Published: Aug. 14, 2020

An Aug. 13 town hall meeting gave attendees an opportunity to learn more about CU Boulder’s COVID-19-ready campus, academic instruction modes, health and safety protocols and more.  

Held virtually, the event was for faculty, staff and graduate students on appointment, including teaching assistants, graduate assistants, research assistants and graduate part-time instructors.

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano, Provost Russell Moore, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Assessment Katherine Eggert and Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke were the main panelists. Eggert was also the moderator.

The town hall format was primarily a question-and-answer session. In addition to the main panelists, on hand to respond were Carla Ho-a, chief financial officer, Dan Jones, associate vice chancellor for integrity, safety and compliance, David Kang, vice chancellor for infrastructure and sustainability, and Jennifer McDuffie, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. 

In his opening remarks, DiStefano emphasized the extensive work of faculty and staff since the spring, as well as his gratitude.

“We essentially rebuilt the university in a few short months,” said DiStefano. “I’m grateful for everyone’s commitment and devotion. I recognize that this has been far from easy.”

Moore, who noted he’ll be teaching a course during the fall semester, echoed the chancellor’s appreciation. He discussed registration, as well as the successful and safe continuation of research that has occurred since early summer.

During his introductory overview, O’Rourke encouraged participants to visit the extensive CU Boulder resources available for comprehensive information, including the campus’s COVID-19 webpage, Road Map to Fall 2020 and Protect Our Herd. O’Rourke stressed that the campus’s plans will continue to evolve “based on what we’re learning.”

A town hall recording is available for complete details. Excerpts from some of the questions and responses include:

How can I get a mask?

There will be facial covering distribution stations on Main Campus and East Campus. Also, a station will be available in the University Memorial Center, or UMC.

Why aren’t we testing off-campus students? 

Our current priority is testing students in the controlled environment of on-campus housing while we develop and expand testing capabilities, including testing of off-campus students, in the context of contract tracing and ongoing monitoring.

Why aren’t we requiring self-quarantining of students when they arrive in Boulder from out-of-state?

Epidemiological resources the university consulted on the matter did not believe this tactic would make a significant difference in the overall disease presence or spread in our community.

Aren’t students who travel required to quarantine under the Colorado Safer at Home guidelines for higher education with university enforcement of a 14-day isolation period? 

The guidelines that currently exist only require students coming from international locations to have a self-imposed period of quarantine.

What happens when a student in my class tests positive for COVID-19? What happens if more than one gets sick? 

If a student is tested by Wardenburg Health and tests positive, his or her faculty and/or instructors will be notified, but not by student name. The notification will generally come from the department chair or director along with resources so the faculty and/or instructor can decide if anything needs to be adjusted with the delivery of the course.

If a student self-identifies to a faculty member or instructor that he or she has tested positive or needs to quarantine because of possible exposure, the faculty member or instructor is asked to contact Medical Services for contact tracing, as well as work with their department chair or director for any adjustments to the course, if it’s an in-person class. If it’s a remote course, the faculty member or instructor will have to work with that student to provide the instruction and accommodations that are appropriate to the health situation that the student is in.

What do I do when a student refuses to follow the face covering requirement? 

Refer any student who needs an exemption to Disability Services (the employee counterpart is the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance). However, if a student receives an exemption from wearing a face covering, the faculty member or instructor will have been notified. 

Our approach is educational, there will be signs across campus, and the expectation is that face coverings must be worn at all times, indoors and outdoors.

What if I’m walking across campus and I see students not wearing face coverings or physical distancing?

You can give a friendly reminder, but please avoid harmful conflicts. Steps on what to do, including example phrasing, are available at Protect Our Herd on the faculty and staff page

For issues of non-compliance, student cases will be referred to Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution; employee cases will be referred to Employee Relations. If there is a need for campus safety, the CU Boulder Police Department is available, but should generally be called as a last resort, not a first resort. Also, bystander intervention resources are available and the mandatory sexual misconduct training includes a bystander component.

Has campus enrollment been affected by the virus?

More than 33,027 students have enrolled for classes; 29,310 of those students have enrolled for at least one fully in-person course or a hybrid course with an in-person component; and 3,717 students have enrolled in courses that are fully remote or fully online.

Compared with last fall, undergraduate enrollment is very similar, and there’s been an increase in graduate student enrollment.

Are there plans to address parties on University Hill?

There has been much discussion on this topic with Boulder County Public Health. There is extensive cooperation and collaboration with the Boulder Police Department and the University of Colorado Police Department. The city itself passed new regulations that will allow officials to approach residences and properties that are having compliance issues, with the ability to take action against landlords. There is a multipronged approach in place, starting with education, to address this issue. We are going to be working with students through the code of conduct process, through citations, and the response will be very swift, with the protection of our students and our community being the primary focus. 

Other questions the audience asked included: What would cause CU to go fully remote?; What might be done to ensure everyone that the quality of instruction at CU Boulder will continue to be first-rate, even if it’s significantly different in modality?; How much PPE is currently available and how will it be distributed?; Are instructors required to teach with masks on, can an instructor take a mask off if distanced from students in a large classroom?; What safety and protective cautions are provided to faculty and staff who are in frequent contact with students?; Will students who are exempted from wearing a face covering have a receipt they can show?; How do you communicate mask exemptions, if you’re the instructor, with other students in the class and what extra safety precautions can be taken?; Is there a resource that provides ideas for how to engage students in collaborative learning in the physically distanced classroom?; How is contact tracing done on campus?; What are we looking forward to in the spring in terms of academics–Should we be planning for a similar ratio of face-to-face, hybrid and fully remote classes? 

DiStefano closed the session with discussion about looking ahead to the spring and how decisions will be made.

“We’ll make those decisions just like we made them this spring and summer, for the fall, and what’s in the best interest of our faculty, staff and students from the standpoint of health and safety,” he said.