Dr. Stanley T. Wearden

Dear Members of the Methodist University Community,

For several months, Methodist University has been looking forward to the return of our students to campus. We believe very strongly in the value of what MU has to offer and have been very encouraged by the efforts put forth by the entire MU community to make this 2020 fall semester a reality.

During these same months, we have also been meeting with healthcare officials on a regular basis, we have created a Pandemic Response Team, we have offered guidance and PPE for healthy living across campus, and we have devised contingency plans for a great number of circumstances related to COVID-19 and its potential for an outbreak.

Though at this time, we have just two residential students and seven non-residential students (and no faculty or staff) who have tested positive for COVID-19, it’s out of an abundance of care and precaution that we are making the decision to immediately put the on-campus community on a 48-Hour No Gathering model effective at Midnight tonight (8/31). The adjustment is preventative, to allow for specific contact tracing and to mitigate any possible clusters of positive cases, as we evaluate the information we have at this moment.

It’s important that everyone understands: Campus is not closed! In this model, students will be allowed to remain on campus, live in their residence halls and obtain their MU meals (dining hall, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, etc.). However, for a period of 48 hours, we are putting tighter restrictions on gatherings to limit risks. Student safety is our top priority.

Specifically, and to reiterate this is effective at Midnight tonight, on-campus requirements include:

  • No indoor gatherings are permitted, including scheduled, in-person classes.
  • Evening and night instruction will be fully remote for the next two days. Students should go to Canvas course sites and check MU email for details from their faculty related to remote instruction and any modifications to courses, assignments, and exams.
  • While in their residence halls, students must stay in their own rooms, may not gather in residence hall common areas, and are not permitted to visit other residence halls.
  • Dining will be take-out only service. Students can eat in their rooms or at one of the many outdoor tables/spaces across campus.
  • Masks are required at all times when students are not in their own residence hall rooms (indoors and outdoors). Masks must be worn properly, covering from the bridge of the nose to beneath the chin.
  • Students are encouraged to go outside and are permitted to gather in very small groups, provided that all individuals wear masks and maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from all other people. Outdoor activities remain limited to small groups, which cannot exceed the maximum of 25 in compliance with Governor Cooper’s most recent Covid-19 order. Smaller gatherings are preferred.
  • All intercollegiate athletic activities are on hold, but if you properly social distance and wear your mask, you may engage in non-contact, non-close-proximity activity, e.g. throwing a football, tossing a Frisbee, or kicking a soccer ball.
  • Parents will continue to be allowed to visit outdoors or to pick up students from campus but remain unable to enter residence halls.
  • Posted capacity restrictions will continue to be enforced in the Library and computer labs across campus. No group work or indoor study group gathering is permitted in those spaces.
  • Faculty and staff will continue to work on campus. Specialized teaching spaces will be open with strict capacity and “no-gathering” protocols in place.

This is not a “lockdown” or “freeze-in-place” model you may have heard about at other universities. During this “No Gathering” model, as we carefully assess the scope of current cases, students are encouraged to go outside (with masks and social distancing, of course).

Please understand that this is not Step 1 to fully remote learning and sending students home. Though the realities of such a decision may become necessary at some point, the decision to move to the “No Gathering” model is strictly precautionary. We are dedicated to not get into a scenario where we are beyond our capacities or abilities to respond before making such an important decision. To the best of our abilities, and through our carefully constructed plans, we are attempting to stay in front of any potential clusters or outbreaks.

We understand there may be many questions, and we’re here to support our entire community. We encourage you to visit our Forward Together resource website www.methodist.edu/forward, and our special section related to the “No Gathering” model. If you still have questions, you can send them to forward@methodist.edu.

While COVID-19 continues to place hurdles before us, MU is focused on advancing and prepared to adjust as necessary for the safety of our students. I’m confident in our plans, I’m confident in our community, and I’m confident we will continue to move Forward Together.

Stanley T. Wearden, Ph.D.