By Kelcey Norris
As Penguins waddle back to campus this fall, Youngstown State University administration had to figure out how to keep the campus community safe. Administration implemented many new rules and regulations aiming to keep students and faculty safe during the global pandemic, which were released to the YSU community via email July 15.
President Jim Tressel laid out the guidelines for fall classes, which included a significant increase in online learning. All 4,000 fall classes were altered to be one of four types: traditional, agile-hybrid — a combination of in-person and online — virtual campus, or strictly online.
“14 percent of the classes are web-based, which are at your own pace. 25 percent are face-to-face. 60 percent are in that agile-hybrid group,” Tressel said. “What that will do is de-densify the campus. We’re still going to have in the neighborhood of 12,000 students, but they all won’t be here at the same exact time.”
Administration is asking the community to maintain social distancing, wear face coverings at all times and wash hands regularly through it’s “For Pete’s Sake” campaign.
“When we hand out our welcome packets, everyone will get hand sanitizer and two YSU masks,” Tressel said.
Custom hand-washing stations have been installed inside campus facilities.
“A friend of mine made one of them with a YSU [logo] on it, and invited me out to see it,” Tressel said. “I said ‘Oh my gosh… I want 10 of them. We’ll put them all over campus.’ They were custom-made, just for YSU.”
Tressel has more ideas still in the making, such as a free coronavirus testing site right on campus.
“We’re trying to get the National Guard to come do one on campus right after Labor Day,” he said. “If anyone wants to test, even if they don’t have symptoms.”
Julie Gentile, director of the Office of Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety, her department has been working on outlining detailed instructions for a safe return. Gentile also serves as the co-chair of the recently established Return to Campus Committee,
“We want to encourage students to be social distancing,” she said. “Students need to be wearing masks at all times whenever they’re inside a building. The only exception is for professors who are working in their own private offices; they can take the mask off then.”
She said this also applies to students studying in private, secluded areas. A newly formed student group will be traveling around campus to make sure everyone follows the mask rule.
“We started a group called Pete’s Patrol,” Gentile said. “They’re basically glorified hall monitors. They will remind students to put masks on and everything.”
Pete’s Patrol will incentivize social distancing by handing out Chick-fil-A gift cards to students they see taking safety measures. But even off campus, Gentile encourages students to make smart decisions.
“Don’t gather in large groups, and carry your mask with you everywhere you go,” she said.
Housing and Residence Life had to increase precautions for students moving on campus from high-risk states. Stephanie Reed, associate director, said for the first time YSU dorms are offering single rooms for an increased fee.
“Typically, we don’t offer single rooms for purchase,” Reed said. “We’re offering these rooms to students who can purchase them at a discounted amount of $500 per semester, $1,000 a year [on top of room and board fees]. They have to commit to it for the entire year, but that’s how we’ve reduced occupancy.”
Reed said the overall occupancy level has decreased by approximately 75 percent by making many of the double rooms into singles in Lyden House and Kilcawley House. The goal is to reduce the number of residents crowded in communal areas, like restrooms.
“Students are required to wear a face covering in all common areas of the residential building,” she said. “That includes restrooms, study labs, computer labs, lounges — anything that isn’t their room. It’s also required of any guest that students might have on campus.”
Tressel encourages the YSU community to stay positive and follow the three W’s — “Wash your hands, wait six feet apart and wear your masks.”