As students are returning for the fall semester, campus hardly looks or feels the same.
Although this semester will differ from previous semesters in many ways, Dean of Students Chris Luekenga assures students that the campus-wide procedures and policies are being introduced to ensure students’ health and safety.
“We understand that there will be inconveniences and that the campus experience will be different for the fall semester,” said Luekenga. “We also know that Ravens are resilient and care for the welfare of each other and that we will all come through on the other side of this stronger and more dedicated to educating for a life of faith and service to the church and society.”
Similar to the state of Indiana, AU has been reopening in phases. With phases numbered one through five, President John Pistole explained that requirements are becoming less restrictive as the phases progress.
“We’re currently in phase three of our reopening of campus,” said Pistole. “And some people have said, ‘Is that like the Indiana plan that Governor Holcomb has announced?’ And it’s similar—it’s based on some similar health considerations—but it’s our own unique one because we want to make sure that we have it tailored for our campus.”
For the majority of these phases, students, faculty and staff are required to wear facial coverings indoors and in the presence of others.
“This decision is based on the current best science and research being done that indicates that wearing a face mask, six-foot physical distancing and good hand washing hygiene are the best ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Luekenga. “Studies show that facemasks can reduce the risk of transmission by 85%, and when everyone in the community is masked, the protective benefit is substantial.”
Luekenga explained that although wearing a mask may be inconvenient, it is of vital importance to the health and well-being of campus.
“Just like learning to wear a seatbelt or a bike helmet was a culture change, we know that wearing a mask is something that we can embrace for each other and ultimately adapt to,” said Luekenga.
To aid in the battle against COVID-19, Pistole explained that the university will be offering an app to help the campus community with self-monitoring symptoms.
“I’m excited about our smartphone app that is being provided—it’s a great app,” said Pistole. “We’re the only school in the country that’s using this app, but it does take cooperation. So for the rule-keepers, that’s great—I appreciate you. And for you rule-breakers, I need you to try to inverse that while you’re here on campus and put aside that rule-breaking and really try to be part of that caring community.”
Along with policies and agreements, AU has implemented changes to classes and other gatherings to ensure social distancing guidelines will be met. Although Chapel will still be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 a.m., Luekenga explained that attendance is not be mandatory.
“Due to the limited attendance space in Reardon, attendance will not be taken for the fall semester,” said Luekenga.
Although social distancing is required, social gatherings of all kinds are still permitted.
“We are very committed to normalizing the student experience as much as possible,” said Luekenga. “All clubs, events and programs will have to maintain the physical distancing, mask-wearing guidelines and the Community Care Covenant.”
Even with the numerous steps administration is taking to ensure students’ health and safety, Pistole expects campus to see some cases of the virus.
“We anticipate that there will be cases here on campus, as any gathering of a thousand plus people,” said Pistole. “So how do we best mitigate the risk from that and then deal with that in as healthy and professional a way as possible for that person and the campus community?”
Pistole explained that the light at the end of this tunnel seems to be the availability of a coronavirus vaccination.
“The latest literature was talking about maybe a vaccine,” said Pistole. “They’re doing trials now—maybe a vaccine by the end of the year, but it is all dependent upon there being widespread vaccination so we can limit the impact so that one person doesn’t become ten people, doesn’t become a hundred people, doesn’t become a thousand people.”
Although there are many changes and alterations to the normal AU experience, Luekenga explained that faculty and staff remain “committed to creating and maintaining an outstanding student experience.”
“We all know that this experience will look different, at least until there is a vaccination and the pandemic has been mitigated world-wide,” said Luekenga. “We, students, faculty, staff and vendors are in this together and will need to commit ourselves to living in a way that provides the healthiest environment for all community members.”