when they arrive back on campus? Obviously, particularly those coming into our housing? Subir?
Subir Sahu: The quick answer is no. But I think it's important for everyone watching to know that we work very closely and hand-in-hand with the student health team and with several folks across campus. And so we're also looking at patterns beyond Philadelphia — what's happening across the country and really across the world. And so if we see a hotspot or that there are cases that are coming from a particular area, we will come together as a team and see if we have students coming from that area and then, kind of on an individual basis, we might make a determination that we need to isolate or quarantine a student or a group of students. So, Marla, I don’t know if there something that you would want to add to that as well?
Marla Gold: So a point about Drexel, right? We're not small. We're not isolated on acres of rolling hills. We are part of the Philadelphia community and well beyond that. We do civic engagement with our neighbors. For that current reason, there is no reason to be quarantining students — and by the way, any of us, right? Because if you are a Philadelphian or somebody from [Montgomery County] and you went somewhere else, they're not quarantining you right now in the United States either. So, I want to make sure that we think beyond just the students, but about all of us.
So we won't be doing a 14-day quarantine. We will be reaching out to families and students about behavior that we expect them to engage in — safe behaviors and learning the ropes and taking the mandatory trainings before they get here. We'll be making masks and hand sanitizer available to them and for everyone as well. So we'll be doing those things, but we are not going to be doing the quarantine at this time because it doesn't add value to the campus community in terms of safety. Should the evidence change, we're absolutely going to be looking at it as we go.
Alan Greenberger: Megan, I think this next one is for you. I had mentioned earlier about our schedule and the conclusion of our face-to-face academic instruction the Friday before Thanksgiving. But the question is, “Is leaving the campus at Thanksgiving mandatory or is that optional?”
Megan Weyler: At this time, there has been no requirement that the University will close down the campus at Thanksgiving. Now, the recommendation, of course, was that students could move their classes online at that point in time. But there is no intent for a University-wide campus closure.
Alan Greenberger: A question showed up about SEPTA. A lot of us rely on SEPTA to get to campus, given that we live in a pretty robust mass transit environment. But there isn’t a clear answer on what SEPTA’s plans will be. Their plans are evolving. Obviously we don’t control their plans, but we will be sure that as their plans do evolve, we will make that available through the website and other communications at our disposal so that everybody knows what their plan is as we understand it, and also hopefully as we can, help influence it, particularly the level of mass transit use in this part of the city.
Aleister, I think the next question is for you. The research labs and other specialized facilities like that are pretty complicated environments and they’re all very different. Can you share a couple of thoughts on how you intend to deal with social distancing in those labs?
Aleister Saunders: It is a complicated issue. And in fact, in the approval process we have to have research restart, we actually look at floor plans for where the research will occur. And our colleagues in Environmental Health and Safety — [Executive Director of Safety & Health] John Chase, [Director of Environmental Compliance, Safety & Health] Martin Bell and their colleagues — look at that and look at the physical distance plan that's proposed and make sure that jives with the research setting that the research occurs in. So it's complicated and also involves air changes, so we're looking at that closely.
Alan Greeberger: Donald, I think this next one is for you. There are some concerns about the capacity of our custodial and maintenance staff to do the things that you talked about needing to be done. Could you comment on those capacity issues?
Donald E. Moore: Well, if we're talking about capacity by way of a number of people and deploying them across the campus, our expectation is that we're going to remobilize in full force well in advance of personnel being welcomed 100 percent back to campus. Our ordinary custodial management practice has a certain level of frequency that we expect. During the day, we have a staff of people. We also have night shifts. So the deep cleaning we're expecting to take place in the evening when most people have left the campus and throughout the day, we feel we have an adequate number and count of people to, you know, handle the business of the day with greater frequency of cleaning. So, we will watch the capacity issue very closely. We will monitor to make sure people are cleaning the spaces that they need to. And then, frankly, it's a management issue to make sure that we take care of business.
Alan Greenberger: Marla, couple of questions for you. It's all related, but they're coming from different places. Let me read you the one that I have here so I get it exactly. It says, “Dr. Gold commented that some people will be ‘pulled out.’ I suppose if that means that if they are showing symptoms or had been with somebody who's showing symptoms. My question is, what does that actually mean? Is the student, faculty, staff prevented from entry? Are they added to a database?”
