UPDATE: RMU releases full COVID-19 plan, encouraging social pods and requiring masks across campus

The RMU Ready Plan discusses changes to dining, classes and dorms.

Garret Roberts, Editor in Chief

Update: This article has been updated with information received from the RMU Zoom Town Hall on Thursday, August 6. Certain areas of the plan were clarified during this meeting. 

MOON TOWNSHIP – With students’ return to campus just weeks away, Robert Morris University has released their official plan for a return to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Titled the “RMU Ready Plan,” the document details the various changes around campus for the Fall 2020 semester. The plan accounts for measures to social distance, changes to the facilities that assist students and how the university will be able to track the spread of the virus if it comes to the campus.

Keeping academics safe and socially distanced

The university’s first step to social distance will involve doubling the number of online courses that were available in the Spring semester. Classes held in-person will also be modified, including requirements for students to wear masks, instructor’s stations equipped with plexiglass shields. Students will also have as a larger distance between each other in classrooms and less congested traffic in hallways.

Students who do not wear masks to class will be reported by administrators to campus police, with failure to comply resulting in the student being removed from campus.

Class sizes have been reduced as well, with the average size being under 35 students and based on room size. Classes may also have an option for Virtual Rotation, which will have certain groups of a class attend class in person on certain days and switch to online when the other group is using the room, allowing larger groups to receive a degree of face to face learning.

The RMU Library will be opening in phases and will change with the evolving circumstances at the university. No food of any kind will be permitted in the library space, students will be expected to wipe down computers after use and furniture is not allowed to be moved anywhere in the facility.

The library’s print collection will still be available for viewing, with signage helping assist social distancing, but Patrick Henry study rooms will be unavailable for use. The Instructional Resource Center will also be open, but visitors must make an appointment before going to the office.

Changes to housing and dining in a pandemic

Students previously received an updated housing contract that detailed the various changes to campus living as well, which include additions such as no visitors and enforcement of mask wearing in public spaces. Students in need of a mask will be provided one by the university.

Students will also be organized into social pods based on living situations and are encouraged to self quarantine when showing symptoms. Pods will be organized by living arrangements, such as roommates in the apartment style living on campus or floors on Yorktown. These pods are highly encouraged to eat together and students should watch for symptoms among their groups. According to the town hall on Thursday, students in the apartment style living will not be allowed to accept guest in their common rooms, even those in their pods.

Social pods will be set up by Residence Life, with students receiving an email questionnaire next week top help organize them by interest and engagement on campus. Organizations such as Greek Life and social clubs will be accounted for in the pod system.

Dining services will also have modified operations under the plan, requiring food service employees to undergo temperature checks and increased hygiene procedures. Students will be required to masks when moving around dining halls and may remove their masks once seated a safe distance from others who are dining. All buffet style dining has been removed.

In the university’s town hall on Thursday, they confirmed that new venues will be added for dining across campus. Large areas such as patios and the Gus Krop Gym will be converted to eateries during the semester, allowing more space for social distancing and safe eating.

Only a certain number of patrons will be allowed inside the dining facilities, so students are encouraged to utilize new to go bags to allow more patrons to enter. Students in quarantine or isolation will also have an option for food delivery.

The Counseling Center will provide teletherapy to students eligible, even if attending online from another state. In person counseling will also be available for students in need of crisis appointments.

Recreation, events and travel all receive restrictions

Campus recreation and events on campus will be following state guidelines for capacities and providing signage for proper social distancing. Events across campus will be asked to consider alternative options to in person gatherings, with virtual meetings being encouraged.

Events will not be allowed to serve food unless given permission by a department head or equivalent and meals will be limited to individually packaged products and drinks. Handshakes, fist bumps and high fives are to be avoided.

Student organizations such as Greek Life and social clubs will be required to follow altered meeting guidelines, which encourage or in some cases require groups to host events remotely or outdoors. Each organization will be required to have a designated contact person to ensure guidelines are followed. All student events will be closed to non students until further notice.

To prevent the virus spread and assist contact tracing, the university will have random symptom checkers around campus. Students and faculty will also receive video training from campus experts on COVID-19.

The university will also not be accepting any foreign exchange students for the Fall semester. All study abroad trips for the fall have also been cancelled due to travel restrictions and student safety. The university is planning to allow both exchange students and study abroad trips in the Spring semester, but may be subject to change based on travel restrictions and case by case conditions.

The full RMU Ready Plan can be found here.