Leadership. Innovation. Integrity. Diversity. Excellence. Respect.
Dear Morgan Community,
The past several months have been extremely challenging for us all as we have worked together to maneuver through a monumentally historic health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an unforeseen calamity whose pervasiveness left no part of our community immune to its effect. Starting with the abrupt conclusion to campus life in mid-March, to the immediate pivot to remote instruction only, to the cancellation or postponement of some of our time-honored traditions and activities, and, ultimately, to the closing of our campus for the remainder of the Spring semester, we have had a lot to comprehend in a relatively short time frame. But we held true to our core values as a University community, and today, our resolve is even stronger as is the spirit that binds us together during these uncertain times. As we dealt with the adverse effects from COVID-19 and looked toward preparations for the future, there was only one way to do it and it was in the great Morgan Way tradition—a tradition rooted in active listening and seeking feedback from all sectors of the University community. It was in this context that I sought your opinion through separate University-wide surveys targeted at students, staff and faculty.
The effects of COVID-19 on our everyday existence are inescapable. The campus life that we have grown so accustomed to will change dramatically as we reopen for the fall. Adjustments to this new way of being will require all of us to modify our traditional routines and behaviors as we seek to make the campus safer for all of us. This is just a reality we have to embrace in order to return to the campus we love. And based on the volume of feedback that we have received from the Morgan Community, there is high interest in returning to our fair Morgan so long as modifications are made to decrease public health risks.
In early May, I appointed a multi-sector group consisting of administrators, faculty, staff and student leaders to participate as members of Morgan’s Campus Reopening & Readiness/Preparedness Committee (CRRPC) and empowered them to devise a comprehensive plan that would allow the University to welcome students, staff and faculty back to campus for fall semester instruction. This task was not an easy endeavor given the uncertain climate we are presently navigating with the prevalence and threat of COVID-19. Despite the challenges involved with convening a large group virtually, and of needing to work quickly while managing other operational duties, due to the dedication and collaboration of those we charged to see us through this effort, we are able to begin sharing the details of our planning.
As we begin our multi-phased approach to reopening for the fall semester, please know that we will do so in alignment with State and local orders, and in adherence to the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). To that end, Morgan State University has committed to the following key decisions:
FALL 2020 CAMPUS REOPENING PLAN
Health & Safety
- The University Health Center (UHC) will be the designated point of contact coordinating with local and state health officials for all matters pertaining to testing, temperature checks, contact tracing, case reporting and mitigation management (quarantine plans). The UHC, along with the University Counseling Center, will also incorporate telehealth, online appointments, and rapid triage into its operational plans. We will be recruiting two additional professional counselors to join our Counseling Center to help our University community cope with the stressors brought on by COVID-19.
- Prior to the campus reopening, there will be thorough sanitizing of campus facilities, including classrooms and common/public spaces with scheduled routine maintenance throughout the semester. There will also be increased availability of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipe stations throughout campus. This was the desire of the majority of the staff who responded to our survey.
- Everyone (students, faculty, staff) returning to campus can expect to receive a “Return to Campus Care Package” consisting of complimentary supplies, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer, and health tips.
- Everyone in our campus community will be supplied with a copy of Morgan’s “Rules of Social Engagement” which will contain best practices to promote safe social interaction and will assist in the healthy self-regulation of our shared spaces as we maneuver the campus environment.
- All students, faculty, staff and visitors will be required to wear protective face coverings in all University buildings and facilities. Face coverings will also be required when physical distancing may be limited in outdoor spaces.
- Campus classrooms, dining halls and the canteen, as well as specified entrances/exits, will be modified to support appropriate physical distancing. In some high-traffic service areas and instructional spaces plexiglass barriers will be installed.
- Signage to support reinforcement of CDC guidelines will be posted throughout the campus. The signage, which will include directional and distancing markers, will be used to encourage physical distancing.
- Members of the Morgan community will be encouraged to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. The use of testing, temperature checking, contact tracing and self-isolation will be performed when and where applicable and in compliance with guidance from local and state health officials. We are currently in conversation with Johns Hopkins University regarding the feasibility to assist us with testing and tracing.
- Looking toward the fall, the University’s goal is to offer as many courses as is reasonably possible in a face-to-face format. We will take into consideration those faculty with underlying pre-existing health conditions that might limit their ability to offer face-to-face instruction.
- In an effort to remain flexible and maintain low-density classrooms, Morgan will offer two modalities of course delivery: in-person and remote instruction. Some courses will be a hybrid of in-person and remote learning while others will be online-only. For the hybrid courses (those not designated as online only), students will have the choice to receive instruction either face-to-face (dependent upon classroom availability and space) or remotely. These two methods of instructional delivery were the favorites among the more than 3,000 students who responded to our survey.
