Methodist University President Announces a Phased Return to Campus

Forward Together logo

January 8, 2021

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


January 7, 2021

Dear Methodist University Community,

This is the second of three consecutive days in which I’m sharing with the entire Methodist University community our strategies, guidelines, and protocols for returning to campus for the 2021 Spring Semester.

Yesterday, I shared that we have begun a four-phase plan for students to return to campus, with the final group of students arriving Jan. 30-31. I also shared that to accommodate this calculated, 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 https://www.methodist.edu/forward/spring-2021/.

Today, I’d like to touch on some things students can be doing right now in preparation for their return. Just as holiday travel has influenced a record number of cases statewide, our actions now will influence our ability to offer in-person classes in just a couple of weeks (starting Feb. 1).

Here are some pre-arrival tips/directions/guidelines that can lead us to success:

Green Screen App: If you haven’t already, it’s time to make MU’s health screening app part of your daily routine again. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s so important for our health staff to monitor conditions and contact tracing. You can download the app on Google Play or the App Store.

Self-Quarantine: From now until you come to campus, try to lay low and basically self-quarantine as best you can. Don’t go to restaurants (get delivery), stay away from crowds or public spaces, eliminate social gatherings, and keep travel to a minimum.

Know Your Ws: Wear your face coverings (over your nose and mouth). Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer. Wait at least 6-feet apart, avoid close contact. These simple, obvious things make such a difference.

Get Tested: To expedite the path through the check-in process upon return, students may get tested (maximum 72 hours before arriving on campus) and just show our health services staff their physical “negative-for-COVID” result when they arrive on campus. MU is also providing free testing on site when students arrive. Students who do not test negative for COVID will either be asked to return home, or be moved into isolation on campus until they are able to test negative. Please note the LabCorp Home Testing and Free Testing Site links listed at www.methodist.edu/forward/holidays.

Travel Concerns: Contact the Student Affairs Office – studentaffairs@methodist.edu – if you’ve already locked in tickets for travel that don’t coincide with your phased return date. You will need to show purchase of tickets prior to the announcement of Phased Return earlier this week.

We’re Here to Help: Don’t hesitate to contact faculty, coaches, residence life staff, or anyone else who can help you/answer questions. Our Forward Together COVID Response Web Site is full of information and contacts for everything from academics and athletics to dining and other student services (www.methodist.edu/forward).

In general, now is a crucial time for all of us to be highly conscious of our surroundings and have a heightened sense of safety. Our moving Forward Together, as we did so very well in the fall, actually starts well before we’re all physically together in the next couple of weeks.

Be sure to look at your email again tomorrow, when I’ll touch on some guidelines and protocols that will be in play when everyone is back on campus. We can’t wait to see all of our fellow Monarchs again.

Sincerely,

Stanley T. Wearden, Ph.D.
President


January 6, 2021

Dear Methodist University Community,

In early August of 2020 – the first week of what would become the most unusual semester in higher education that many of us have ever experienced – I shared these words with the entire Methodist University community:

“As teammates, committed to excellence, we will accomplish our goals
not by ourselves, but by moving Forward Together.”

I then observed, week after week, dozens of small colleges and large universities closing their doors to in-person learning because of the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses. At the same time, I observed MU students, faculty and staff remaining vigilant and adjusting as necessary to specific safety protocols and guidelines. I witnessed first-hand a community pulling together, caring enough to speak out against non-compliance and leading by example. I then celebrated with an MU community that completed an entire semester with in-person learning.

Today, heading into our 2021 Spring Semester, we face the same foe. With record numbers of COVID cases locally, statewide and nationally, and hospitals stretched beyond capacity treating an enormous number of very serious cases, it’s imperative we enter this semester more vigilant, strategic, flexible and committed than ever. To combat this foe, we must not just move forward together a few weeks from now, we must take immediate precaution and action.

Over the next three days, I will be emailing you important information in relation to the start of our spring semester. It will be crucial that you check your MU email each day as I will be sharing procedures, expectations and protocols we all must understand and follow. In consultation with health officials, and through tireless examination and work over several months, we have determined these guidelines give us the best opportunity to reach our goals.

In today’s email, I’m announcing that Methodist University will be opening its Spring 2021 Semester with students arriving to campus in four phases:

Phase 1 -- Jan. 2-3 -- Men's and Women's Basketball Phase 2 -- Jan. 16-17 -- Men's and Women's Soccer; Men's and Women's Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field; Men's and Women's Tennis; Men's and Women's Golf; Men's and Women's Lacrosse; Men's and Women's Cross Country; Volleyball; Cheerleading; Baseball; Softball Phase 3 -- Jan. 23-24 -- Football Phase 4 -- Jan. 30-31 -- All Non-Athletes Note: Athletes are strategically positioned in the first three phases, helping fulfill practice requirements for competitions that begin as early as mid-January. As no spectators will be allowed at any MU games, we are working to live stream as many events as possible at mumonarchs.com

This phased-in strategy not only lengthens the time between holiday gatherings (that can create a surge in cases) and all of our students arriving on campus, but also offers our health-care staff the opportunity to adequately monitor and prepare even better for a campus full of students.

To accommodate a phased return of our residential students, the first two weeks of all undergraduate instruction, Jan. 19 through Jan. 31, will be offered remotely. This will be the same high-quality education, from the same top-tier faculty, just in the remote format for a couple of weeks.

The first day of in-person undergraduate classes on campus will be Feb. 1. As always, students should communicate with faculty in relation to individual course information and expectations.

Graduate programs will continue with schedules and course modalities as originally planned. The new MU Online programs also will continue as scheduled.

Be sure to check your email tomorrow and Friday for additional information on returning-to-campus policies, pre- and post-arrival testing, on-campus guidelines, and things you can do now that will have great impact after you arrive on campus.

In addition to these three days of emails and detail, please utilize the Forward Together COVID-19 Resource Web Site for additional detail and contacts (www.methodist.edu/forward).

We must all continue to be flexible and ready to adapt quickly as the situation continues to evolve both with the rapid spread of COVID and with decisions of national, state, and local elected leaders and health officials regarding how best to respond to the current escalation in infections and illness.

It’s a new year, a new semester and another opportunity for Methodist University to excel in and out of the classroom. It bears repeating: “As teammates, committed to excellence, we will accomplish our goals not by ourselves, but by moving Forward Together.”

Sincerely,

Stanley T. Wearden, Ph.D.
President