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SOU operations modified for spring term

SOU goes remote for spring term, campus closed to public

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has informed students and employees that all spring term courses will be delivered remotely and most on-campus operations will be limited to help slow the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

SOU’s decisions came in response to an executive order today by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for all public colleges and universities in the state to halt in-class coursework through at least April 28. University leaders made the decision to offer all classes remotely throughout spring term to give students, faculty and others a greater degree of certainty.

The university’s main campus in Ashland will be open only to SOU faculty, staff and students beginning Saturday.

President Linda Schott informed students of the developments today, and offered some details about how SOU’s COVID-19 responses will affect winter and spring term grades, financial aid, spring courses, academic support programs, student employment, residence hall occupants and other campus programs or operations. The university will waive interest on all student accounts, late payment fees and revolving charge fees for all of spring term.

SOU’s tuition rate is set for the entire academic year, but the university’s Board of Trustees will discuss modifications to a variety of student fees – including those for the Student Recreation Center, Student Health & Wellness Center, Student Life activities and remote delivery of courses – during an emergency meeting tonight.

SOU employees were notified this afternoon that most will be encouraged work remotely until further notice, and those who remain on campus will be required to follow social distancing guidelines. Exceptions to the telecommuting arrangement include those whose work is designated as “essential,” whose work cannot be performed away from campus, whose presence on campus is required for operational purposes or who need technical or other resources that are not available at their remote locations.

Academic counseling and guidance will continue throughout the term – largely online – and faculty members will be told whether their presence on campus is needed.

SOU’s new measures are consistent with those adopted by most of Oregon’s six other public universities in response to the governor’s executive order.

The order prohibits colleges and universities “from conducting in-person classroom laboratory and other instruction” from this Saturday through April 28, with the possibility that the period will be extended. Gov. Brown also ordered higher education institutions to “limit on-campus operations only to critical functions and … employ strict social distancing measures for all on-campus employees and residents.”

The governor specifically allowed the continued operation of programs including student housing and dining services. SOU’s residence halls will remain open for spring break throughout spring term, and food service will continue to be available at the Hawk dining commons – but only by takeout.

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SOU takes action against COVID-19

SOU takes steps to protect campus, slow COVID-19 spread

Southern Oregon University continues to both anticipate and react to challenges in the global COVID-19 outbreak, implementing a variety of new measures this week to protect the health and well-being of the campus community and enable continuity in academic and student support programs.

The SOU campus remains open and active even as students, faculty and staff adapt to measures that will reduce their risk of contracting the virus. Information and resources to help campus community members navigate the outbreak are available on the university’s COVID-19 website (sou.edu/campus/notifications/).

SOU President Linda Schott announced the newest steps on Thursday to prepare for and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. The measures include plans for finals week, spring break, spring term coursework, remote working, personal and SOU-related travel, groups and gatherings, and international programs.

The new actions are consistent with those announced for other public universities in the state and are based on guidance from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, the Oregon Health Authority and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

Finals week
President Schott said that finals will proceed as scheduled. The university is making remote options available to faculty members to use, if feasible. If remote exams are not practical, faculty members have been directed to ensure that social distancing criteria are met – a distance of at least three feet should be maintained between all people.

SOU Provost Susan Walsh followed up with an email to faculty members Thursday night, asking them to make determinations on their final exams and register them today on a shared spreadsheet.

Spring break
The university is extending this year’s spring break for students by one week – it will begin on Monday, March 23, and spring term classes will begin on Monday, April 6. SOU’s intent is to allow additional time for the curve of the virus’s spread to “flatten” and also to give faculty members an opportunity to plan and develop options for spring term remote course delivery.

Residence halls at SOU and the Hawk dining commons will remain open through spring break for students who choose to remain on campus.

Spring term
Both the president and provost asked faculty members to prepare for remote delivery of instruction in all courses where it’s feasible. Remote instruction – which includes online, video conferencing and other methods – is intended to help limit opportunities for virus transmission in group settings.

The new start date for spring term will still enable all courses to be completed in time for SOU’s commencement on Saturday, June 13.

Remote work
All supervisors and managers were asked to offer remote working opportunities to office employees, in all cases where those arrangements are feasible. Allowing work to be done away from campus is another effort to limit chances for the virus to spread within SOU’s campus community.

Travel
Limits have been placed on all non-essential SOU-related travel. Members of the campus community were also encouraged to avoid personal travel outside of southern Oregon to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Groups and gatherings
The president announced the cancellation of all non-essential SOU activities, events and gatherings that do not allow participants or attendees to maintain a distance of three feet from each other. This cancellations include audience admission at intercollegiate athletics and activities, except for student participants, essential personnel and credentialed media. The NAIA has cancelled all currently scheduled events, and SOU is awaiting word on whether all spring sports seasons will be cancelled or resumed after a delay.

All performance and museum events that result in gatherings of 20 or more people have been postponed until further notice by the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University. The decision was made to protect audiences, students and employees from the spreading virus.

The university is also encouraging the use of remote meetings whenever possible, and has placed a limit of 20 people or fewer on all non-essential meetings. Organizers have been directed to arrange spaces that can accommodate three times the number of invited attendees, to allow adequate room for social distancing, when in-person meetings are necessary.

International programs
All SOU-sponsored international programs and trips have been suspended until further notice.