President Rivera announces major changes to first module of fall 2020

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Old Main on a summer day. Photo by Morgan Doherty ’21.

Lindsay Weber and Margaret Moran

On Monday, Aug. 10 at 5:21 p.m., President Rivera made an announcement to the campus community scaling back the on-campus component of the first module of the fall 2020 semester. 

“Earlier this summer, when it appeared that the trends were encouraging, we made assumptions that the risks of opening the campus in September could be managed with some changes to our residence hall density and other common-sense public health measures,” Rivera wrote.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 infection rates in Minnesota and in many parts of the country have gone up. Accordingly, the increased numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths last week have led us to adjust our approach.”

Dr. Rivera wrote that the college will limit the number of students in campus housing. New students, including first-year students and transfer students with housing contracts, and international students with housing contracts will reside in campus housing, including all first-year student-athletes who were originally to reside in the Drury Plaza Hotel in downtown St. Paul.

The college is working to amend the contract with the Drury Plaza Hotel now that students will not be living there for the first module. The college will make use of the hotel to bring everyone back to campus for Module 2.

Living in on-campus housing will include several restrictions. The first two weeks will be a “Quiet Period,” where classes will be remote for all students and no extracurricular activities will take place in-person. 

Additionally, all students who live off-campus but in the St. Paul area will have only remote classes during module 1.

Macalester students living off-campus in the area will still have access to designated campus facilities including Cafe Mac, the Hamre Center, Open Pantry, the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, study spaces and printing/mail services.

No other students, including sophomores, juniors and seniors will be allowed to reside in on-campus housing during the first module. Students who need on-campus housing but don’t fall into those categories can apply for a waiver to be granted on-campus housing, including students whose home environments are not conducive to remote learning.

Rivera wrote that the college hopes that making these restrictions will allow the college to invite all students who would like to be on campus back for a residential experience beginning with Module 2 in October.

The email did not address how many infections would require all on-campus students to leave and for the campus experience to be entirely remote, like the college did in March. 

In an email to The Mac Weekly, Rivera emphasized that infections on campus are only one factor that would influence a decision to go entirely remote.  

“Other factors include local infection rates in Minnesota, number of available hospital and intensive care unit beds in the Twin Cities, and turn-around times for results of diagnostic tests,” Rivera wrote. 

 Rivera noted in her campus-wide email that the students may participate in campus life to the extent that they feel comfortable, providing they comply with the Campus Community Commitment

The college is also adding a testing component to its plan for the first module. Rivera clarified that all students, including those off-campus, will be tested twice: first, upon their arrival on campus, and second, within the subsequent two weeks. 

College employees also will be offered the same testing opportunities. For students living in campus housing, initial testing will be a required step in their check-in process.

 Rivera noted that the college will soon provide more details on the college’s testing and contact tracing protocols, as well as scheduling instructions for students living off campus in the area.

The President did not address the topic of work study on campus. Rivera clarified later to The Mac Weekly that the college is prioritizing finding work opportunities to place students in jobs, knowing some of those will now need to be remote. More information about student employment will come soon.

Rivera’s next webinar will be Wednesday, Aug. 12 at 10:00 a.m. on Zoom, where she will be answering questions about the new plan. More information about the plan is available on Macalester’s COVID-19 website.

President Rivera concluded the email by adding that the college anticipates that students will experience challenges in light of this announcement, and encourages students to submit a request for assistance to the Emergency Aid Program, a fund unrelated to financial aid that is intended for students experiencing unanticipated financial hardship. 

Emails: [email protected] [email protected]