Student Union under social distancing

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette will be open during the fall 2020 semester, but, due to the public health crisis, there will be several restrictions on how students can enjoy the university’s public spaces.

The Edith Garland Dupré Library as well as the Student Union will be open to all students, with many of their functionalities still available. However, both facilities will look a little different.

Many of the seating options in the Union, such as the loveseats and the sofas, have been removed to discourage large groups of students lounging in the building for long periods of time, according to Dawn Miller, director of Union business operations. Most of the seating that will remain available will be the single-person chairs, which will be spread out throughout the building.

“We want (the students) to enjoy it, but at the same time it is going to be spread out so they won’t be able to sit together as they used to,” Miller said.

In addition to the reduced seating, the Union will also have tables placed by every one of the building’s entrances with hand sanitizer, along with signs around the building to remind those inside to always wear their mask, social distance and wash their hands. Miller said the Union will also have masks available at all of their offices should students not have one on hand.

UL Lafayette Dean of University Libraries Susan Richard said the library will have similar changes — the staff has removed many of the larger tables, the STEP Lab will have 36 computers compared to its nearly 100 before, hand sanitizer will be around the frequently touched areas, and students without masks will not be able to enter.

Richard said all of the library’s resources will remain available under the above restrictions.

“The library’s really excited to have our services back as normally as we can,” Richard said. “Mainly, we’re normal, we're just reduced in our size.”

A lot of the changes are coming from the rules and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Board of Regents and the university system. Both Richard and Miller said they do not think they will hit the capacities for their respective buildings.

“Due to phase two requirement the library is only going to be able to have a 50% occupancy capacity, so we’ll have to count the students coming in and then once they’re in the building we’ll have to watch that to see how that’s working,” Richard said.

The library will operate on slightly reduced hours, closing at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. During finals week, instead of being open 24 hours a day every day, they will instead extend the hours for Friday, Saturday and Sunday such that it will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week.

As for the librarians themselves, plexiglass will separate them and their computer from the students, but they will still be available to help. The librarians will also be sanitizing their area each time they finish assisting a student.

Richard said a lot of the library’s previous events could still happen, if it is deemed safe to do so.

“You know how we used to bring in the therapy dogs and those kinds of things, we’ll have to see what phase we’re in by the end of the semester to see what kind of events we could have by then,” Richard said. “And all our phases will guide us — how we will work throughout the semester.”

More specific information on the library's available services and their hours of operation is located on their website.

Miller said she is excited to have the students back, and encouraged them to remain patient and be mindful of the guidelines in place.

“I think for students the biggest thing is just follow the guidance,” Miller said. “On campus we’re asking you to wear your mask, please wear your mask. We’re asking you to social distance, keep six feet apart from each other, try to do that as often as you can. Just those simple guidelines will help us keep the spread of COVID down.”

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