BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo announced Monday that in-person classes will resume in the fall, albeit with modified capacities and more of a focus on online courses.
One of the most noticeable changes will be that classrooms will have 6 feet between students and everyone will have to wear face coverings. Faculty, staff and students alike will get university-provided face coverings.
"This decision will preserve our mission as a place-based, public research institution, while providing us needed flexibility to continue caring for our campus community and providing the best possible educational experience for our students," said UB President Satish K. Tripathi and UB Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs A. Scott Weber on the university's website.
The university says decisions will be made based on course goals and requirements as to if each class will be online, partially in-person, or fully in-person. Campus libraries will still operate, but services will also be available remotely.
"We're planning to offer every possible class on campus that's offered with in-person instruction to have it also offered remotely," Weber said.
Like Canisius College, UB will end in-person classes before Thanksgiving, although classes may wrap up online over the three weeks following Thanksgiving.
Students will still be able to live in residence halls, but at a reduced occupancy. Likewise, staff will see reduced occupancy in their offices.
As far as living and eating on campus, students will also have more options for take-out and delivery from campus dining services.
Some employees have already started returning to campus and more will begin to return as New York State advances through the phases of reopening, according to the university.
UB's Screening, Testing and Contact Tracing Protocol Committee will be chaired by the Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Dr. Michael Cain.
Provost Weber was asked about screening for students who are commuters or living in off-campus housing. He responded, "Recognizing that the University at Buffalo is a very large three campus institution with lots of very different portals, I actually think temperature testing will be a very significant challenge. I think we're leaning towards at this moment — but haven't finalized that plan — is really doing daily self assessments."
UB officials stress they're still working out details on screening, testing, and tracing. But there's agreement they should be able to do so with expertise from their medical school and its faculty. They use the example of other large institutions like local hospitals that successfully worked out plans.
Dr. Brahm Segal, Chief of Infectious Disease Control at Roswell Park Cancer Center says, "You have to balance the quality of the education. I mean there's some things that just can't easily be done remotely. And we've learned enough about COVID. I think we've learned lessons about transmission including asymptomatic transmission. We've learned about effective ways to reduce community spread that can be applied to a university."
The university says they plan to release further details about the fall semester in the coming days and weeks.