July 16, 2020
Dear Incoming Students,
The last five months have seen unprecedented events as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hope is that you and your family have remained well and that you are enthused about joining us at Illinois Tech and beginning the next phase of achieving your educational goals and aspirations.
Many of you have asked important and understandable questions regarding this fall. What will Illinois Tech look and feel like in the fall? Do I need to get tested for the virus? How will the university handle classes, studios, and IPROs? How will I socialize with my classmates and friends at Illinois Tech?
In an effort to address your many questions, we will be communicating in the coming days in a variety of ways. First, you are receiving this email communication from me. Second, many of you joined us on Thursday, July 16 for a town hall meeting for all entering first-year and transfer students. For those of you who were unable to join, we will send a recording of the session as soon as possible. Finally, our university reopening website (https://www.iit.edu/fall2020) will continue to include important details and updates regarding university operations going forward. From our home page, simply click on the “Fall 2020” button at the top of the page and navigate out to our Fall 2020 Reopening page.
It is worth noting that, in the height of the pandemic, our housing remained open with up to 500 students in housing during the spring semester. Although there have been a few instances of people in our housing who have tested positive during that time, in all cases, we isolated students for two weeks, delivered food and medical care, and ensured our students could take classes online.
Our most important goal for this coming academic year is for you to have a robust academic experience considering the current environment, so that you can pursue and achieve your educational aspirations, while minimizing risks to your health. In order to help us do this, we are asking each Illinois Tech student to go to their nearest health clinic before returning to classes on August 24 and obtain a COVID-19 viral test. We ask that you report the results of that test to Gary Walley, associate vice provost of our Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC), by uploading a copy of your results to www.medproctor.com. If you test positive for the virus, you will need to stay at home and self-isolate until you are no longer positive. We do this to protect you, your classmates, and other people important in your life. If you test positive, we will assign a health professional from SHWC to check in and record your progress until you recover. Importantly, you will be able to start classes online should you test positive within the 14-day timeframe of the beginning of in-person classes.
In order to help identify and appropriately address any spread of COVID-19 on campus, the university will work to begin random testing of students in advance of the beginning of the fall semester. This testing approach will allow the university to establish a baseline from which we can monitor and respond to any negative trends as they become apparent. Of course, any individual who tests positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) will be required to follow the self-isolation protocols mandated by the state and city. Currently, the positivity rate for the virus in Illinois is 3 percent (based on relatively extensive testing of 30,000–40,000 persons per day). Every two weeks, we will test a statistically valid sample of our population and compare those results with the university’s initial baseline positivity. In this way, we hope to determine if the university is experiencing any increase in positivity that indicates increased rates of exposure and transmission. Of course, we will always follow state and city guidance and move to online instruction as appropriate if stay-at-home orders are issued due to a rise of cases.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has imposed a mandatory self-quarantine for anyone arriving in Chicago from any of 17 “Hot Spot” states (including Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Utah). If you are currently in any of these states and plan to come to campus in August, you must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving here in Chicago. We will reserve rooms in a local hotel to assist you with this. Alternatively, you could travel to a “non Hot Spot” state and self-quarantine with a family member or family friend for 14 days before coming to Chicago. Students will have the ability to schedule move-in times beginning August 17, 2020. This timeline will allow students to stay busy while in self-quarantine by participating in our virtual Welcome Week activities and starting your classes online. If you have any questions, consult our website or contact the Office of Student Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An important element of minimizing risk to our community this fall is learning all of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 and doing a daily health self-check. These symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. If you have two or more of these symptoms, you should contact SHWC at email@example.com (or call 312.567.7550) for a consultation. For those who have any symptoms, you can get a test at the two closest city and state testing centers—Loop Medical Center at 1921 South Michigan Avenue and Clear Wellness Group at 1605 South Michigan Avenue—both accessible by public transportation. Illinois Tech’s SHWC is also planning to operate a same-day testing center for those with symptoms. Students will be sent an online tool via email and text to perform daily checkups. Those with symptoms will begin with an online health diagnosis by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact tracing for those persons known to have come into close contact with students who test positive for COVID-19 will be performed by staff members at SHWC. We are preparing a comprehensive report to help with the contact tracing of each positively infected person. For those who test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) and who are registered in our housing, we have reserved apartment-style units on campus for self-isolating.
Classroom and Social Environment
All of our academic programs of study, both undergraduate and graduate, will have in-person components to them. Of course, those students who need to self-quarantine or self-isolate will also have the capability of pursuing their course of study online. However, we intend for the degree of interaction between and among our students, our faculty, and our staff to be as engaging as possible. Of course, many have found the new online conferencing and seminar environment (using Google Meet, Blackboard, Zoom, and other tools) to be a very effective means of conducting substantive discussions, seminars, and office hours. Our laboratory courses, our studio courses, and our IPRO classes will all be in-person. As you all know, Illinois Tech is a practice-based environment, and we believe firmly that we learn best by doing. So we are committed to ensuring that this element of our education is provided as robustly as possible this coming fall, while adhering to CDC, city, and state guidelines. However, we realize that how to interact with others during this time is a deeply personal decision, and some students may want to minimize in-person classes or go entirely online. Those students should discuss this with their advisers. We are committed to trying to ensure that all students have a class schedule that they agree with and that enables them to make appropriate progress to graduation.
Face coverings are to be worn in all public spaces and during all group gatherings on campus, including in common areas such as building entrances, lobbies, elevators, corridors, and restrooms.
Additionally, social distancing will be enforced to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.
Signage is prominently posted around campus to remind community members of specific expectations. We have set up our classroom environments for the fall to ensure that occurs. We also strongly urge all of our community members to regularly practice good hygiene by washing their hands and faces frequently and/or by using disinfectant alcohol wash. There will be abundant places on campus at which you can wash your face and hands and obtain disinfectant. We will also be cleaning our common areas and classrooms regularly, although not between every class. For those of you needing to use elevators, we are currently exploring the best possible way to optimize the air quality in our elevators.
If you are in an in-person classroom and one of your classmates tests positive for the virus, you will take the class online and self-isolate for two weeks until your classmate recovers and tests negative for the virus.
I realize this brief note will not cover all of your questions, so please feel free to consult our website or contact the Office of Student Affairs at email@example.com for more information. We all want the same thing: to minimize the risks to our community and to enable each of you to obtain the very best education we can deliver. I look forward to seeing you on campus and to working with you for the best possible outcomes for this coming academic year.
Provost, Illinois Institute of Technology