Marla Gold: So I slanged it there a little bit and got caught. Let's start with a student who has COVID symptoms and is seen in Student Health and is known to have COVID: That student goes into isolation and there's a set place for them and that's where they will be, and the arrangements to support them and get them what they need will all be there in the case of quarantine. That means — and this would apply to all of us — we get a call that contact tracing has revealed that we have been significantly exposed — and “exposure” is a defined public health term for how many minutes and what happened when somebody was around. And so, let's give an example of two students who are living so that their rooms are separate, but they have a shared kitchen and a shared bath. Only one of them has been exposed. The person who's truly been exposed needs to be taken out of there and put in quarantine. So when I use “pulled out,” I mean they will be asked to go into quarantine, which will be very similar to isolation, where they will receive their meals and support and actually be able to do online work from where they are. But they have to be in quarantine during the incubation period to make sure that they are not walking around and potentially giving disease to others.
And not to confuse it, but just to mention that, someone who is exposed to someone else who is exposed doesn't need to be in quarantine. So those are different terms. For employees where contact tracing leads you to be quarantined, you may get a call that asks you to stay put for 14 days in your home. And I'm sure we’ll work with HR on what that means for you when you're in quarantine. But that is to isolate again during a set time to make sure that you don't develop disease and that perhaps if you're asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, that you're not able to spread. This is all about containment.
The last thing I want to say here is a reminder: viruses are not alive. People are. Viruses don't get up and travel. People do. So the more that we can do containment and public health principles, but do it safely, right, and also confidentially, the better it will be.
Alan Greenberger: Thanks Marla…. Comment on the necessity or the importance of things like temperature checks and viral testing.
Marla Gold: We do not plan on the use of temperature checks leading into buildings or onto campus at this time. This could change if the science supports doing it. The question is “what does it add,” right? So to add the temp checks and queuing, we have to look at the science of how many people with that actually take out to reduce potential disease on campus, right, versus not.
Now, some of you who have gone to medical facilities might find that they are employing temperature checks. And you'll see increasingly some of them will get rid of it once they realize that the science may not support doing it for the cases they find. If you have a fever, yes, it takes you out of the line. But if you don't, it doesn't guarantee that you're not still asymptomatic and infected. So we're not currently planning on employing it.
I'll look at the science again as it comes in terms of testing very quickly. Right now, we will have our own testing. We'll have our own testing capabilities within Drexel's community. Right now, we're planning on testing symptomatic students, and as I mentioned to you earlier, groups and congregate living where it would help us to know in group living situations or among Drexel athletes to understand about testing before they come together. So, again, looking at the latest science, we are not planning on testing everyone, nor are we currently employing algorithms that some other universities may be using — you might be reading about it — to say, oh, we're going to test so many people every so many weeks. Why aren’t we doing that? We wouldn't do it unless the science was there. Again, with an open urban campus, the support that we would be adding to our safety — and I do want to say, when I talk about the reality of how it actually feels, there is what is truly scientifically the safest we can be based on public health evidence, and then there is, on top of that, the feeling we all have about being safe. They don't always match.
So we're doing everything we can, but we're not going to go overboard so that people can feel better knowing that we're not adding reality to science at all.
You know, students always come to college with this belief that everybody is doing X, Y or Z. And part of what we need to do as administrators and educators is to say, well, that's not true. Your experience is what it is. This is somewhat of a variety of that. And so I think we need to talk to our students about why they want to take the steps that they want to take, why they want to wear masks, why they want to practice social distancing. And they need to be a part of the conversation and leading, getting that word out to their peers as well. Students are much more likely to follow kind of policies, procedures and standards if they're delivering it to each other versus if we're telling them what to do. So we need to tap into our resident assistants, to our student leaders, creating kind of those types of programs where they're helping educate us about how to get the word out. And then they're spreading the message across their peer groups to say these are the reasons we need to do the things that we do.
Alan Greenberger: A question that just came up says, “Will the Rec Center and athletics remain closed or on hold?”
Subir Sahu: They will not remain closed. We are following the guidance. From a Drexel Rec Center standpoint, we're looking at what city and state guidance is around opening gyms. I think it is very likely that we will open our Rec Center in line with other gyms in the city and follow social distancing guidelines, likely when we enter inside the green phase. From the athletic standpoint, we're really monitoring closely what the CAA and the NCAAA is saying about organized teams and team activities on the varsity level.
Our athletes will come back to campus a few weeks ahead of time with the rest of our students, as they always do. We will have sort of distancing and practices in place as it relates to bringing those teams together. But in terms of organized play, we're still going to kind of monitor what's happening on the national level and then bring that down to our level.
Alan Greenberger: I'd like to just return to a question about academics. There’s a couple of questions here. “Will students be given the option to be solely online?” And, “Will students have the option to attend any face-to-face course remotely?” I think this really gets into something that the task force really struggled with, which is how do we deal with a level of pure choice?
