This semester at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will surely look like none before it thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
UL Lafayette faculty worked through the summer to make adjustments to university guidelines to adhere to social distancing requirements this fall.
According to the university website, most classes will have an online component in order to reduce the number of students on campus and in classrooms at one time. Classes will fall into one of five categories, on-campus, remote, hybrid, online or hyflex.
On-campus courses will only be allowed for smaller courses that can maintain social distancing guidelines while holding class as usual.
Online courses were always intended to involve no face-to-face interaction and cost an additional fee, whereas remote classes are courses that were initially intended to be face-to-face, but are now fully online courses and have no additional fee.
Similarly, hybrid classes were always intended to be partially online and partially in person and therefore cost an additional fee, but hyflex classes have were initially planned to be on-campus courses and have no additional fee associated with them.
According to Dean of Students Margarita Perez, Ed.d, university facilities services used measurements of classrooms to determine occupancy with social distancing guidelines.
Perez plans to set up her hyflex course so half her class meets one day and the rest on another, but professors and instructors are free to decide exactly how they set up their hyflex courses as long as they adhere to federal and state guidelines, she said.
In addition, the university will implement a more relaxed absence policy to encourage students to stay home if they don’t feel well, she said.
According to Perez, students will be able to report if they are not feeling well through the university website. The report will then go to Perez’s office where she will let faculty know that the student isn’t going to be able to make it to class, lessening the need for doctor’s notes.
“One of the things we understood from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) early on is that this COVID-19 has so many different symptoms, and if you've looked at the list of all the symptoms, you'll see it looks like a lot of other illnesses, right? COVID-19 symptoms can look like a cold. So you really don't know sometimes that you have it,” she said.
The university will also require all students to wear a mask in public areas. According to the university website, masks will be available in all classrooms, but students should wear their own masks if they can. Students who refuse will face disciplinary action, but the precise punishment will vary based on the situation, Perez said.
For example, a student who is rude to a faculty member who asked them to put on a mask will likely see a harsher punishment than a student who declined to put on a mask respectfully, she said.
According to Perez, there hasn’t been many issues with mask compliance over the summer.
UL Lafayette is also requiring all university employees to fill out a self-check questionnaire everyday before work. Those who report COVID-19 symptoms will be referred for testing, according to the university website.
The Department of Housing is also making major adjustments to the residence halls this fall.
The department is reserving several spaces in the residence halls for students in quarantine, and they’re closing all common areas, according to the university website.
The Office of Transportation Services will also be making changes in response to COVID-19.
According to UL Lafayette Transit Operations Manager Bryant Hammett, buses are going to operate as normal, but the seats will be separated to adhere to social distancing guidelines, as of Friday, July 24.
“The rows of seating are obviously less than six feet, so we will not be able to utilize every row in the bus per the governor's current guidelines,” Hammett said.
While current regulations allow for 50% occupancy, he said the buses will probably need to operate below this as filling half the bus would place passengers too close together.
With this in mind, he suggests students who park in Cajun Field arrive sooner than usual as the buses will need to make more trips to take all the passengers.
UL Lafayette is still planning on hosting and participating in football games this semester, Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications & Digital Strategy Patrick Crawford said.
“Our department is currently planning to host and travel for Ragin’ Cajuns football games. However, with the coronavirus pandemic still keeping many of the particulars to the season in question. We are still preparing for many different ways that the season may begin and finish,” Crawford said.
The Sun Belt Conference, which UL Lafayette is a part of, is currently considering delaying football season, but they are yet to make a decision, he said.
Regardless, the university will adhere to whatever social distancing requirements are in place when the season starts.
Perez said she hopes students adhere to social distancing guidelines outside of campus, as this will reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading on campus grounds. She recommends students check their university email and the university website daily for updates.
For more information on UL Lafayette coronavirus plans and updates, visit https://louisiana.edu/covid19.