On June 25, all Eastern students and employees received an email with information regarding the plan for the return to campus for the fall semester. When the Eastern Board of Trustees met at their annual retreat on June 27, they had a lengthy discussion on the guidelines, going over the plan in more detail.
President David Glassman said that Eastern’s plan was decided on with the guidance of state, the IBHE and CDC.
Here is a breakdown of several aspects of the plan and new guidelines that were discussed in the meeting.
For the fall, Eastern will have a mask policy in place that is more comprehensive than the mask policies required by the state. Everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask at all times, both indoors and outdoors and inside all classrooms.
There are some exceptions. Employees working in private offices will not be required to wear a mask in the office. Employees in shared offices will not need to wear a mask if there are dividers between workspaces or all desks are at least six feet apart.
Students living in residence halls will not be required to wear masks when they are in their rooms, which will all be single occupancy. Masks will also not be required while using the outdoor jogging paths, or outdoors on evenings and weekends when social distancing of six feet or more can be followed.
There will be possible punishments for people who do not follow the policy. Students not wearing masks will not be allowed in classrooms, and violations of the policy can possibly become a student conduct issue.
Employees who refuse to wear masks can also face disciplinary action. All students and employees will be provided with a cloth mask and are encouraged to bring cloth masks from home. Additional cloth masks and temporary masks will be available for sale as well.
The classroom experience will also be changing as a result of COVID-19 and the new guidelines. Face-to-face classes will be limited to 49 students and an instructor, which is in compliance with Phase Four of the state’s Restore Illinois plan.
There will be a mixture of face-to-face, online and hybrid classes to reduce density and traffic in classrooms and buildings on campus. Buildings will have designated entrances and exits, as well as signs to direct hallway traffic in certain directions.
Alternative spaces will also be used as classrooms to allow for greater social distancing. The Grand Ballroom in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union and the McAfee Gymnasium are among these alternative classroom environments.
The university will not offer any faculty-led study abroad programs and will not provide any institutional support for study abroad. However, if a student wishes to attend one of Eastern’s partner institutions overseas, their credits will be transferred.
Testing, Contract Tracing and Quarantine
Upon arrival to campus, Eastern students and employees will be able to receive COVID-19 tests. Eastern has partnered with the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center to provide these tests.
New students will begin arriving to campus on the Tuesday before classes start, spreading out the move-in process over three days. Sarah Bush personnel will be on campus those days to administer tests. They will also be on hand that weekend when returning students arrive.
Testing is not mandatory but is highly recommended. It is also recommended that students get tested two weeks before returning to campus if they are able, so they can isolate before returning to campus.
Students who test positive at any point will need to quarantine for 14 days. Ideally, students would return home for this. But if they are unable to return home for any reason, there are around 80 spaces on campus for students to quarantine, including reserved units at the University Apartments.
Students in quarantine will be provided with meals from dining and catering staff, water and other equipment, contact numbers and medical information. A health professional will also contact quarantining students each day.
Students living in shared apartments where everyone will need to quarantine can isolate in their apartment. Students in Greek Court can possibly quarantine in any vacant suites in their chapter house if neither room in the suite is occupied.
Eastern has also partnered with the Coles County Department of Public Health to assist with contact tracing. Eastern graduate students from the college of health and human services will be trained in contact tracing and volunteer.
Athletics and Extracurriculars
Student-athletes at Eastern will have more responsibilities with the new guidelines. The Eastern football players will be the first people returning to campus in mid-July and will provide the first opportunity to test Eastern’s new testing and housing plans.
Student-athletes will also be tested more frequently, especially before and after games where they come in contact with people from other states and universities with differing policies. Coaches will also be able to discipline student-athletes who do not follow the mask policy and all student-athletes will be required to participate in contact tracing if they test positive.
They will also have to keep a daily self-screening log where they monitor any possible symptoms or lack of symptoms and a log of people they come in contact with.
The Student Recreation Center will be opened with limited capacity. No more than 50 people will be permitted in the SRC at one time. The basketball courts will be covered up and will house the exercise machines, which will be spread out beyond six feet in the additional space.
Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]