Purdue trustees OK plans to accommodate remote students, additional measures for fall semester

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday (May 26) approved plans to accommodate those students who cannot or choose not to come to the West Lafayette for the fall 2020 semester with a plan for online coursework. The online alternative was one of several actions trustees ratified as Purdue’s leaders, guided by medical advisors and scientific experts, prepare the campus to return to its learning, research and engagement missions in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The overwhelming majority of our students have indicated they want to be on campus this fall, and everything we are doing right now is aimed at offering the safest experience we can as we protect all the members of our community,” trustees chair Michael Berghoff said. “This will include many major changes in our protocols and our behaviors. We will rely on each member of the Boilermaker community to be responsible and make the best decisions for themselves and for others.”

Online offerings for fall will include an extensive course catalog, including most high-enrollment courses, which will allow students, who for various reasons may not be able to be on campus, to take classes fully online and make progress toward their academic degree goals. Details about the online option will be communicated in June to both current and incoming students and will be linked from the Protect Purdue website when available. 

Trustees also approved several measures based on proposals vetted by the University’s Medical Advisory Team of Drs. Michael Mirro, Roger Scott Stienecker and Xiaoying (Karen) Wan of Parkview Health.

Those plans are:

  • To de-densify learning spaces on campus by reconfiguring facilities, and adhering to space management principles, assignment and scheduling protocols. For classroom spaces, student occupant capacities will be reduced by approximately 50%, and large-classroom occupancy will be limited to no more than 150 students. The space between instructor and student will be a minimum of 10 feet, and mobile plexiglass barriers will be available for additional protection.
  • To de-densify living spaces on campus, ensuring that each residential space meets the following requirements: square footage per person will meet or exceed 113 square feet, allowing for a radius of 6 feet per person, or while sleeping, a separation of at least 10 feet head-to-head. Additional work will be done leading into fall semester to adhere to the best scientific practices.
  • To implement more frequent and intensive practices for disinfecting campus facilities, including the mobilization of existing staff and the hiring of additional staff as required for this effort.
  • To adopt a definitional framework for identifying those most vulnerable in the campus community and, thus, at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and to implement a process for making individual accommodations for those for whom it is medically appropriate. 

Trustees also on Tuesday ratified and confirmed:

  • The adoption of the fall 2020 academic calendar with on-campus classroom instruction from Aug. 24 to Nov. 24 (without customary university holidays and fall breaks) and the balance of the semester to be completed thereafter by remote means, as well as designation of the previously announced requirement to wear face masks while indoors and in any close-quarters setting as an official university regulation.

Trustees emphasized that the single most important factor in promoting a safe campus may be compliance with protective behaviors. To that end, they ratified the Protect Purdue Pledge as a way of receiving the shared commitment of all members of the campus community to take protective measures for themselves and others in the collective effort to keep the community safe by stopping the spread of COVID-19 and other potential infections, and directed enforcement of the pledge as an official university regulation.

The pledge includes specific commitments for individuals to, among other items:

  • Monitor for the symptoms of COVID-19, including daily temperature check and staying home if ill.
  • Wash hands often and get vaccinated for the seasonal flu.
  • Maintain social distancing and wear appropriate protective gear.
  • Keep clothing, belongings and personal and common spaces clean.

All individuals are expected to pledge to “protect myself, protect others and protect our Purdue community.”

Separately, the board determined that the August 2020 commencement ceremony will be conducted in a manner consistent with the method successfully used for the May 2020 commencement, in which students, wherever they may be, can watch their ceremony, complete with music, ceremonial traditions and speeches, and hear their names called with their fellow graduates.

With these directives approved by trustees, campus leaders continue their work on an aggressive timeline for implementation and will provide updated announcements to the campus community as progress is made.

Updates also will continue to be posted to the Protect Purdue website.

The university has launched a crowdfunding site at crowdfunding.purdue.edu/protectpurdue in support of the Protect Purdue initiative. Gifts to the fund will go toward areas of greatest need across campus, enabling campus leaders to move nimbly to address a range of anticipated and unanticipated needs.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Media contact: Tim Doty, doty2@purdue.edu

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