After announcing his intentions to reopen Binghamton University about a month ago, BU President Harvey Stenger has unveiled a plan for the University to resume classes in the fall.
In a June 15 B-Line Addition, Stenger released a draft plan for a return to campus in the fall. According to Stenger, the plan aims to satisfy BU’s goals of protecting the health and safety of its faculty, staff and students, maximizing the educational value of the University, continuing research activities and contributing to the local economy.
“This has been an enormously challenging process, with many possible scenarios and moving parts,” Stenger wrote. “The result is a detailed plan that lays out the process by which the University will, to the fullest extent possible, return to its educational, research and outreach missions this fall.”
The plan states that all classes for the the fall semester will be taught on the days and times they were originally scheduled for. Classes will be taught in one of three ways: exclusively online, a hybrid of in-person and online instruction or in a HyFlex format where the in-person class will also be available online for students who wish to not attend. Any class with over 45 students will be taught solely online and classes with less than 45 students could potentially have in-person instruction. Decisions on which classes will be taught in-person or online will be made by June 18.
The academic calendar will now have no breaks until Thanksgiving, including traditionally observed Jewish holidays. However, accommodations will be made for students who wish to observe. After Thanksgiving, classes will be taught exclusively online until the end of the semester on Dec. 7. There will not be a typical final exam period after classes end but rather two academic assessment periods that will take place Nov. 22 to Nov. 24 and Dec. 8 to Dec. 10. Faculty may choose one of these two assessment periods to administer exams, but are encouraged to conduct testing throughout the semester. All exams during the academic year may be taught in-person.
Returning students who have already signed up for on-campus housing can keep the room they signed up for. However, there will only be singles and doubles available for the fall semester, meaning students who signed up for triples must alter their housing arrangements. Students can cancel their housing without penalty until a date in July that has yet to be determined. The original date set for cancellation was set on June 15, the same day as the plan was released, but was quickly changed after many students raised concerns over the short window of time given to students to decide. There will be one residence hall on campus reserved as an isolation site in case students need to be quarantined. On-campus dining will be take-out only, but off-campus students will be provided with a place to eat while complying with physical distancing guidelines. The plan also noted the possibility of a food delivery system and mobile ordering.
Move-in day will take place over the course of seven days, Aug. 19 to Aug. 25. Students will be assigned a specific time and date to move in and will be limited to one family member or friend to help them move in but, the guest will not be able to enter the residence hall. On-campus students will be tested for COVID-19 and antibodies during the move-in period. If a student tests positive for the virus, they can either return home or move to the isolation residence hall. Off-campus students can voluntarily get tested after arriving in the Binghamton area.
Students are discouraged from leaving Broome County during the semester and having gatherings over 10 people. A pledge to follow these rules is being developed as well as progressive sanctions for those who violate them.
There will be a lack of in-person events in the upcoming fall semester. University Fest, an event where students can learn about the clubs and organizations available to them at BU, will be held online. The University will not provide space for events unless they pass a review process. To combat this lack of in-person interaction, the Student Association (SA) is looking for ways in which student groups can carry on their activities in a meaningful manner online. However, small gatherings of members will be allowed throughout the semester.
The schedule for fall athletics has not been finalized, pending guidance from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, state and local governments. Attendance at these events will be limited to the players, game management and University personnel.
Also included in the plan was a statement of the financial situation for BU. To combat the $10 million loss expected by the University due to the anticipated New York state budget, Stenger has asked deans and vice presidents to reduce their spending by 10 percent by freezing hiring on open positions.
While the plan details many changes to life at BU, Stenger is looking for student input on how the University should move forward.
“Although the plan is still in draft form, I believe it is very close to complete,” Stenger wrote. “We are sharing this with you to provide you with a broad understanding of what restarting will entail and what you can expect upon your arrival to campus. In addition, we want your input and I ask that you submit any comments or concerns to me at the link noted above. I’m looking forward to reading your recommendations. After that, we will submit our plan to both SUNY and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office for their approval before we can begin to Restart Binghamton University.”
More details concerning BU’s plans and a feedback form for the fall semester can be found here.