Dear Baylor Students and Parents:
What will Baylor University’s fall semester look like?
That’s the No. 1 question on all of our minds as the countdown to the start of the semester on Aug. 24 continues. As the number of COVID-19 cases within the state of Texas and in Waco has increased over the past two weeks, our goal during this time is to communicate often to help you better plan for the fall, particularly as federal, state and local health and safety guidelines evolve.
Please know that we are working diligently to welcome you to our beautiful Baylor campus next month. With that said, we have kept the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff at the forefront of our planning process and decision-making. We are committed to providing a rich, vibrant academic and campus experience for which Baylor is known under these COVID-19 circumstances. While our caring Christian community may look a little different this fall, the same Baylor spirit will be ever-present.
We have compiled a list of the top questions that students and parents have asked over the past few weeks. If your question is not answered below, I encourage you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions page at www.baylor.edu/coronavirus. These FAQs are updated continually based on our latest plans related to COVID-19.
- Will Baylor require COVID-19 testing in the fall?
Our Project 8.24 Team continues to evaluate testing options for students entering the fall semester based on evolving guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health officials. Once the fall semester begins, testing will be available for Baylor students who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and for those with close contact to someone who has tested positive. Students can call Baylor Health Services at 254-710-4939 for a nurse screening, and if the student meets criteria, our on-campus medical staff will conduct COVID-19 testing. For more information, visit the Baylor Health Services website. Additionally, the University will work with our local public health district to conduct contact tracing to assist in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus on our campus during the semester. We will share more details regarding our fall testing plans in future updates, as we are also evaluating potential options for testing asymptomatic students to help limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
- What happens if a Baylor student tests positive for COVID-19?
First and foremost, you will find Baylor’s caring community will be in full display. From a practical standpoint, the University has designated isolation housing locations where students who live in residence halls and test positive can self-isolate away from others as directed by our on-campus medical staff. Our team in Baylor Health Services is in regular contact with public health officials and local hospitals. Also, most classrooms will be outfitted with lecture-capture or streaming technology so that infected students can continue progressing academically in an online environment.
- Will Baylor provide meals, medical care and other resources to students in residence halls who become ill?
Baylor will conduct wellness checks and deliver meals to residence hall students who are self-isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms in University-provided isolation housing as directed by our medical staff. Baylor Health Services also will have a Respiratory Clinic set up to care for all students with respiratory symptoms, including those who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
- What resources will Baylor provide for those students who contract COVID-19 and live off-campus?
For students who live off-campus, we recommend they develop a sickness emergency plan to determine how they will secure medical supplies, groceries and other household items if they have to self-isolate due to a positive COVID-19 test or they have been directly exposed to an individual who has tested positive and have to self-quarantine. We recommend that these students waive their FERPA and HIPAA rights to allow parents to receive academic and medical information on their behalf. Students who live off campus will still have access to Baylor Health Services for medical care and testing, in addition to the Respiratory Clinic to care for all students with respiratory symptoms, including those who have tested positive for the coronavirus. A reminder from above that most classrooms will be outfitted with lecture-capture or streaming technology so that infected students can continue progressing academically in an online environment.
- Will Baylor require face coverings, or masks, this fall?
Yes, face coverings will be required in all University buildings and outdoors on campus when social distancing is not possible, as well as at prescribed events this fall. Note that while important, wearing a face covering or mask is simply one component in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Known as the Swiss Cheese Model, we strongly recommend maintaining appropriate social distance between others, avoiding large groups and gatherings, washing hands frequently and wearing face coverings as part of a preventive layering strategy. Compliance regarding these preventive measures is critical to our ability to expand our student activities throughout the fall.
- How is Baylor going to enforce wearing face coverings or masks, social distancing and avoiding large groups of students?
On June 22, Baylor instituted a face mask policy requiring all faculty, staff, students and visitors to wear a face covering or mask that covers their nose and mouth while on campus. Additionally, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently mandated the use of face coverings in public buildings and spaces where social distancing is not possible. At the start of semester as part of a campus-wide educational effort, we will have a team of Baylor Ambassadors, who will remind students, faculty and staff of University policies related to COVID-19, as well as provide face coverings and hand sanitizers at the entrances of well-trafficked buildings. All events this fall will require face coverings and social distancing, with many activities operating either with smaller attendance or in a virtual environment. Face coverings will also be required in the residence halls, with the exception of when a student is in his/her individual room.
