COVID-19 Pandemic Leads to Academic and Residential Shake-Up

The COVID-19 Pandemic caused major changes to student routines as far back as March, when the spring semester moved online. As students return to campus for the fall semester, they face mandated masks, social distancing requirements and many other stresses in their daily lives on campus. In the five months since students were last on campus, many campus entities have been working on returning students to campus safely.

Changes to Academics

Academic courses this year have undergone major changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic as professors adapt to the possibly of teaching students from across the country or in quarantine. The sudden change to online learning in the spring forced the university to change how they prepared for the fall semester.

“I’ve encouraged faculty to put as much of the course materials as possible on Moodle,” said Provost Michelle Mattson. Moodle is Wittenberg’s learning management system and allows for professors to provide course handouts and quizzes.

Ness Auditorium in Hollenbeck Hall is seen with socially distanced desks on Aug. 8, 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Wittenberg University begins the 2020-21 academic year on Aug. 17 with a mix of in-person and virtual classes.
Ness Auditorium in Hollenbeck Hall is seen with socially distanced desks on Aug. 8, 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Wittenberg University begins the 2020-21 academic year on Aug. 17 with a mix of in-person and virtual classes. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

Students will be attending classes in-person one or two days a week with half their class, as classroom sizes have been reduced to aid in social distancing. While students are not attending in-person, they might be working on course materials located on Moodle.

“You’re trying to keep that face-to-face contact by concentrating the time you have [in-person] on activities that work better face-to-face than they do online,” said Mattson. Students will also be using Microsoft Teams for synchronous teleconferences as Wittenberg does not possess an institution Zoom license. Wittenberg is aiming to hold less than ten percent of classes fully online and has created a request system for faculty to teach fully online.

Another academic change occurred inside Thomas Library, which will look different this year as library staff have halved seating in aid of social distancing according to Library Director Douglas Lehman.

“The tables are six feet long, so we can put a chair on either end to achieve [social distancing],” said Lehman. In places where separating chairs by distancing was not possible, the library staff placed dividers between the seats. Library staffers stored the removed chairs in the group study rooms as there will be no group study rooms available for check-out.

Two chairs are socially distanced on the third floor of Thomas Library on Aug. 10, 2020. Thomas Library has removed nearly half of its chairs in aid of social distancing and installed dividers in locations which are unable to social distance. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

“They’re pretty full of furniture to be honest. We left just enough space so that if COMPASS needs to have a student take a test, they can,” Lehman said. The rooms are closed to mitigate the increased risk of infection in smaller spaces.

In addition to less seating, the library hours have changed to eight a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday thru Thursday, eight a.m. to five p.m. on Fridays, noon to five p.m. on Saturdays and five p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. These new hours allow Alpha & Omega Building Services additional time to clean the library as well as reducing the time that students spend near each other while studying.

Changes to Residence Life

Residence Life has also undergone major changes in order to help students stay safe during the fall semester. Common area microwaves have been removed from residence halls and use of ping-pong, pool tables and board games will be limited as that equipment is difficult to sanitize. Residences will be able to use a common microwave located in their hall RA office which will be available during office hours.

Additionally, residents have been assigned bathrooms in order to keep the load on bathrooms manageable once the residence life scheduling system launches in the next week. Students will be able to sign up for a time to use the bathroom in the mornings and evening for predictable uses including showers. This scheduling was required to limit the number of users in a single bathroom at a time as some tasks including shaving, showering and brushing teeth require the removal of face masks.

Alpha & Omega Building Services has changed their cleaning procedure due to COVID-19 and will be cleaning common spaces more often. According to Sherri Sadowski, Associate Dean for Residence Life, bathrooms are cleaned twice daily, while lounges, laundry rooms and exterior doors are only cleaned once daily. Additionally, Residence Life is distributing “sanitation stations” which consist of sanitizing spray, paper towels, and gloves. Students are asked to wipe down any surfaces they touch after using the restroom with the sanitizer spray.

Trent Spraguehttp://www.trentspraguephotography.com
Trent Sprague is the photo editor and one of The Torch's photojournalists. He is a Communications and Photography major with a journalism minor. He has been on staff since August 2018.

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