Tressel Outlines Plans to Reopen YSU; Fate of Fall Sports Still Unclear

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Those attending Youngstown State University this fall semester will find that the public health crisis has upended the traditional way of learning and instruction, as the university executes a plan to reopen the campus and welcome students back safely.

“We know that we’re prepared,” YSU President Jim Tressel said during a live presentation Wednesday afternoon that was streamed on Facebook and YouTube.  “Our goal is that the YSU campus is safe [for] the employees, faculty, staff, students, the community.”

YSU is slated to begin classes as scheduled on Aug. 17, Tressel said, but emphasized there will be changes because of the coronavirus pandemic.  The most pronounced change is how courses will be delivered during the semester.

“We’ve come up with five different ways that we’ll be taking class,” he said.  

While some classes for the fall semester would be structured using the traditional face-to-face model and the off-campus web-based platform, others will be delivered using a combination of both, Tressel said.  These include an “agile hybrid” delivery method, a virtual campus module and an online-live method.

Students can check their schedules on July 20 to find out what platform would be used for their courses.

University administrators, faculty, focus groups, department chairs and college deans have worked throughout the last several months to develop a plan for the university’s reopening, Tressel said. This included assessing all of the university’s 4,000 classes and determining the safest way to deliver quality education to students, he added.

“Kudos to the many talented, innovative staff and faculty on campus who worked incredible hours to put together a whole new instructional approach for the fall semester,” said provost Brien N. Smith in a statement.  “We are committed to ensuring that students receive safe, quality and faculty-engaged instruction through any of these approaches.”

Tressel urged that the YSU community adhere to guidelines designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus by committing to the Penguin Protection Pledge. Among these measures is a mandate for all of those on campus to wear face coverings in buildings – unless the individual is alone – and commit to social distancing on and off campus.

Classrooms and other seating areas of campus are now reconfigured to ensure a minimum of six feet between people, while campus facilities have been inspected and approved by the YSU Office of Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety, the president said.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time with state and local health departments because they will be important partners as we come back safely,” Tressel noted. 

Other safety measures at YSU include the installation of 10 mobile hand-washing stations across campus, making available disinfectant sprays and wipes in classrooms, encouraging students to purchase textbooks online instead of at the bookstore, reduced capacity at residence halls, and a contact tracing protocol should someone on campus test positive for the virus.

YSU’s recreational facilities are set to reopen Aug. 16 but will also enforce social distancing protocols, he said. Basketball will not be available, per guidelines adopted by the Center for Disease Control. 

Moreover, Tressel stressed that students, faculty and staff should assess their health each day before coming to campus. For example, he said that anyone with a temperature of at 100.4 degrees or higher should stay home, as well as those who recently traveled out of the country.

As for YSU athletics, Tressel said that there is as yet no definitive guidance from the two conferences where it participates – the Horizon League for all sports except football, which plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference – as to how this year’s schedule will play out.

A Horizon League president’s conference call is scheduled for Monday, while a Missouri Valley conference call is set for the Wednesday.

“We don’t know, but we’re going to be ready for any game plan,” he said. 

Tressel did not address a statement issued earlier Wednesday by the university’s faculty union, the YSU-OEA, which voted overwhelmingly to authorize a 10-day notice to strike should contract negotiations reach an impasse. Among other issues, the union said it is upset with the university’s reorganization of academic departments over the summer without input from faculty. 

A fact-finder’s report issued by a mediator should be issued in August or September.

Tressel also touted some of the capital improvements that continue in and around campus, including work on Fifth Avenue’s Smart2 Network project, new surfacing on parking lots, and continuing work on the Excellence Training Center downtown. 

“There are uncertainties,” Tressel said. “But we’re ready for every one of ‘em.”

The entire address can be watched on YSU’s YouTube page HERE.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.