Paul E. Jensen: So this is complicated. We want to be clear: we're going to accommodate students who have health needs. There's no question about that. And then I think the other piece to this is we are going to be working — the schools are going to be working to design course offerings that are flexible. And for some of these courses, you know, people are talking about this high-flex concept, which is a mixed-mode delivery, where some people are in the classroom, some are at home watching online or participating online.
So we will have classes that adopt this kind of structure. And in some cases, the college may have a kind of an established schedule where students come on live Tuesday and online Thursday. In other cases, colleges may elect to have a more fluid model where it's really up to the student to come and go as they please. So I think it's going to be case by case. And so this will definitely be available when it comes down to health. But in other cases, colleges are going to have to determine whether it's going to be more structured hybrid or more fluid.
Alan Greenberger: Megan, this next one is for you. I'm going to read you a question that had come in earlier, and then I'm going to add to it a related question that just came in online. The question that came earlier, it said, “I saw in the initial e-mail that administrative units will be tasked with setting up committees about appropriate return-to-work policies. Will there be any parameters or guidance shared with the professional staff who may or may not be on these committees, such as capacity limits, new and encouraged telework policies, etc.?” And the related question is, “When will staff be asked to return to campus related to the Sept. 21 start of classes?”
Megan Weyler: I’m going to work backwards and start with the second question first. I really wish I had that answer. So when will staff return to campus? As you know, higher education cannot open the campus until we are in the green phase. And even when we are in the green phase, there may be a slow and steady return to campus. So what all managers, division heads, department heads need to think about now is, who truly needs to be on campus at this given time?
If your job does not require you to be in person on campus, that is the first conversation you're going to have with your manager. If you have questions or concerns about that, you can contact your HR business partner and they will help guide you through the situation. Again, I did address the flexible work arrangements policy; that is there for professional staff to utilize. So it may be a different time, a different date, for many professional staff and we won't really have that answer upfront.
For first question, Alan, that you have asked: how those faculty and staff know what's happening in the action plans? So the overall committee that is working to develop some of those action planning guides, the information will be posted. It will be available on the COVID-19 site. So as our communications department, led by Lori Doyle, is doing a full refresh of that site, so that we can ensure that action plans are being updated. In addition, of course, there will be local plans that are occurring in every department and in the division. You will have access to both those, as well as individual communications that are distributed from President Fry. We've been doing them almost on a weekly basis. I would expect that many of the academic areas and in the town halls with your departments, this will also be a primary topic of conversation.
Alan Greenberger: Donald, back to you. We have a number of those facilities that are in landlord-owned buildings, i.e., not our own. Could you comment on the coordination with landlords?
Donald E. Moore: Yes. What I could say is that since March, we have been in direct contact with each of our landlords in Center City as well as up and down Market Street and you name it. So each of them has advanced certain protocols to ensure that people can return safely to use their buildings. Keep in mind, in some cases, they were able to reopen before our campuses reopened, so we're actually taking some cues from them to see what they're doing to make us safer.
But in general, the general spaces, the public spaces, have been treated with additional sanitization stations, they placed signage throughout, and this varies from landlord to landlord. And we do have one person who is watching every single one of the landlords, whether it's Three Parkway, whether it's Bellet Building or whether it's 3675 Market Street. So we've got a close eye on them.
Alan Greenberger: For this question, I suspect Marla, it’s probably for you…. It says, “Does the University have a protocol if a professor teaching a hybrid class contracts COVID?”
Marla Gold: The protocol for everyone who works at or attends Drexel in terms of health and safety are the same when it comes to who we refer you to, should we think that you have COVID, and what the recommendations will be that come to you. So how do you come to us? You're still part of the community and the exposure potential and the issues for you, if you work here, are the same as for others, regardless of what that work arrangement is, because we want to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Alan Greenberger: Thank you. Unfortunately, we’re out of time. There were probably 200 questions that have been teed up either beforehand or live during this town hall. We're going to go through them, as we have with the Qualtrics survey, and group them by topic. We will post those groupings on the University's COVID website under “frequently asked questions.”
John Fry: Great. Thank you, Alan. And to everyone who joined us today, I truly appreciate your time and interest and ongoing support as we manage this complex process together.
We've collected all of the audience questions and comments, as Alan mentioned, that were submitted as part of today's discussion. That list of questions will be provided to the working group for review and consideration, and then that in turn will help guide their work on refining the policies and practices we’ll implement collectively to return to campus in the fall.
At the outset, I mentioned that today's conversation and planning will continue in the months ahead.
Ongoing communication will be provided on a regular basis to faculty, professional staff, students and their families as more details are worked out, all within the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philadelphia area.
I encourage all of us to remain open-minded, adaptable and resilient throughout the summer as we work together to reopen our University.