Monday, June 8, 2020 - 9:39 a.m.
In last week’s update on our university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote about the importance of physical distancing, keeping six feet apart when possible and reducing the number of people who gather in the same place at the same time. This week, let’s look at the way these requirements will affect how we use physical spaces on campus.
We are mapping out the maximum density for every gathering space on campus. The survey, which will be finished later this month, will be available online and posted on entrance doors. This information will be used to set limits for each instructional space, which the Academic Restart Committee and the Registrar will then use to decide if some changes will be made to the fall course schedule.
Reducing population density will require us to use spaces in non-traditional ways and increase the number of large venues on campus. That’s why we are now purchasing four temporary structures (50 x 90 ft.) that can hold 50 students and an instructor. They will be located on the open field next to Hanszen College and across the street from Herring Hall. These structures will be lighted, cooled, heated, and ventilated, they will have audiovisual capabilities and they’re designed to withstand hurricane force winds. They can be used not only for instruction, but also for academic lectures in the late afternoon and student meeting and study spaces in the evenings. They should be available for use by the start of classes.
Much has been written about the benefits of spending time outside during this pandemic. We are fortunate that our climate allows us to be outdoors for much of the academic year. So we are also purchasing five open-sided tents (40 x 60 ft.) and placing them adjacent to academic buildings. Exactly how these structures will be used and scheduled will be determined in the coming weeks. And in order to make best use of all our outdoor spaces, we will ask students who have portable chairs to bring them when they return to augment those already around the campus. We will also purchase a number of lightweight, portable camping-style chairs for student use.
We will need to reduce population density in our research labs and office buildings for the fall semester. The first phase of the reopening of research is underway and we will probably institute some adjustments for the next phase in July. The population density in office buildings will be reduced through a variety of work policies and practices that are now being developed by our Human Resources Office in conjunction with supervisors. These alternatives include working from home, alternative work schedules and part-time arrangements.
The Dean of Undergraduates and her staff are currently evaluating how population density will be addressed within the residential colleges, including procedures for dining and Orientation Week activities. Details on this will be communicated to new and returning students in early July.
The intent guiding all of this is to prioritize our community’s health and safety while we provide the best possible intellectual and social environment in delivering our mission. As always, we seek your questions and suggestions to make this achievable.
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration
Information of Interest
- Texas Medical Center Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates: https://www.tmc.edu/coronavirus-updates