Directions & Guidelines for Returning Students

Dr. Stanley T. Wearden

Dear Methodist University Community,

As you’ve seen through my correspondence the past two days, Methodist University is being as strategic and communicative as possible as we prepare for students to return to campus over the next few weeks. We couldn’t be more eager to get the 2021 Spring Semester started, but we also have taken great care to consider all possible safeguards related to the COVID pandemic and how we can best keep our entire community safe while still experiencing the top-tier learning opportunities MU has to offer.

In previous messages to the community (on Wednesday and Thursday), I discussed MU’s four-phase strategy for students returning to campus and our remote-learning plans for the first two weeks of classes, and I offered several suggestions for things students can be doing right now to prepare for a safe journey back to campus, which will increase the likelihood that we can complete another semester of in-person learning. Those messages – and additional detail related to phased return, academics, housing, dining, athletics, contacts and more – can be found on our comprehensive Forward Together COVID-19 Response Web Site (www.methodist.edu/forward). For any additional questions, you can always reach out to us at forward@methodist.edu.

In my final installment this week, I’ll focus our attention on the structure, guidelines, and protocols that will be in place upon our students’ return to campus. We had great success in the fall, so some of this will seem familiar, but there are also additional details and directions all will need to follow, so please read carefully.

PHASED RETURN: Just as a reminder, we have begun a four-phase plan for students to return to campus, with the final group of students arriving Jan. 30-31. To accommodate this carefully planned phased return of our residential students, the first two weeks of all undergraduate instruction, Jan. 19-31, will be offered remotely. To review this message and our Phased Return chart, visit www.methodist.edu/forward/spring-2021/

ROOM AND BOARD CHARGES: Residential students’ room and board charges will be prorated based on their return dates. Net reductions in these charges will be reflected in students’ accounts in about one month.

CHECKING IN: Students should immediately reserve a time for checking in on their designated weekend via the sign-up forms at www.methodist.edu/forward/check-in. Check-ins for every student will be at Clark Hall. To expedite the process, students may get tested (maximum of 72 hours before arriving on campus) and simply show our health services team their physical “negative-for-COVID” test result. Or, MU also is offering free testing on site when students arrive at Clark Hall. Students will be asked to return home or move to isolation on campus if a negative test is not obtained at that time. Please, carefully read and follow the instructions for check-in at www.methodist.edu/forward/check-in

MOVING IN: Once a negative test result is confirmed (item above), students will receive their room keys and may proceed to their residence halls.

GUIDELINES: Some very intentional and specific protocols were put in place in the fall that put us in a position for success. Our community following those guidelines proved to be the difference in MU’s ability to continue on-campus learning months after other schools had significant amounts of positive COVID cases on campus and had to move exclusively to remote learning. While direction for specific areas (housing, dining, classrooms, etc.) can be found on the Forward Together site, I will highlight a few key guidelines that are in place on the MU campus:

  • Wear close-fitting face coverings over the nose and mouth indoors and outdoors (unless alone/in room with roommate only).
  • Always maintain minimum 6-foot social distancing.
  • Though low-risk, and showing no signs of COVID spread throughout the entire fall semester, classrooms will continue to have a limited, posted capacity (with masks and social distancing required at all times).
  • Non-class-related indoor events are discouraged, but if they are necessary, they are limited to 10 people, with appropriate mask and social distancing requirements.
  • Outdoor events are encouraged (with masks and social distancing) but are limited to 25.
  • Students are not to visit/enter residence halls other than their own.
  • Dining is limited to take-out only.
  • Students, faculty and staff are expected to report on the Green Screen App each day.
  • Visitors are not allowed on campus, though an exception is being made for families. Family members may help students move in to residence halls (wearing masks at all times). Family members may also visit during the semester, but should remain outside of the buildings and adhere to mask, social distancing, and other university guidelines in place at the time.
  • Though it’s exciting that we do have athletic events scheduled for this winter/spring, no spectators will be allowed at basketball games. Decisions on spectators at other sporting events will be made and communicated in the near future. These decisions are being made by the presidents of the USA South Athletic Conference. MU Athletics will live-stream all home basketball games, and is working to live stream as many other events as possible.
  • Extensive detail for staying safe (including washing hands frequently and additional hygiene instruction) is available at Forward Together: Health & Wellness Information.

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: With the first two weeks of classes being remote, a few students have asked about how to obtain books. Books are available now online – a majority of students order them this way – at https://www.bkstr.com/methodiststore. Additional detail is available at https://www.methodist.edu/forward/books/

Students and parents also have asked about existing travel arrangements. I want to reiterate that our Student Affairs Office is sensitive to booked travel, arranged prior to the Phased Return announcement, and is available to discuss. Please contact them at studentaffairs@methodist.edu if you have questions.

While COVID remains a fast-spreading disease, and we currently see a record-breaking number of cases in North Carolina and across the nation, as well as a new and more contagious variant of the virus, we are in constant communications with health officials and our own Pandemic Response Team. Every decision we make at MU is done in the best interest of our students. Their health and safety is the priority as we also continue to offer an exceptional learning environment that we believe is second to none. Because the national and local incidence of COVID fluctuates regularly, we will need to remain alert, flexible, and adaptable throughout the spring semester. Plans made now must be subject to later change when necessary. We also must comply with the decisions of elected officials and health officials as they determine how best to respond to COVID.

In my message yesterday, I shared several things we can be doing right now to best prepare for the semester. If we follow those recommendations, and show we care for each other enough to adhere to our guidelines once on campus, it puts us in a much better position to succeed as we did in the fall. While others shut down, MU remained open and thriving. By moving Forward Together, we hope to do that again this spring.

Sincerely,

Stanley T. Wearden, Ph.D.
President