UNC students and staff experience changes due to COVID-19 restrictions

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With COVID-19 restrictions in place, University of Northern Colorado freshmen are experiencing an abnormal first year of college. Photo courtesy of unco.edu.

With rising concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, universities across the nation have had to adapt their campuses in some way to meet local and state regulations for the fall semester. The University of Northern Colorado, began by creating the Re-Entry and Logistics Task Force, co-chaired by Provost Mark Anderson and Vice President Katrina Rodriguez.

With many changes across campus, the Re-Entry Task Force prepared for the reopening of campus for the fall semester with the goal of making the transition as smooth and successful as possible.

The COVID-19 Campus Reopening Guide incorporates policies and directions from the State of Colorado, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization with other practices being followed by other institutes of higher education, government agencies and private companies. This guide includes many of the changes UNC students and staff have begun to see on campus.

One change UNC has implemented is its mask policy. All students, employees and visitors are required to wear a mask at all times while in public or shared spaces and when outdoors around other people. Students living on campus are required to wear a mask at all times unless in their own room or when doing tasks that cannot be completed while wearing
a mask such as eating.

UNC’s Coronavirus website also reminds students and employees of Governor Jared Polis’ statewide mask order.

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“You should also remember that even when you are off campus, Colorado Governor Jared Polis has implemented a statewide mask order and other public health directives that govern expectations for mask wearing and gatherings in public or private spaces,” the UNC Coronavirus website says.

All students, employees, and visitors are required to weak a
mask at all times while in public places, as well as when around
others outdoors. Photo courtesy of https://www.unco.edu/
return-to-campus.

UNC students and faculty members have also seen a change in classroom settings. All classrooms spaces have been reconfigured to separate students by at least six feet part and all seats that should not be occupied are marked. This reconfiguration has decreased seating in classrooms by
30%.

Classes were also examined over the summer to see which ones could be held in person, online, and in a hybrid format. The finalized course schedule and its teaching delivering methods was released on July 3.

“Many individual programs followed the guidance of their professional organizations about best practices for instruction in the environment we currently exist in,” the UNC Coronavirus website says. “Many music performance courses, art studio courses, science laboratory courses, for example, have additional considerations that restricted how they can be taught that had to be considered when finalizing the fall schedule. Decisions on how these courses are to be taught were made by the faculty.”

Other changes to UNC’s campus include protocols for cleaning, disinfecting and decontaminating campus buildings, as well as decreasing the number of commonly touched surfaces. According to the UNC Coronavirus website, these decisions were made by Facilities Management and the UNC Office of Environmental Health and Safety in consultation with the Student Health Center and Housing and Residential Education.

Since the return to campus and the start of the semester, Dean of Students Colleen Sonnentag has had to send an announcement out to campus reminding everyone of these changes and requirements.

“As we approach the start of the semester on Monday, we must remind everyone about the critical need to maintain a safe and healthy environment at UNC,” Sonnentag wrote. “Thank you to all of our students, faculty, and staff, who are making choices that support the overall health and wellbeing of the Community of Bears. “

According to Sonnentag’s announcement, many Bears across campus have engaged in behaviors that put the campus at risk of contracting COVID-19.

“These risks are not just to our health and the health of our families,” Sonnentag said. “We risk Bears missing out on the opportunity to walk across the stage at graduation, engage in internships, and earn a paycheck while working on campus. Each one of us needs to think about the actions we take every day to stop the spread of COVID-19. Each positive case impacts us all.”

Sonnentag reminded members of the campus community of UNC’s mask policy and the importance of social distancing.

In addition to the changes seen across campus and as a response to community members engaging in unsafe behaviors, students are encouraged to address concerns among their peers and to report behaviors that put the health and safety of the UNC community at risk.

“We recognize that you have received a lot of information about UNC’s expectations of you in this challenging environment,” Sonnentag said. “As students, you have the greatest ability to support each other through the decisions you make. Your decision to be active bystanders and address concerning behaviors among your peers is just as important to our overall success as your individual decision to wear a mask every day.”

According to Sonnentag’s email, the Dean of Students has been receiving and will continue to address students’ concerns through the student conduct process.

More information about reporting concerning behaviors can be found at www.unco.edu/dean-of-students/share-concern.aspx and information about UNC’s Reopening Guide can be found at https://www.unco.edu/return-to-campus/pdf/unc-reopening-guide.pdf.

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