Today's Update: Monday, May 11

May 11, 2020

Dear Student Life Team,

 The second most frequent question I’m asked is, “When are we going back to campus?” The answer, as yet, is unknown.  

President Drake says the current tentative goal is to have an announcement of our plans for the fall semester by mid-June. That is of course subject to change as information about the virus continues to evolve. But while there are not a lot of decisions yet, there is a lot of work going on to make sure we will ultimately make the best possible decisions. The university has a post-pandemic operations task force (which now has a website), and Student Life has a similar group looking at options and scenarios for what this fall and beyond might be like. The number and scope of the factors being considered are mind boggling.  

One thing that has impressed me is the level of science and data being gathered and used to make decisions, both about the timing and nature of how to make this transition. We’re working closely with the Wexner Medical Center and the Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Group throughout this process, and they have been tremendously helpful in framing both questions and possible solutions. We’ve consulted with epidemiologists and other public health officials to ensure we maintain a safe occupancy allowing for physical distancing in our facilities. We’re talking more about heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems than I ever thought possible.   

Student Life is represented on the University Personal Protection Equipment Acquisition Committee to make sure we have the vital health and safety equipment and supplies needed to support our students, staff and guests. Others on our team are involved in other aspects of the planning, and we are being asked to help determine how to implement all these data informed decisions with our expertise and knowledge of student behavior. 

There is one thing I can guarantee: we will not be going back to what we might consider “normal.” You’ve heard me say this before, but it bears repeating; we need to figure out our “next normal” when COVID-19 subsides. I have never been part of a brainstorming session this large. It challenges us to think creatively and not reject ideas simply because they are outside the box or not consistent with our previous approach. Nothing is “off the table,” and every decision centers on what is best for the safety of our students, staff, faculty and community.  

Our planning will force us to be flexible, nimble and creative. And even when decisions are made, we must be prepared to change course again as the situation evolves. I know we can do it, and I know of no better group to tackle this challenge than this Student Life team. After all, you’re Scarlet and Great! 

Be sure to join me this Friday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. for the next virtual staff meeting. I’ll share the Zoom link as soon as it’s ready. While the meeting will be too big to take questions during the session, please send your questions in advance to studentlife@osu.edu so I can answer as many as I can.  

If you’re wondering, the number one questions I get asked is, “What about the football season?” No answers yet there, either, but as a huge football fan, I’m asking that one too. Go Bucks!  

Melissa