The second University Senate virtual town hall was held Wednesday to address concerns that faculty, staff and graduate students have voiced about the fall semester.
Senate Chair Deborah Nichols presented data gathered on the feelings among the most at-risk demographics of campus personnel in regard to campus reopening.
Of the 7,234 respondents to the senate survey, more than 60% of respondents said they felt unsafe interacting with students this fall. Four of five wanted to work at least partially remotely, and nearly 70% lacked confidence that students will comply with the Protect Purdue Pledge, which was released in full on Friday.
Jenna Rickus, associate vice provost for teaching and learning, said Purdue will welcome around 650 students to campus in July for summer-start and early-start classes, which she referred to as Purdue’s “soft launch,” as a way to prepare for the fall.
Rickus said residential classes will be neither completely virtual nor completely in-person, and professors will have “quite a bit of flexibility and autonomy” in choosing their own variations.
Andy Reed, Purdue professor of earth and atmospheric science, addressed The Impact X and X+ classes, which will teach 470 pre-selected instructors strategies for running hybrid, "hy-flex" and online courses, as well as provide examples of how each of these class styles will appear.
He said the IMPACT X course will last a week, while the IMPACT X+ will last two and be more intensive. IMPACT Access courses, which are self-guided online classes, will be available online for all faculty by Monday, according to Freed.
For students electing to take virtual classes for the semester, Rickus said Purdue has about 300 courses available completely online. She said students must opt into online courses by July 6.
Bill Bell, vice president for human resources, addressed the mechanics of telework for faculty that will be conducting classes online.
He said counselors are available for all faculty and staff through the Center for Healthy Living, and visitors will be allowed to exceed the six free sessions they received in the past. Bell also said Purdue plans to have a completed strategy for effective telework by August 1.
Nichols shared faculty, staff and graduate student concerns with personnel and administrators in attendance at the meeting in a Q&A session, as well as after individual presentations.
Professors questioned the logistics of returning to classrooms. Some wondered how overtime pay would be awarded, as professors will have to teach more classes to accommodate distancing guidelines. Other questions included whether students will have to provide their own lab equipment and whether faculty with at-risk family members will have to teach in-person classes.
Many of these questions went unanswered, and professors were told to direct concerns to their respective department heads.
Staff members also worried about personal safety. Some said their life insurance payments were bound to increase, and others requested extra compensation for custodial and food service staff who will be working in an environment with enhanced risk.
"As long as we’re taking the proactive measures to remain safe, I don’t believe this to be a hazardous situation for people to be in right now,” Bell responded.
Eric Barker, dean of the College of Pharmacy, described what the Protect Purdue Health Center will entail.
He said the center will conduct most of its services through telehealth, with a small physical presence on campus. He described it as a “one-stop shop” for students and staff to determine whether they should get tested. It will offer case management for people who test positive.
Administrators did not offer a specific threshold for the number of positive cases Purdue will allow before it shuts down completely.
The question of how the Purdue Pledge, which includes a requirement to wear masks in campus buildings, will be enforced was again raised at the meeting, following multiple questions on the subject at the summer's first University Senate meeting.
"Our goal is to first educate," said Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life. "We want to have as many masks around as possible."
She suggested that professors and other students might carry extra masks in case someone forgets their own.
McCuskey said if a student continues to violate rules or refuses to wear a mask in class, they will be reported to the Office of the Provost, as other breaches of campus regulations are.
Jay Akridge, provost and vice president of academic affairs and diversity, asked students, faculty and staff to send other concerns to email@example.com.