Students raised concerns about issues related to COVID-19, and how the upcoming spring semester will differ from the fall at a Purdue Student Government roundtable on Monday.
“Attendance policy this semester was very liberal, and as we approach the next semester it’s going to be imperative that we think about attendance in a way that does not require a student who is ill to be in the classroom,” Provost Jay Akridge said. “At the same time, the idea of engaging in classes, both face-to-face and online, is very important to us as we think about the spring.”
Jenna Rickus, the interim vice provost for teaching and learning, echoed Akridge's sentiment, saying “It is important to continue to not tie in person attendance directly to points and final grades."
Rickus also said that students in different time zones won't be penalized if they can't participating in synchronous moments.
“I think what you’ll see is a lot more of a shift from an attendance policy to a participation policy,” she said.
Akridge confirmed that in-person classes will be offered again, and said other Big Ten universities, aside from the University of Nebraska, haven't been as "aggressive" in offering in-person instruction and are not offering as much.
“In the spring, we were forced to shift based on (COVID-19) exploding onto the scene," Alridge said. "As we think about all of the factors that go into making that decision, we have not decided to switch modes. We will follow similar practices in the spring — we will be monitoring the data and the virus, and again if we had to switch modes we would, but we will certainly begin in residential mode.”
Eric Barker, Dean of the College of Pharmacy, guessed the general population would not receive access to a vaccine until at least April, and it will not be required that students receive a COVID-19 vaccine at least for the spring semester, though he said he hopes to educate people so they can make a decision that is in their best interest.
Barker said distribution of a vaccine would be up to the state, with health care workers and first responders receiving the vaccine first, following by the most vulnerable and then the general population.
“Dean Willie Reed of Veterinary Medicine is heading a campus level task force to evaluate and track the process of the various vaccines," he said. "Right now there are probably four or five that are moving along, two of which we anticipate seeing doses available by the end of the calendar year."
Mass vaccination clinics on campus are already being planned if vaccinations do become available, similar to how Purdue distributed flu shots in the fall semester.
As for testing plans, Barker said testing capacity will be expanded and some technology, including robotics, will be brought into the testing lab.
"We will also be bringing in some of the newer rapid antigen tests for those who are symptomatic, so we will be able to give a rapid diagnosis," Barker said. "We are also working with the student health center to create a minute clinic approach, where if someone comes in and tests negative for COVID, tests for other infectious diseases like strep throat, or the flu will be given.”