As the spring 2021 semester approaches amid rising COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, East Carolina University broadcasted a video on Jan. 11 to explain spring operations and answer questions from students and parents.
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Virginia Hardy said the No. 1 job for students as they return to campus this spring semester is to focus on compliance with COVID-19 regulations set by the university.
Hardy said she encourages parents to remain engaged during this time and communicate with both the university and their students. She reminded parents to take heed to campus regulations as the university complies with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the state government and expert recommendations.
“It’s your responsibility, it’s the university’s, our responsibility, to make sure that you are safe on this campus and that you can get a quality education while you’re here,” Hardy said.
Acting Vice Provost for ECU Academics and University Registrar Angela Anderson said classes may be online or in-person for students and over 30% of classes will be face-to-face this semester.
Anderson said students have the ability to see if their classes are online or face-to-face by going onto Banner Self Service in PiratePort. She said if the class has a building or time assigned to it, it’s face-to-face and those without a building or those listed strictly as a TBA will generally be online. She said most courses will be offered on the 15-week calendar rather than last semester’s block schedule.
“(My) best advice is to be ready, to come in, make sure you are wearing your mask, make sure you are washing your hands, make sure you are following the social distancing guidelines, and be prepared for a wonderful semester,” Anderson said.
Chris Stansbury, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and senior operating officer, said compliance with the university’s mask mandate is important to keep classes on-campus.
Stansbury said there will be an increase of quarantine and isolation spaces, single occupancy for residence halls and a maintenance of social distancing throughout facilities on campus. He said seniors should keep an eye on an announcement in regards to Spring Commencement. He said spring semester will not include a spring break this year.
“One of the biggest things as we go through this pandemic is we have the benefit of lessons learned. There’s been the last six months of things that things have been shared at the state level, local level and national level,” Stansbury said.
Director of Student Health Services Director Lanika Wright said those who move onto campus for the spring are required to be tested for COVID-19 prior to their arrival with the PCR (nasal swab) test. Though not required, Wright said the university strongly encourages off-campus students to get tested if they are to be on campus for any reason.
Wright said student health will offer tests to students if they were unable to receive one prior to their return. Students who were able to be tested before arrival on campus should email a copy of their lab results to firstname.lastname@example.org, she said.
The university will offer saliva testing this spring for faculty and students on Thursdays, preferably for those who may be asymptomatic, according to Wright. She said mass screening for COVID-19 will be offered for everyone on campus daily the first week of February.
“We want to be able to remain on campus the remainder of the semester. We want to have a good control of this virus. We want to have an understanding of what the prevalence is within our ECU community, and it’s our kind of way of knowing in advance of what our next step should be,” Wright said.
Aaron Lucier, director of housing operations for Campus Living, reminded students that the main move-in begins Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. until the first day of classes on Jan. 19. Those who participated in early drop-off may return to campus at their convenience and get their keys, but they are asked not to bring family in an effort to decrease occupancy, Lucier said.
Those who did not participate in early drop-off move-in can bring two family members to assist while everyone is required to wear masks and come between the Neighborhood Service Office (NSO) hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, and noon to 8 p.m. on Jan. 16 through 17 to be able to get their key and fob, Lucier said. He said students will use the NSO in Ballard Hall, what was once Gateway East.
“We’re going to have the dining hall on College Hill, which is Todd Dining Hall, open as a dining hall. There will also be some of the retail available here in the new (Main Campus) Student Center,” Lucier said. “Transit is going to look very much like it does in a normal year. The schedules are there for commuting students, they’re there for the on-campus students. The transit team has done a wonderful job of maintaining as many of the schedules that they have been able to do in the past.”
Center for Counseling and Student Development Director Valerie Kisler-van Reede said she has seen a great deal of demand for its services, as well as an increase in stress for students, specifically academic stress. Kisler-van Reede said students should look to reach out to ECU faculty, take advantage of study groups, use the Pirate Academic Success Center and other ECU resources to help manage this if needed.
Kisler-van Reede told parents to make sure they provide family support to their students as they maneuver the spring semester and remind their students it’s okay to struggle. She said it’s important to normalize this for students and for parents to help encourage their children to seek support.
“Since March, we’ve made a quick transition to online services and I think it’s been to the surprise to both the students and the staff that it has gone as well as it has,” Kisler-van Reede said. “One of the comments from our group coordinator is that she has observed people maybe participating in a group even more.”
ECU Police Department Lieutenant Curtis Hayes said he understands that socialization can be a large part of the college experience, but the department asks students to remain responsible during this time.
Hayes said ECU Police will be on patrol on-campus as well as surrounding campus to keep an eye on large social gatherings. Hayes said the goal is to educate students on the minimization of large social gatherings and responsible behavior which follows COVID-19 guidelines.
“During the last semester, we did have neighborhoods call in the police department to report large gatherings and we would encourage them to continue doing that. I’m hoping that we are going to be able to keep them low without that having to take place, but if it does take place, calling the ECU Police Department is the appropriate agency to call,” Hayes said.