Saginaw Valley State University President Donald Bachand has announced plans for reopening the campus for the fall 2020 semester after being closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The university is making changes to campus operations under its “Cardinal NEST Plan.” The NEST acronym stands for “New Expectations for a Safer Tomorrow.” University officials said the plan offers an organized response to the potential further disruptions caused by COVID-19 and defines how the campus community will manage new expectations that prioritze health, safety and education of students, faculty and staff.
“We are absolutely committed to providing quality instruction to our students and doing all that we can to ensure the safety of our entire campus community,” Bachand said. “We believe our small class sizes, our caring faculty and staff, and our modern housing and academic facilities provide us with opportunities to make the adjustments necessary for our ‘new normal,’ which includes bringing students back to campus safely this fall.”
The Cardinal NEST Plan includes:
- A flexible instructional model. SVSU plans to offer classes that are taught face-to-face on campus with appropriate safeguards. To facilitate safety and in accordance with health guidance, SVSU also is prepared to teach courses virtually by remote instruction, or through some combination of online and in-person.
- Investments in realigned technology to maximize instruction and learning in all courses and to facilitate safe interactions on campus.
- Students living on campus. SVSU’s residence halls have been ranked No. 1 among all public universities in the nation in the annual “best dorms” rankings by Niche. We will take measures to provide a safe living environment in our modern housing facilities.
- Enhanced health and safety protocols to include guidelines such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, increased sanitization procedures, and more. SVSU has enjoyed an outstanding campus safety record for many years.
- Education and training of the campus community to understand what safety measures are put in place, why they are needed, and how to comply.
- Safe campus dining options. SVSU is working with its dining partner, Aramark, to follow national best practices.
- An enriching student experience that includes access to academic support services such as tutoring centers, and student support services such as student counseling, as well as student programming, and social and extracurricular activities that are important to the total college experience.
- Access to medical services. SVSU has a longstanding partnership with Covenant HealthCare, including a MedExpress facility located on campus. SVSU also has relationships with other health care providers in the Great Lakes Bay Region, including several comprehensive health systems located within minutes of SVSU.
- Testing capacity. SVSU plans to partner with health care providers to provide the ability to quickly test students, faculty and staff, as needed. SVSU also has plans in place to be able to quarantine residential students who test positive.
- Contact tracing capabilities. SVSU is planning to train a team of contact tracers to be able to quickly identify individuals who may have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
SVSU officials said its plans are being developed in accordance with local, state and federal guidance.
“The primary emphasis of the SVSU experience has always been, and will always be, on student success,” Bachand said. “What our students find appealing about SVSU – our small class sizes, our open spacious campus, and our dedicated faculty and staff – place us in a unique position to accommodate social distancing and to have flexibility to adapt to changing demands for health and safety.”
SVSU officials said the university has a unique ability to accommodate social distancing. The average class size is 23 students and only 5% of class sections have more than 50 students. Many classes are broken into smaller labs and sections of fewer than 25 students.
“Our students want to be back on campus this fall. They are not only telling us that; they are showing us,” Bachand said. “Despite all the challenges students and families are facing, we continue to receive housing deposits at the same pace as last year. We have an obligation to o all that we can to serve them and to establish the proper procedures to allow them to safely return to campus.
“We are doing all of this to ensure students receive a quality education while also maintaining affordability. We already have the lowest tuition among Michigan’s public universities, and I have recommended to our governing board that we freeze tuition for the year ahead. We continue working to expand our commitment to supporting students through scholarships and financial aid, as well.”
Fall classes at SVSU begin Monday, Aug. 31. Students, parents, faculty and staff are encouraged to stay informed of the university’s plans by visiting www.svsu.edu.