Return to Campus: The Student Experience

by University Marketing and Communications

Earlier this month, Michigan Tech began Step Two of our Return to Campus Plan. As the University prepares for Step Three this fall, students and employees, understandably, have questions. To address the student experience, we spoke with Bonnie Gorman, dean of students and vice president for student affairs.

“Our plans for students to return in the fall have been far-reaching,” Gorman said. “I appreciate all the efforts by so many across campus who have been working to ensure a safe return and meaningful student experiences.”

Gorman said there have been groups working in four primary areas:

  • Move-in and Orientation
  • Isolation Planning
  • Student Expectations and Behavior
  • Student Engagement

Q: How will Orientation and New Student Move-in be different this year?

BG: Things will be different in a couple of ways. We always appreciate members of the campus community who make move-in a family affair. This year though, we need to limit our volunteers only to people who are routinely on campus. Everyone who helps out will be asked to complete the daily symptom tracking form. A call for volunteers will be coming soon.

New students have been assigned a specific check-in time in an effort to reduce congestion and to allow for as much physical distancing as possible. Check-in and move-in will happen over a two-day period, from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22. Students are also offered an opportunity to drop off their property between July 31 and Aug. 9. This allows students to skip the traffic and focus on checking in for Orientation, buying books and doing a Walmart run while their mom and dad are in town.

Much like the faculty, who are rethinking their classes, all aspects of Orientation are being redesigned. A combination of remote activities and presentations will replace large group gatherings, and small in-person team meeting activities will allow for follow-up conversations and discussions. Departmental welcome events and advising meetings are being planned for synchronous virtual delivery. To give students the chance to meet others and make friends while maintaining physical distance, events like paddleboarding, yoga, anime screenings and gaming tournaments are being planned.

Q: What happens if a student in a residence hall tests positive for COVID-19?

BG: If a student living in a residence hall tests positive for COVID-19, they will be moved to an isolation space where they will self-isolate for the required time period defined by the Health Department. During their isolation, meals will be delivered and a Residence Education staff member will check on the student daily. Additional resources and services will be provided based on the expressed needs of the student.

Q: What about their roommate?

BG: The roommate of a student who tests positive would be provided with recommendations from the Health Department. They might suggest a test, self-isolation or a move to an isolation space as well. 

Q: How does the new Attendance Policy work for students who are ill from COVID-19?

BG: In response to recommendations from the American College Health Association, the attendance policy was changed so that students who become ill will not be required to make unnecessary visits to a health care provider for the purposes of obtaining documentation. 

In most cases, we are hopeful that even though a student is ill, symptoms will not be so severe that they are unable to keep up with classes during the full period of isolation. Rather, they will work remotely. Of course, each situation will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. These students will work with the Dean of Students Office for assistance and support.

Another important change to the policy is that students no longer need to contact the Dean of Students Office for excused absences involving fewer than three consecutive days unless they missed a major assignment, examination, or other graded requirements of the class. Students can review the Attendance Policy for more details. 

Q: How are students going to stay safe?

BG: Students, like faculty and staff, will be expected to do daily symptom monitoring, wear a face covering, adhere to physical distancing guidelines and volunteer to participate in random testing if asked. We know everyone is eager to return to campus and we are counting on our Husky spirit and sense of community to guide our decisions in complying with these public health guidelines.

There are also a couple of teams of students working on a variety of plans to hold themselves, and where appropriate, each other accountable. For example, one group is working on short videos for social media while another has drafted a pledge for everyone in the community to sign. By signing the pledge, you commit to doing your part to keep the community safe by adhering to the practices that will limit the spread of COVID-19. 

In an effort to further encourage everyone to do their part, Husky face coverings will be distributed to employees as we move into Phase Three, and to students when they return to campus. 

Q: What will events look like during the fall?

BG: Significant effort has been directed toward providing resources and support for the more than 230 clubs and organizations on campus so they can operate responsibly while adhering to the physical distancing guidelines. To introduce these clubs to new students, K-day will be virtual with smaller in-person interest fairs, like a day for club sports or cultural organizations, offered throughout the fall.

Similarly, we have purchased a new web-based platform to host our fall Career Fair, allowing employers to host students at specific times over two days. In addition, all of the support we provide students in preparation for the Fair will continue both virtually and in smaller in-person sessions. 

Finally, the Parade of Nations will be interactive and allow students to travel around the world without leaving Houghton.