Lindenwood University opened its fall semester on Aug. 24 with students on campus and in person. Playing off the name of their sports teams, Lindenwood Lions, the fall reopening was dubbed “Roaring Return.”
According to one student and the university president, the reopening has been going well so far, despite a recent rise in cases.
In mid-September, Senior Jack Bedtke explained that, from Aug. 24 through Sept. 4, students participated in classes from their residence hall rooms, with the instructors teaching in their classrooms. OWL video/audio technology was used for all virtual teaching.
Bedtke is concurrently studying for a bachelor’s degree in business administration with management emphasis and a master’s degree in higher education. He also is vice president of finance for Lindenwood Student Government and vice president of the National Society of Leadership and Success.
On Tuesday, Sept. 8, students began attending classes in person with masks being worn by all in the classrooms and appropriate social distancing being used.
“It was awesome to see teachers and interact with everyone and get back to what the college learning experience was meant to be,” Bedtke said.
Asked if he had any concerns about his safety during the pandemic, Bedtke said he felt safer on campus than off it.
“As a rough estimate, about 85-90% of students are following mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines very well,” he said. “But there are always outliers. That’s not too bad for college students. And when we see someone not wearing a mask, we speak up and ask them to put on their mask.”
Bedtke said that, for safety, the university does not allow any outside visitors in campus buildings or dormitories. However, students and educators do come and go from campus to community and back again.
On Sept. 14, Lindenwood University President Dr. John R. Porter said, “Overall, Roaring Return is going fairly well. We had an uptick in COVID-19 cases during the past few weeks, same as other colleges and universities have had. Based on our dashboard and trigger points, we still are in ‘green’ status. We anticipate staying that way, as long as our students and staff stay focused and keep following our protocols for wearing face masks, social distancing, limiting group sizes, etc.
“We have about 9 or 10 weeks of in-person classes between now and Nov. 20, the beginning of Thanksgiving break, when we will switch to all virtual for the remainder of the semester as previously scheduled. If everyone cooperates and follows the protocols, we should be able to achieve that goal as part of our Roaring Return plan.”
Porter described a software system purchased by Lindenwood and installed over a three-week period that has been an important component of keeping up with what is happening. The software, Qualtrics Workforce Contact Tracing, is produced by Qualtrics, a worldwide experience management company headquartered in Provo, Utah.
“The system is going great, and it gives us all of our pandemic tracking and contract tracing information in one database,” Porter said on Sept. 14.
At that time, the university had 47 positive cases, with 24 of those quarantined on campus. Porter said 35 to 40 coaches had volunteered to deliver three meals per day to each of the students quarantined on campus.
“I am very proud of them for volunteering to do this,” Porter said.
To prevent further spread, he said, “Students must be aware of where they are and whom they are with. Careful diligence must be used until the pandemic is over.”
Following the interviews with Bedtke and Porter, Lindenwood saw a rapid increase in coronavirus cases. On Sept. 17, the university had more students with COVID-19 than any other university in the St. Louis region that week.
On Sept. 28, Porter said, “We did, in fact, see an increase in cases following Labor Day. Our university planning teams were quick to act and I am pleased to share that we have not had a new student with a confirmed case on campus since Thursday of last week (Sept. 24). In addition, our quarantine and isolation cases are declining. We continue to review procedures and policies designed to keep our campus healthy and appreciate the unified effort demonstrated by our students, faculty, and staff.”
In the original interview with Mid Rivers Newsmagazine, Porter explained that the university has defined 11 “trigger points.” When they occur, specific actions are taken. The ultimate trigger point (last resort) is to send all students home and switch to 100% virtual learning.
Porter described key indicators and numbers that are displayed real-time in the university website and on TV monitors spread throughout the campus. He also explained, “We have student health ambassadors, whose role is to remind others about following the protocols in order for everyone to continue classes on campus.”
The university has a zero-tolerance policy that includes going against campus rules in regard to violation of visitation, alcohol, and health and safety measures.
“If anyone is found in violation of visitation, alcohol, and health and safety measures by hosting parties they will be immediately dismissed from the campus,” Porter said.
Asked on Sept. 14, about the greatest success of Roaring Return, he said, “The enthusiasm of the students and their energy level. They are excited and engaged; thrilled to be back on campus.
“Today, as I was leaving this building to go to another place on campus, I was stopped by two members of the women’s basketball team. They are twins. They said ‘Thank you for what you did to get us back on campus and what you are doing to keep us safe.’”
Lindenwood’s St. Charles campus has about 4,200 undergraduate
students and 2,000 graduate students. Porter took office on July 1, 2019.