USHE Releases Path for Welcoming Students Back to Campus
Individual public colleges and universities to release localized fall semester plans
in the coming days
May 27, 2020 – The Utah System of Higher Education COVID-19 Higher Education Task
Force released a plan today outlining a path for Utah public colleges and universities to resume onsite operations
for the fall 2020 semester amid COVID-19 uncertainty.
Utah colleges and universities have been largely operating remotely since the mid-March transition to online instruction. On-campus activity was significantly reduced, and Utah colleges and universities
canceled or postponed end of year activities and events as part of their efforts to keep their campus communities as safe as possible.
In collaboration with state and local leaders, public health departments, and education
experts, the Utah System of Higher Education developed a set of “gating conditions”
to define a path allowing colleges and universities to bring students back to campus
in person and resume many campus operations for the fall 2020 semester.
"Though we can’t fully predict what the fall will look like, we feel we are on a trajectory
to welcome our students back to campus while taking necessary precautions,” said Dave
R. Woolstenhulme, Interim Commissioner of Higher Education. “We have worked, and will
continue to work, to be as adaptable in our plans as possible as we receive updated
recommendations from state and federal leaders to ensure a safe environment for our
students, faculty, staff, and broader communities."
USHE proposes the following gating conditions as part of its guidelines for the fall 2020 semester:
- Disease Prevalence. The prevalence of the disease must be low enough to safely resume campus operations.
For nonresidential campuses, as well as science labs, libraries, and many graduate
programs, the gating criteria for business and commercial operations should apply.
For residential undergraduate programs, public health officials recommend a sustained
low and non-increasing rate of new hospitalizations in the state and in the local
health districts surrounding each college.
- Diagnostic Testing Supplies. Higher education leaders must work with state leaders to ensure that colleges and
universities have adequate supplies of diagnostic tests and adequate financial support
to obtain, administer, and process them. Nonresidential institutions should be able
to test symptomatic students, faculty, and staff. Residential institutions should
also be able to test students upon arrival and at appropriate intervals thereafter
in accordance with prevailing public health guidance.
- Contact Tracing. Higher education leaders must obtain adequate resources and capacity for contact
tracing to supplement local public health departments with on-campus efforts.
- Higher Education-Specific Health Guidelines. Colleges and universities should follow Utah’s specific public health guidelines
for colleges and universities, including face coverings, physical distancing, and
population densities of residence halls, dining facilities, and classrooms.
- Adequate PPE Supplies. Adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and face coverings must be available
to public colleges and universities.
- Healthcare Surge Capacity. Adequate surge capacity must be available in nearby health care facilities and hospitals.
- Liability Protection. Utah has adopted an appropriate “safe harbor” from liability for those institutions
that bring students back to campus and take reasonable steps to comply with state
guidelines and complete the planning efforts outlined in this report.
- Institution Plan. Incorporating the guidance provided by the Utah Leads Together plan and state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance specific to higher
education, each institution must develop a plan for onsite operations that includes the following four elements:
- A plan for repopulating the campus (likely a phased process).
- A plan for active monitoring of health conditions to ensure the detection of infection.
- A plan for containing and preventing the spread of the disease if detected.
- A plan for shutting down operations in the event it becomes necessary, either because
of a serious outbreak on campus or statewide orders from the Governor.
Because of the diversity of each college and university in Utah, higher education
leaders determined a “one-size-fits-all” approach was not feasible. For this reason,
Utah public colleges and universities, utilizing guidance from the System, will be
releasing their individualized fall semester plans over the coming days.
Read the full set of System guidelines.
The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) is governed by the Board of Regents and is comprised of Utah’s eight public colleges and universities. The CEO of USHE
is the Commissioner of Higher Education. For more information, visit ushe.edu.