Additionally, all Baylor buildings will have extensive signage on display. The University is in process of updating our student conduct procedures for added enforcement, if needed. A reminder that wearing a face covering demonstrates our care and concern for others within the Baylor Family during this time of pandemic.
- Will Baylor provide enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of residence and dining halls and common areas?
Baylor has conducted enhanced cleaning of residence and dining halls and other high-traffic areas since the outset of COVID-19. Our University custodial and facilities partner Aramark has a worldwide presence and extensive cleaning and disinfectant protocols related to COVID-19 based on the latest guidance, technology and supplies. The University will continue enhanced cleaning campus-wide – high-touch areas in particular – and will sanitize areas where there was an exposure of COVID-19. Residence halls, lobbies and common areas will have enhanced cleaning throughout the day, and community bathrooms will undergo thorough cleaning and disinfecting twice daily. Classrooms will undergo similar cleaning procedures.
- What can students expect from online instruction in the fall?
While the University is working to increase the number of face-to-face and hybrid options in the fall, Baylor’s plans must be flexible based upon the realities of COVID-19 and keeping all of our faculty, staff and students safe and healthy. Baylor faculty are working diligently this summer to prepare to teach their courses in various formats and adopt the necessary technology for online instruction. Faculty development opportunities include a five-week Summer Faculty Institute, as well as developing online excellence in each of the following areas: faculty mentoring, course design and development, student engagement strategies and alternative methods of assessment. Be assured that community building and substantial interaction with professors happen in synchronous online classes much the same as it does when students are face-to-face in the same classroom. Hybrid courses provide a mixture of in-person instruction and synchronous learning. Students can log-in to class via Zoom or a similar technology platform from their residence hall or apartment and not have to wear a face covering. Asynchronous, or “recorded,” online courses bring many benefits as well, such as flexibility for students who like to work when it best suits their schedules and learning styles. Regardless of the method of course delivery, classes will be taught by Baylor’s caring Christian faculty who prioritize our students’ academic and spiritual development. Each class will be assigned a back-up instructor in the event the primary faculty member becomes ill with COVID-19, and specific protocols will be in place in the event a student within a class tests positive for the coronavirus.
- How will Baylor keep students from coming into close contact in residential and dining areas?
Baylor’s residence halls will operate at regular occupancy, with the exception that many large triple rooms have been converted into doubles. As part of our enhanced safety measures, the University also added about 100 single rooms into the first-year inventory so that students could opt into that space if they choose at an increased cost. Each day, students will be provided a face covering and asked to wear it outside of their specific residence hall room. Due to COVID-19, many communal and gathering spaces within the residence halls and other campus buildings may not be accessible or may not be occupied at maximum levels; however, the University will provide nearly a dozen large, enclosed and cooled/heated tent structures around the campus to create additional space and social distancing. For the dining halls, depending on local and state regulations at the beginning of fall semester, the University currently is planning for a mix of in-person dining, enhanced take-out and grab-n-go options. The SUB food court will be operational with decreased seating capacity and additional take-out. More information will be communicated about on-campus dining later in the summer as we know more about specific parameters. There should not be any nutrition or variety concerns for students.
- Will Baylor provide discounted tuition to account for online classes and the lack of access to on-campus facilities?
Baylor will provide educational services this fall delivered by our renowned Christian faculty within a vibrant, challenging academic environment regardless of the mode of course delivery. As such, the University’s tuition rate and fees for the fall semester will not change. Baylor has and retains broad legal discretion to determine, in its pedagogic judgment, how to provide educational services to our students. Additionally, Baylor will have the same number of instructional days in the fall semester, despite the conclusion of on-campus instruction prior to the Thanksgiving break. We understand that COVID-19 may have caused a loss of income for some families. If this has happened, we encourage you to reach out to Student Financial Services to request a review of your financial aid package based on the change in family economic circumstances.
I suspect you have many more questions, particularly related to Move-In and traditions such as Welcome Week, running the Baylor Line, Homecoming and Christmas on 5th. I invite you to join Vice President of Student Life Kevin Jackson and me for a special Facebook Live next Tuesday, July 14 at noon. You may also want to go back and review my recent Facebook Live discussion with Provost Nancy Brickhouse regarding our fall academic plans. As always, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to have your question(s) answered directly.
We understand that these are times of great anxiety and uncertainty as we all deal with the impacts of COVID-19. We will communicate again weekly via my Presidential Perspective on Thursdays and will provide other, more extensive updates such as this one soon. Please know you and your families are in our thoughts and prayers.
“Trust in him at all times, oh people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” – Psalm 62:8
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.