Fall Semester Information | Virtual Forums August 24 & 25

President Bergman sent this message to students and parents on August 21.
Posted on August 21st, 2020 by

TO: Gustavus Students and Families
FROM: President Bergman
SUBJECT: Fall Semester Information | Virtual Forums August 24 & 25
DATE: August 21, 2020da

Gustavus students and families,

Thank you to all who reached out in response to last Friday’s message regarding our updated plans for the fall semester. As you know, the decision to transition to online courses at the beginning of the academic year and implement a phased approach to on-campus living was not our original intent, and I understand the disappointment and uncertainty that this late change has caused.

Recent news reports from other colleges and universities highlight the importance of being intentional about the process by which students are introduced to on-campus learning and living. We owe a duty of care to our students, faculty, and staff to take prudent steps to help ensure the safety of all, and especially the most vulnerable among us.

To provide more information about last week’s decision and discuss our plans and decision-making strategies moving forward, we are hosting virtual forums for students and families on Monday, August 24 and Tuesday, August 25 (links can be added to calendars and will go live at meeting time). Both forums will take place at 7 p.m. CDT. We anticipate that both forums will cover the same topics, and families are welcome to join one or both of the sessions. Questions can be emailed in advance to ga_news@gustavus.edu or submitted via chat during the virtual meeting. For those of you who cannot attend, these sessions will be recorded and sent to students and families next week.

Students, you hold the key to successfully bringing our community together — and staying together — on campus. Your actions matter. On Tuesday, August 18, the Minnesota Department of Health updated their guidance for colleges and universities, adding four points that specifically address students. Please review these guidelines and commit to these behaviors before coming to campus and throughout the fall semester.

To be on campus safely, students should consider:

  • Staying at home for 14 days before coming to campus. Before coming back to campus, plan to stay at home and interact only with the people you live with for at least 14 days. If you have been exposed to COVID-19 and don’t know it, this will help ensure you don’t spread it when you return to campus.

  • Taking safety precautions when gathering. Limit gatherings to small groups, and gather outdoors whenever possible. Stay 6 feet away from anyone you do not live with, and wear a mask, especially if social distancing is difficult.

  • Avoiding high-risk situations. Avoid crowded bars, events, parties, or other situations that would put you at risk of contracting COVID-19.

  • Following school guidelines on masking and social distancing. Learn school-specific rules related to wearing your mask and social distancing. Minnesota colleges and universities are following and tailoring state guidance to the college setting to support social distancing and masking, which helps slow the spread of COVID-19.

I want to reiterate that our intent is to have students living and learning on campus this semester. To do this, our goal is to provide as safe of an environment as possible for all. Building that safe environment starts now, wherever we are, with each of us.

Below, you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions over the course of the past week. I look forward to seeing you at next week’s virtual forum. As always, please email g-covidresponse@gustavus.edu if you have individual questions.

Stay safe and be well.

Yours in community,

President Bergman

Frequently Asked Questions:

What influenced the decision to have a phased return to campus and why did it happen when it did?
An increase in infection rates in Minnesota among the 18-24 age group in August, updated guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, and observation of the experiences of other institutions of higher education across the nation helped to inform the College’s decision. Our preference is always to have students living and learning on campus. This bias toward in-person instruction and on-campus living, coupled with the rapidly changing COVID-19 landscape, caused the College to wait before making this decision. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused for our students, families, and faculty.

When will we receive room and board credits for September 2-25?
Students who were originally scheduled to move into on-campus housing at the beginning of the academic year and told to wait until September 25 will have their room and board costs adjusted, net of financial aid, to account for the three and a half weeks when they are not living on campus. We anticipate processing room and board credits beginning September 2, after special requests for on-campus housing are processed and on- and off-campus housing arrangements are finalized. Students who live on campus from September 2-25 will not receive room and board credits.

What are the chances that all the students will be able to return to campus this fall?
We are optimistic that students will be able to return to campus this fall. We are confident in the College’s plan to provide on-campus living and learning and provide testing, contact tracing, and isolation/quarantine for students who may be affected by COVID-19. We believe that beginning the year with a phased approach allows the College the best possible chance to have our students living and learning on campus. While we intend to welcome our students coming back in Phase II beginning September 25, we will continue to make careful decisions that take into account the guidance of public health officials and the safety of all members of the Gustavus community.

Is there a chance the students would be sent home after they move in?
Yes, it is possible that a surge of positive COVID-19 cases would lead us to ask students to leave campus and return to online learning at some point during the fall semester. We intend to have students on campus and will take all reasonable steps to maintain on-campus living and a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online learning. We will also continue to remain flexible and respond as necessary, in consultation with public health officials, to the ever-changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why is Gustavus not conducting mass testing?
We will test students, faculty, and staff who are symptomatic or who have a known exposure. We made the decision to not conduct mass testing because the Minnesota Department of Health and CDC have strongly recommended that colleges and universities refrain from mass testing and not require testing of students upon return to campus. We are following this guidance. Reasons for that decision include:

1.  Testing only accounts for one moment in time. When someone is exposed to COVID-19, a test could be positive as soon as two (2) days after exposure or not until 14 days after exposure. Therefore testing upon arrival will never identify all cases. To make mass testing effective it would essentially require testing every week (or daily in an ideal world).

2.  Testing is not 100% accurate, and even if we use tests with the highest sensitivity and specificity (PCR tests), cases will be missed.

3.  Ethical utilization of tests. There are 20 million college students nationwide. The United States currently is able to complete approximately 1 million tests a day. In Minnesota our goal is 20,000 tests a day, but there are over 400,000 college students. If every college/university in Minnesota did mass testing, college students would be using 20 days worth of testing just to test students just one time. This would overwhelm the testing system at the cost of those who are most vulnerable and need testing/results as soon as possible.



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