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UB announces fall semester plan combining in-person and online instruction

Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News

The University at Buffalo announced plans Monday for a “modified in-person” fall semester that will combine in-person and online instruction from August 31 through Thanksgiving break.

The final three weeks of the semester, from the end of fall recess through December 21, will be conducted remotely, according to the plan.

UB will also try to accommodate students who may be uncomfortable or unable to return to campus at all, university Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs A. Scott Weber told reporters during a virtual press conference.

“There will probably be scenarios where students may not feel comfortable returning to campus, and we’re planning to offer every possible class on campus that’s offered in-person instruction to have it also offered remotely,” Weber said. “We recognize that that is challenging, but we think that it’s really the right thing to do.”

One group of students who may have extra difficulty returning to campus this fall is those who live abroad: Weber said some international students are having trouble scheduling visa appointments amid the coronavirus pandemic, which could complicate their studies. There will also be a limited number of courses that can only be taught in an in-person environment, the provost said. Students will get confirmation of the instruction format for their classes this summer, according to the plan.

Credit Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News
UB Provost A. Scott Weber speaks to reporters during a virtual press conference Monday.

In addition to the late-semester transition to remote instruction, which may coincide with a seasonal resurgence of the novel coronavirus, according to experts, other safety measures adopted by the university will include maintaining six feet of distance between students in classrooms, requiring face coverings on campus and reducing the density of student housing. Campus dining services will also offer additional takeout and delivery options.

Weber said the university is also considering various options for COVID-19 screening, testing and contact tracing across its North, South and Downtown campuses in Amherst and Buffalo.

“We’re looking at a variety of sort of technology tools, as you may have seen in other places that ask a number of questions: ‘Are you experiencing a fever? Have you had a cough? Have you traveled lately?’” Weber said, adding that UB is leaning toward a model of daily self-assessments rather than mandatory, regular temperature checks. “But that’s still a work in progress.”

Weber also said the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is currently evaluating its protocols for the fall semester, which UB will abide by. Aside from potential sporting events, Weber said all activities on campus will be designed to encourage social distancing.

And as for off-campus activities, like parties?

“We’ll continue to educate our students about being good citizens and [reminding them that] not only are they protecting themselves but they are protecting the campus community,” Weber said, “but what they do off campus, we are not able to control that.”

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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