With COVID-19 health precautions in place, Defiance College welcomes students to campus
August 21, 2020
DEFIANCE, Ohio - Defiance College has one goal for the fall of 2020: to give students what they expect - a full campus experience with face-to-face instruction, vibrant campus life, and robust athletics. The COVID-19 pandemic may have altered the look of campus, but not the underlying spirit of Defiance College. Prior to students returning, Defiance College put in place a number changes to help the campus remain healthy this fall. The College is hopeful that campus life will return to normal soon. At this time, these measures are only put in place for the fall semester and will be extended to spring semester if necessary.
Defiance College has remained in constant contact with the Defiance County Health Department, as well as the Ohio Department of Education, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the goal of the College to maintain compliance with all local, state, and federal health mandates.
"As an educational institution, we are continually guiding the Defiance College community about the importance of abiding by and modeling the safety protocols suggested by leading health experts. Students are excited to be here - to learn, to enrich their lives, and to grow as individuals. Parents who were on-campus this week to move-in their students saw our plans at work and told us how they gained confidence in our systems to put people and safety first. We know that our ability to succeed lies within the DC community's willingness to use and layer the most recent health and safety guidelines," stated Defiance College President Richanne C. Mankey.
COVID-19 preparedness and response has been handled by the Defiance College Incident Command (IC) team. The IC team is made up of representatives from across the entire Defiance College community and has met continuously since early March. All policies, procedures, and changes are brought before the IC team as a way to make sure all of campus is represented in the decisions being made.
Here is a brief sampling of what the Defiance College IC team has approved: All students were required to submit a negative COVID-19 test before they arrived on campus. Once the test was completed, students were encouraged to self-isolate as much as possible. This was done so all students can be at the lowest health risk possible before returning to campus, thus giving administration a zero baseline to work from if contact tracing were ever needed.
Part of leading in a pandemic is being prepared. The IC team has a plan in place if a member of the Defiance College student body should test positive for COVID-19. A simplified version of the plan is as follows: the student is asked to self-isolate, contact tracing is conducted, and preparations are put in place to ensure the individual can still participate - remotely - in classes. Residential students in isolation will have meals brought to their room. The procedure is the same for faculty and staff except they are asked to remain at home and, if their health allows, continue to work remotely.
"There is a level of detail in our preparation that I hope is reassuring," stated President Mankey. "The College's 'to do' list (to prepare campus for the start of fall semester) has been extensive, and it continues to grow and change as the data changes and decisions of external entities are made that affect the college. What will be expected of all of us may not be considered fun; the expectations are important if we want to move beyond the pandemic as quickly as our human behavior will allow," said President Mankey.
Everyone on campus is required to wear a mask while around other people. This includes in classes, offices, and in the residence halls. Students are not required to wear a mask while in their rooms. Faculty, staff, and students are required to conduct daily health checks before they arrive on campus. Residential students will need to do so before they leave their rooms.
The IC team is encouraging the DC community to layer preventative measures. This means using the word "and" instead of the word "or." Wear a mask over your mouth AND nose, AND physically distance, AND wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, AND use hand sanitizer, AND disinfect your work space before and after use. Layering means using the measures at the same time rather than using only one measure at a time.
Faculty created an alternative teaching schedule in order to reduce contact. Classes with fewer than 10 students meet face-to-face one day and virtually (at the same scheduled time) another. Classes with more than 10 students are split into two groups. Both groups meet face-to-face and virtually, but not at the same time. All classrooms have been rearranged to increase physical distancing. While in the classroom, professors will wear face masks or face shields and students will wear face masks.
"It has been exciting to see DC come together and evolve in order to keep the campus as healthy as possible," declared Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Agnes Caldwell. "One major change to the academic routine is that rooms will be sanitized before and after each session. Faculty have been willing to be flexible and have continued to move quickly to adjust to the academic uncertainties," added Dr. Caldwell.
All areas on campus have been reconfigured to increase physical distancing. For example: computer labs have every other computer station closed, the dining hall seating has been reduced and an overflow area created, and the Pilgrim Library study areas are at a reduced capacity.
As of August 20, our athletic conference, with guidance from the NCAA Board of Governors, has postponed all high-contact sports until spring of 2021. This includes football, soccer, and volleyball. The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) is also requiring student-athletes be tested frequently for COVID-19. As the situation evolves, so too may the guidance from the state, county, and NCAA. For the most up-to-date information on the changes to Defiance College's athletic schedules, please visit: www.defianceathletics.com.
"Although it is disappointing news for our student-athletes, coaches, staff, and campus community, we understand the priority is the health and safety of everyone involved in athletics and on our campus," said Defiance Athletic Director Derek Woodley. "We are committed to providing a meaningful and engaging experience for our student-athletes and will develop a plan for the affected sports to include practices, workouts, and training opportunities in the fall."
The College IC team is not making COVID-19 decisions in a vacuum. The health and safety of the people in the DC community is a top priority for Defiance College, as is the overall student experience. All COVID-19-related decisions are thoroughly considered with the best decision chosen. Sometimes the top decision needs to be altered within hours or days in order to follow best practices. As stated earlier, the goal is to give students what they expect - a full Defiance College experience - or, at least, as close as is currently possible in a pandemic.
For up-to-date information on Defiance College's response to COVID-19, please visit: www.defiance.edu/covid19fall.
Defiance College, chartered in 1850, is an independent, liberal arts-based institution in Northwest Ohio offering more than 40 undergraduate programs of study as well as graduate programs in education and business. Defiance College has received national recognition for its educational experience of service and engagement. The College website is www.defiance.edu.