Fitts announces plan for return to campus


Outdoor classrooms are being constructed on the Berger Family Lawn for social distancing during fall semester classes.

Amy Nankin, News Editor

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This morning, Tulane University President Mike Fitts released a comprehensive return to campus plan in an email to the Tulane student body. The email outlined how life as a Tulanian will look in the fall with new precautions in place to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak on campus.

Tulane will provide free testing throughout the semester and implement a compulsory, daily symptom self-monitoring, testing and tracing program. The university will require all faculty, students and staff to wear face coverings anywhere on campus except a residence hall room or when alone in a private office. Fitts has also assured email recipients that two cloth face coverings will be provided for each faculty, staff and student, and that hand sanitizer will be plentiful throughout all campus buildings.

“This summer, all campuses underwent cleaning and disinfection by professional cleaners,” Fitts said. “Campus Services, in consultation with certified industrial hygienists, epidemiologists and Tulane’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, developed detailed protocols for continued cleaning and disinfection. Sanitizing wipes will be provided so faculty and students can wipe down work spaces and utilize hand sanitizer prior to the start of each class.”

Tulane is working in close contact with and following the guidelines set by the Louisiana Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and state and local governments to assist in their plans for a safe reopening. 

Upon arrival, the entire Tulane community will participate in a free COVID-19 testing program run by Tulane’s School of Medicine, Fitts said. For students living on campus, the return process will be more complex.

“We have established an Arrival Center for residential students at the Hyatt Regency in downtown New Orleans,” Fitts said. “The Hyatt has partnered with the university to provide the entire property for this purpose. All students who plan to live on campus will be tested at the Arrival Center and must have a negative result before being allowed to move into their campus residence.”

Classrooms and dining halls

Vast changes were made to densely populated areas like classrooms and dining halls to allow for social distancing when students return to campus. 

“We have scheduled all courses in classrooms that allow for required social distancing and have also constructed 13 large temporary classrooms,” Fitts said. “We will be erecting an additional five temporary facilities for the teaching of dance and other performance classes. In addition, we will be installing safeguards such as plexiglass barriers throughout classrooms and other campus buildings.”

In addition to the creation of outdoor classrooms, all classes will be “technology-enhanced,” with many classes moving online or to a hybrid model to decrease the amount of in-person meetings held. This will also, according to Fitts, allow for students who are self-quarantining or isolating to continue their classes. Times between classes will also be extended.

Dining facilities have also moved outside with the creation of the Dining Pavilion on the Berger Family Lawn. 

“All dining locations will have a defined entrance and exit to avoid cross flow of traffic and maintain capacity restrictions,” Fitts said. “Like the diners they serve, all Dining Services employees will be tested for COVID-19 and complete a self-symptom and temperature check before work. Patrons will be required to socially distance at all times and to wear masks when not eating. All Dining Services employees will wear face coverings during work hours unless eating a meal during lunch breaks.”

Social gatherings

After a surge in large gatherings among Tulane students in New Orleans, Tulane Dean of Students Erica Woodley sent an email to the student body warning of consequences and guidelines for students living in New Orleans in the summer and into the fall. 

“The calculation is simple — If you want to have a residential experience at Tulane in the fall, you have to behave differently,” Woodley said. “This means, no large gatherings (+15 people), and at all times wearing masks in public spaces, practicing social distancing and washing your hands. We are finishing our complete enforcement plan for the fall, but it is clear that this message had to be delivered immediately. DO NOT HOST PARTIES OR GATHERINGS WITH MORE THAN 15 PEOPLE, INCLUDING THE HOST. IF YOU DO, YOU WILL FACE SUSPENSION OR EXPULSION FROM THE UNIVERSITY.”

Fitts addressed these consequences in the Return to Campus Plan message and warned students that they will be upheld in the fall semester. He added that students on campus will not be allowed to host visitors from off campus or other residence halls once move in is completed. 

While many of these new changes distance students from each other, Fitts, the rest of the Tulane administration and student organizations are working together to create safe social events that the student body can enjoy. 

“While keeping within city and campus guidelines, we will also accommodate larger gatherings such as outdoor movies, Green Wave athletics watch parties and networking events,” Fitts said.

Additional information

Fitts also addressed the needs of those who are unable to return to campus. 

“Processes are in place to work individually with any student, faculty or staff who, for health reasons or other factors, feels that they cannot return to campus,” Fitts said. “Not all classes will be offered online, but we will work with students to make decisions that are most appropriate for each individual situation. Faculty should contact Kathryn Lafrentz to request a COVID-19 job modification or [Americans with Disabilities Act] accommodation.”

The Tulane administration will host a series of five webinars in order to provide more details regarding the return to campus life. The first, on Monday, July 27 at 5 p.m. CDT, will be an overview and response to questions and concerns hosted by President Fitts and Tulane’s “leading public health experts.” Webinars for staff and faculty on returning will be held July 28, at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. CDT, respectively. A webinar for undergraduates and parents will be held at 5 p.m. CDT on July 29 and will cover academic and student life for the coming semester. More information and registration for webinars can be found here.

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