COVID-19 Mitigation for Summer into Fall

Letter from the Vice President of Student Success

 

Dear Western students and families,

When we committed to welcoming students back to our campus in Gunnison for the Fall 2020 semester, we recognized that upholding our share of the commitment you have to Western Colorado University would in large part include measures to ensure everyone’s campus safety, including yours.

For the last several weeks, as students recharge from the schoolyear and begin summer sojourns, we at Western have worked across all campus units and with public health stakeholders to gain confidence that we can overcome challenges of COVID-19 and preserve the Western campus experience. For more than a century, as we’ve evolved from a teacher’s college to a comprehensive institution with 100+ areas of study, Western has innovated and adapted to change. Our persistent and consistent ability to do so makes Western Strong.

Today, we introduce Western Strong—Ensuring Campus Safety, encompassing diverse efforts to prepare for fall here on campus in Gunnison, and to account nimbly for evolving conditions. Below, we update you in broad strokes on some of our discussions and preparations in areas of academic instruction, residence life, and dining.

Academic Instruction

Western’s ability to educate students in flexible yet effective ways is fundamental to our mission. Our tight-knit community and spectacular environment, too, are central to our students’ intellectual and personal growth. COVID-19 presents challenges to traditional interactions among students and faculty, yet also provides opportunities to rethink and improve space utilization and curriculum delivery. In alignment with Gunnison County Health and Human Services, we are creating robust plans around:

  • Enhanced Cleaning: identifying high-traffic spaces, and establishing protocols for frequent sanitization in alignment with CDC recommendations
  • Social Distancing: reconfiguring classroom, residential and community spaces to accommodate individual presence and movement, in accordance with minimum spacing required by health authorities
  • Flexible course modalities: that include in-person, hybrid, and remote learning, as well as “HyFlex” course preparation that would enable us to seamlessly change modality mid-term should health needs warrant it

Residence Life

Residence halls are where many Western students spend much of their days. These environments are highly and informally interactive by nature, so it’s critical that we not only ensure student safety by clearly establishing and enforcing rules, but also by communicating community expectations and activities that not only keep students physically and mentally healthy, but also make them feel comfortable and confident in residential interactions.

Our residence life program will promote safety and community through measures such as:

  • Reconsideration of common areas to allow social distancing while still promoting authentic peer interaction
  • Strengthening community cleanliness standards to minimize risk of airborne illness, and increasing access to personal hygiene supplies
  • Mitigation plans and protocols to quickly support residents who may develop viral symptoms, and for isolation and adaptation if COVID-19 prevalence arises

Dining

In the Rare Air Café and Mad Jack’s, we’ve provided a breadth of culinary options to meet a broad spectrum of dietary needs. In partnership with our food service provider Sodexo, we are rethinking and retooling our dining operation, considering initiatives that may include:

  • Increased presence and attention to delicious and diverse Grab ‘n’ Go options for students, with remote ordering via app
  • Demarcation of safe dining zones and clarity of flow to support social distancing in a dynamic cafeteria-style space in which diners may inadvertently intersect
  • Taking advantage of the best-in-class experience and expertise of Sodexo, whose service for 1,000+ colleges and universities ensures access to best-practices adaptation of dining operations

It is fair to say that the canvas of what Western will look like in the fall remains unfinished. We intend this process to evolve and grow day by day and week by week, as we learn and respond to new conditions and perspectives—including from you. We will update you periodically as we further develop our plans for the Fall, and we greatly value you as a member of the Western family. Together, we remain Western Strong.

Sincerely,

Dr. Abel A. Chávez

Vice President of Student Success