University Of Arizona Taking Phased Approach On In-Person Classes In Fall Semester

Published: Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 4:43pm
Updated: Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 4:44pm
A coalition of University of Arizona faculty, staff and students delivered a letter on July 30, 2020, to President Robert Robbins asking him to allow everyone to work and study remotely.

The University of Arizona's return to in-person classes this fall will be staggered, President Robert Robbins said in his Thursday weekly briefing. 

At least 50% of fall classes will have some in-person component, but for the first week of the semester — which starts on Aug. 24 — in-person classes will be limited to areas such as medical courses, research labs, fine arts and performing arts studios. That would result in about 5,000 students on campus for this first week. 

In the second week, the university will begin holding in-person and hybrid classes of up to 30 people. About 14,000 people will be on campus in week two. 

After Labor Day, larger in-person and hybrid classes will be allowed to resume. That will bring the number of people on campus up to 25,000 to 30,000 people, less than half the amount usually on campus during a regular semester, Robbins said.

For this plan to work, Robbins said students, faculty and staff must follow public health measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

"If we see non-compliance, or if the public health conditions require, we will shut this down," he said. 

Although the university is being cautious, Robbins expects there may be 250-300 coronavirus cases on campus in the first two weeks.

“People are going to be so happy to see their old friends and they’ve been at home and they’ve been isolated and we are going to have some mistakes," he said. 

The first weeks of the semester will really put the university’s strategy to test, trace and treat COVID-19 to the test, he said. 

Just before Robbins' briefing, the Coalition for Academic Justice at UArizona (CAJUA), a group of faculty, students and staff, delivered an open letter to Robbins asking him to allow everyone to work and study remotely. It’s been signed by about 1,300 people, as of Thursday afternoon. 

"We are concerned that the plan the president discussed, to “ramp up” from mostly online course delivery to 50% in-person and flex (hybrid) delivery within a three-week time period is much too quick and does not give public health experts enough time to evaluate how the plan is working," CAJUA said in a statement.

Robbins said the university is not forcing anyone to come back on campus, including faculty and staff. Robbins feels confident that the university's re-entry takes into consideration safety and protection needs for its most vulnerable and marginalized students, faculty and staff. 

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