By President Aaron Walton
As the world continues to adjust to the new environment presented by COVID-19, we reopened our campus on August 10 for in-person learning for the Fall 2020 semester. This decision, one that Cheyney’s leadership firmly believes is the best path forward, was made to support the students’ progress toward their degrees while at the same time mitigating health and safety risks for students, employees and campus partners.
Two filters guide all decisions made by leadership – what is in the best interest of the students and what preserves/advances Cheyney University. The same filters were applied in planning for the fall semester.
While many other universities decided to switch to remote instruction for the fall, our smaller student population and large, remote campus help us to mitigate any risks of potential outbreak. While our enrollment continues grow because of all the great things happening at our campus, we plan to be small enough to have a nurturing environment for all students.
We adapted to the learning environment by establishing a Guide to Fall 2020 Semester that details our new campus life, mitigation plans, strategies for monitoring on campus, ongoing communications and additional expectations for students, faculty and staff. In June, we shared the guide and the plans to resume in-person classes for the fall. We also determined it would be best to have an early semester start and an earlier end to the fall semester (November 20) to avoid a possible spike of COVID-19 during influenza season.
Since mid-March, we have gained first-hand experience in creating a safe campus environment in the midst of the pandemic, while supporting our students’ education needs. During the spring semester, our residential students had the choice to continue to reside on campus or return home for the remainder of the semester. Approximately 100 students decided to stay on campus. We also conducted our on-campus Summer Early Transition program with 40 students.
Because of the measures we put in place since the beginning and the cooperation from our campus community, we have not had a single incident of coronavirus on campus since the pandemic spread to the Philadelphia region in March.
We know things on campus are different than before, but we must continue to do everything we can to keep everyone safe and healthy. That is why we require anyone entering the campus to have his or her temperature checked upon arrival. Face coverings are mandated to be worn by everyone and we maintain small class sizes for purposes of social distancing. The new protocols for dining, residential living and activities are in place to manage and mitigate the virus with every opportunity that we can.
The leadership team has been extremely encouraged by the support that student and faculty have shown in respecting the new protocols to help keep all of us safe. We also appreciate the feedback many students have expressed through our local media about being on campus and in the classroom:
“I’m pretty excited for this to be my first year. I love in-person because you can interact with other students.” – Shadia Jones, freshman (CBS 3, August 10, 2020)
“I work better if the teacher is hands-on, actually talking to me.” – Jailyn Pope, sophomore (CBS 3, August 10, 2020)
“It’s good to connect with your teachers face-to-face.” – Jordan Fluker (CBS 3, August 10, 2020)
“We are wearing masks a lot and we’re not doing a lot in the classrooms because of COVID-19. I’m just happy to be here, this is my dream school, I’ve always wanted to be here.” – Channen Coffee (ABC 6, August 10, 2020)
“We still have to go by guidelines, we still have to stay six feet, and use hand sanitizer.” – Sybria Devaux, freshman (ABC 6, August 10, 2020)
We will continue to do everything we can to keep all of us safe at all times. There are a lot of great things happening at Cheyney and many success stories still to be told.
I’ll see you around campus (socially distanced of course) and look forward to all of your progress this semester.