‘I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.’ UA student, professor discuss classes returning next week

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — University of Arkansas students are set to start classes next week. Normal excitement’s been replaced by fear and a few more Zoom calls. One student said she’s worried about the risks and hopes transparency avails.

Mary Hennigan’s senior year at the UofA won’t be normal, and that’s an understatement.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” Hennigan said. “I’d rather be safe than risk my health at this point.”

Next Monday, classes officially start. This week is an in-service week, so faculty and students have started returning to campus. Hennigan said she’s taking one in-person class, while the rest are digital.

“Thankfully, most of my classes are online, which is disappointing because it is my senior year,” Hennigan said. “I’m constantly thinking of other people who I could be putting at risk.”

Prof. Bret Schulte said he’s already seeing people bustle around campus for the first time since March.

“Students are already rolling in,” Schulte said. “I think several thousand are already on campus.”

Schulte said he’s been pleased with how students are following guidelines so far, but he noted it’s a small sample size. With more arriving before classes, and the likelihood of conglomeration when classes resume, the professor said he’s not letting his guard down.

“I’m surprised at the number of students I’m seeing following the mask mandate,” Schulte said.

UA spokesperson Mark Rushing responded to KNWA/Fox 24 questions about the reopening plan:

Q: What steps are taken after a positive case is reported?

A:  An overview of the university’s notification process and safety procedures regarding university community members who test positive for COVID-19 is included on the university’s coronavirus update site: https://health.uark.edu/coronavirus/COVID-19-Flowchart.pdf

Q: What’s the procedure for making positive cases available for students, faculty and parents?

A: The university is working to keep the community informed regarding testing results involving our campus. This includes a dashboard report that will be updated weekly and available on the university’s COVID-19 information site starting this week. 

Q: How is the UofA working with Greek Life knowing the potential for breakouts?

A: The university is aware of all positive cases involving testing conducted on campus. For testing conducted off-campus, the university relies on a combination of case information provided by the Arkansas Department of Health and self-reporting. Members of the campus community who were tested off-campus are asked to self-report those cases to the university using this online self-reporting form: https://health.uark.edu/coronavirus/self-reporting.php

Q: Seeing what’s happening at other schools like North Carolina and Notre Dame, what’s the threshold before moving strictly online?

A: The situations that some other campuses are experiencing really reinforce that all of us must be relentless in following the safety precautions we have in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. We must all follow the guidance provided in the university’s Returning to Campus plan which provides a detailed overview of all the efforts we have in place to continue our mission of learning while working to keep our campus community safe this fall. But as Chancellor Steinmetz said in a recent campus forum, the behavior of our faculty, staff and students will determine how the semester goes. “We have to make sure that as a community we adhere to this plan,” he said.

Schulte said he thinks there’s a strong chance the campus moves to online-only instruction if guidelines don’t stop outbreaks.

“I know there’s a lot of faculty who also thinks there’s a really good chance we’ll be going online this semester,” Schulte said.

Hennigan said she hopes the weekly numbers are updated regularly and advocated for publicly-available testing data.

“If we get the numbers, we can do more changes and do what we need to do,” Hennigan said.

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