While COVID-19 cases may be on the rise in Denton, reopening plans for fall remain the same, though administrators are prepared to revert back to online course delivery if needed and address the possibility of academic dishonesty.
Students taking Summer II classes returned to campus on Monday, which was the first step to reopening since the campus stopped in-person courses in March.
For now, the plan for in-person courses to continue until Thanksgiving break is still in motion. Classes and finals after Thanksgiving will be online.
Provost Jennifer Cowley said the university has a step by step approach to reopening the campus, and similarly, would be prepared to step back as needed. She said the university is closely monitoring health conditions.
“Our efforts are focused on ensuring our students can complete their semester and make academic progress through their instruction,” Cowley said. “Our faculty are prepared to be flexible to support the learning of our students.”
Cowley said the reasoning for online-only instruction after Thanksgiving through finals was only influenced by efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after holiday travel. Cowley said people who travel to hotspots would need to self-isolate for two weeks.
“Given the changing nature of what is/isn’t a hotspot and the likelihood that students will travel to see their family and friends at Thanksgiving, UNT, like many other universities, has opted to move to remote for the remainder of the fall semester,” Cowley said.
In an effort to slow the spread of the virus on campus, President Smatresk sent an announcement to faculty and students requiring face masks to be worn on campus, effective starting on June 25.
A full list of social distancing and face-covering guidelines is available on the university’s COVID Response Guidelines page.
Advertising senior Case Cockrell said he still has concerns about going back to campus as cases rise around the state.
“The university needs to recognize that people matter more than money,” Cockrell said. “While I do agree online work is not the same experience, we are in a global pandemic with a virus that is still quite unpredictable. There are many cases that do not have any symptoms to them, so there just isn’t enough knowledge to reopen the campus to the scale they want it to be.”
With finals administered online, the Academic Integrity Office is taking steps to ensure honesty during test-taking. Chief Academic Integrity Officer Karen Weiller said that the university is working together with the Center for Learning Experimentation, Application and Redesign (CLEAR) to help curb cheating during finals.
“Faculties in various departments are creating task forces to address and minimize cheating as well as working closely with the folks in CLEAR to obtain advice on test construction, monitoring, and delivery,” Weiller said.
Weiller also said the university is developing modules for faculty and videos for students to watch that will address the importance of academic honesty and the Academic Integrity Policy.
“Working to create a culture and climate of academic honesty is the goal of the Academic Integrity office,” Weiller said. “It is important for students to realize it is also their obligation to do their work, whether that work is face to face or online, in an honest manner.”
Weiller said Tracy Everbach, Assistant Academic Integrity Officer, will also be working with the Faculty Senate to create a university-wide task force to work together in regard to academic integrity.
Cockrell said he did not mind using Zoom for everything school-related, including interviews, group work, and lectures.
“We are almost a month out from school starting again” Cockrell said. “[The university] needs to start moving that direction given the alarming numbers being reported by the day.”
Fearured Image: A student walks past the Administration Building on Oct 3, 2019. Provost Jennifer Cowley said the university is prepared to scale back reopening for the fall semester if necessary. For now, students are still planned to return in the fall. Image by Samuel Gomez