Six deans from the College of Arts & Science gathered to address student concerns in a virtual orientation for returning students at 2 p.m. CDT on Monday.
An additional virtual student orientation, initially scheduled for 2 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, Aug. 18, was later cancelled due to a low number of attendees, per an email sent by Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Roger Moore.
Dean of the College of Arts & Science John Geer began the orientation by reassuring attendees about the current situation on campus.
“This campus is safe and we work very hard to keep it safe,” Geer said. “Now, that effort is not just going to be a product of people in the administration and the faculty. It’s also going to be your responsibility now to keep us all safe.”
Dean of Undergraduate Education André Christie-Mizell then began the orientation’s Q&A portion, first answering a question pertaining to whether or not students still have the option to opt for entirely remote learning. According to Christie-Mizell, the deadline for switching from on-campus to remote only learning is no later than Friday, Aug. 21. Once students move in, they will be responsible for the cost of housing. They can petition to go entirely remote thereafter but will still be responsible for full semester housing costs.
As for the logistics of how hybrid and alternating in-person learning will work, Christie-Mizell believes that students’ professors should be their main point of contact.
“You will be hearing from your professor regarding when you are supposed to be in class and when you are supposed to be online,” Christie-Mizell said. “Along with your syllabus, you should also be getting instructions from your professors for hybrid courses.”
Christie-Mizell also mentioned the conditions that would trigger Vanderbilt to opt for an entirely remote learning model. Per Christie-Mizell, a remote-only model would be adopted if there were local, state or national shelter-in-place advisories that restricted in-person learning. Other triggers include if there is a surge among particular demographic cohorts on campus, if contact tracing indicates that there is a large surge tied to a specific event or if an outbreak occurs and the capacity of quarantine and isolation housing is reached.
According to a previous virtual town hall, Blakemore House has a quarantine capacity of 142 positive student cases while Scarritt Bennett, an off-campus facility not owned by the university which will be used for isolation, has 143 separate rooms for students awaiting test outcomes.
Moore then mentioned that specific areas and facilities around campus will be available for students to use for attending remote courses if a student is unable to return to their dorm.
“There will be some spaces available in the library during the day, and we will be in touch with you about other spaces where you will be able to log on,” Moore said.
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education Carrie Russell also gave advice for students studying entirely remotely.
“Take the opportunity to get a schedule in motion for the purposes of devoting yourself to your classes and studies this semester,” Russell said. “I would encourage you to treat it like a work day in terms of looking at it like a job. If you can keep a schedule like that for yourself, it’ll help you be more present academically and manage your time.”
In regards to course examination procedures, Russell suggests that students communicate with their professors about class expectations and the format regarding tests throughout the semester and the final exam. Russell iterated that testing formats will likely vary from professor to professor.
The final speaker of the orientation was Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Daniel Morgan, who first touched upon Immersion Vanderbilt and possible changes in light of COVID-19.
“There are still going to be a lot of great opportunities for students doing their Immersion projects,” Morgan said. “We hope to have an announcement for you soon for how we are going to be doing Immersion this semester, especially for you rising juniors.”
Morgan also stated that both on-campus and off-campus internships opportunities will still be open and available to students.
“For off-campus [internships], we ask that you still observe our on-campus community guidelines,” Morgan said.
As for study abroad, Morgan is tentative but still encourages students to reach out to the Global Education Office (GEO) to discuss their options and plans.
“We are currently accepting applications for spring study abroad, but at this point it’s a little too early to say,” Morgan said. “We encourage you to still meet with the Global Education Office. In the end, we will have to make decisions based on your health and safety.”