- The University will be making a financial investment of more than $5 million, made available through federal funding, to retrofit classroom spaces with technology upgrades to accommodate expanded remote and hybrid instruction.
- Fall classes will begin after Labor Day, on Wednesday, Sept. 9. The last day for face -to-face classes will be the day before the Thanksgiving break, Wednesday, Nov. 25. Following Thanksgiving break, all remaining instruction and/or assessment will be conducted remotely until the last day of classes on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
- Research (particularly lab-based research requiring access to essential on-campus facilities) will be conducted in compliance with current federal and state regulations and guidelines.
- All study abroad programs for the Fall 2020 semester have been suspended.
- On-campus housing capacity will be reduced by 31 percent due to the conversion of many multi-occupancy rooms to single occupancy.
- Rooms on campus in traditional residence halls, and apartments with community bathrooms, will be assigned as singles to reduce on-campus population density and to support social distancing. On-campus housing assignments will be based upon timely receipt of application submissions as well as requests for special accommodations. I urge you to visit our online housing application page on the University website ASAP.
- For rooms with more than one occupant, social distancing configurations, which may include the placement of dividers, will be put into place.
- To accommodate the need for additional housing space, the University is contracting externally to secure additional space at nearby hotels and apartment buildings.
- While students will not be asked to vacate the residence halls at the conclusion of the face-to-face instruction in November (though it is recommended), any student wishing to vacate his/her residence is free to do so. Please note that no refunds will be issued to students electing to vacate campus housing at the end of face-to-face instruction.
- Dining services will be adjusted to accommodate a lower-density model consisting of limited dine-in options with social distancing protocols in place and increased ‘grab & go’ meal options.
- Outside of plans to host the postponed spring Commencement in October and fall Commencement in December, no other decisions have been made regarding events being held on campus in the fall. This matter is still under discussion and evaluation.
- There will be a phased return of personnel to campus, in alignment with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s Executive Order lifting some of the restrictions around telework, reopening of businesses, and reopening of state agencies. Morgan’s incremental return to campus will be executed accordingly:
- Phase One will commence on Monday, June 8, with the start of the return of MSU’s Physical Plant staff (their return will be phased), who will begin the process of getting the campus prepared for reopening;
- Phase Two will involve the return of our student athletes;
- Phase Three will be the return of some regular staff;
- Phase Four will include the return of our faculty; and
- Phase Five will culminate with the return of the general student population.
- The University has obtained the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and will be providing it to all frontline essential employees as needed to carry out their duties.
- CDC guidelines regarding high risk employees, as well as State of Maryland guidelines and labor regulations, will be applied to determine an individual’s capacity to work on-campus and to guide employment decisions.
- Telework policies will remain in effect with telework schedules in place where appropriate, along with staggered work schedules to support reduced population density on campus.
- Staff will receive training on safety and prevention strategies commensurate with their respective role and responsibility.
Many thanks to the members of the Campus Reopening & Readiness/Preparedness Committee for their steadfast and dedicated commitment to our safe return to campus. They have worked with deliberate swiftness and care to inform our strategies and plans. Additionally, I extend my appreciation to the Special Online Remote Instruction Committee whose diligence and careful guidance has placed us in a proactive position to adjust to a very fluid learning environment while ensuring that the overall student academic experience is not undermined.
I understand that this may be a lot of important information to process, but I encourage you to familiarize yourself with these key decisions that have been made for the fall semester. Just as the committees did not devise their recommendations for our plans overnight, I do not expect everyone to digest the full breadth of changes at one time. Over the next several weeks as we lead into the start of the fall semester, additional information and more details will be shared prior to your return to campus to ensure all protocols are known and everyone is fully compliant. We have established a dedicated section on our website where we will house this and all future information pertaining to our plans for the fall reopening of MSU – Morgan.edu/ReopeningMSU. We are also planning to include a section for frequently asked questions (FAQs) to better assist in your decision making.
As we work through this together, we must all prepare for some inconveniences and adopt new standards of behaviors that will help ensure the safety of our campus. I am confident that these new protocols and the measures that we put forth will be effective in making our campus safer and better prepared to face the unknowns associated with this pandemic.
We are committed to fulfilling our obligations that we have to our students, faculty and staff. Together, we are one community and together we are #MorganStrong.
We certainly cannot wait to reopen and welcome you back!
President David K. Wilson