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Fall 2020 Return to Campus: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Updated August 29, 2020
 

The BenU community is working around the clock with health and safety experts to ensure a safe return to the Lisle and Mesa campuses. We have a robust plan supported by expert counsel and protocols, but we still have work to do to create a safe and engaging learning environment. We don’t have complete answers to all your questions at this time and our staff and faculty ask for your continued patience as we navigate this ever-changing landscape amid the pandemic.

Please review this FAQ page to answer your questions and please continue to monitor this page for updates. If you have a question not on this list, please email COVID19@ben.edu.

Campus: General Questions

BenU just announced a plan to return to campus in July. Why is the school moving the majority of classes to remote learning now?

The decision to flex the majority of our classes to a virtual platform is the safest and least disruptive path to higher learning this year. Based on current medical advice and public health models, we will face a resurgence of COVID-19. We have all faced so much change and uncertainty this year and we want to avoid what experts believe is an inevitable disruption this fall semester. This plan to “Protect the Flock” not only minimizes physical health risks but also supports the emotional and intellectual health of our community. We will use this extra time to prepare our students and faculty to adapt, grow and succeed in the virtual world that has become our new norm.

Will the campus be closed to staff, faculty and students?

NO, our community will be present on a modified and carefully controlled, de-densified “Six-Foot Campus.” As a BenU Learning Center, we will support in-person, critical hands-on labs and experiential engagement, study groups, mentoring, support services, meetings and activities – which can now all happen in a safe, more controlled environment. Click here to learn more about the BenU Learning Center.

With all the protective barriers and Healthy Hallmarks in place to mitigate exposure risks, students and faculty have many new opportunities to engage in an in-person collegiate experience, study and gather on campus.

Our community will reserve spaces, classrooms, and offices for small group gatherings, student and faculty discussions, club meetings, and team collaboration. We have de-densified offices and spaces and staff, faculty and students who are comfortable can schedule their campus time. To book space on campus, CLICK HERE

How are you planning for a safe return to campus?

Benedictine University is protecting the physical, intellectual and mental health of our community by delivering the majority of our coursework virtually while supporting safe on-campus opportunities for social, collaborative and experiential engagement.

Our Benedictine University COVID-19 task force teams concluded their initial research earlier this summer and have an approved and medically supported plan to support the BenU community when they choose to come to our de-densified, “Six-Foot Campus” or live in a Benedictine residential community. (The Benedictine University task force teams are listed in our master plan for Fall 2020.)

Maintaining a safe, healthy campus is everyone’s responsibility. To protect our peers, every member of the BenU community is expected to be a compassionate community citizen who will follow CDC guidelines by practicing safe social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and following stringent cleaning and sanitation protocols. In addition to behavioral signage, heightened cleaning protocols on campus and modified spaces, we will also be leaning on the BenU Hallmarks with an expectation that students, staff and faculty are vigilant in their respect and care for each other and follow the critical social distancing, self-check and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols.

Everyone is required to monitor their own health daily to ensure they do not have signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

Our Lisle campus maintains a close, collaborative relationship with the DuPage County Health Department, Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare and we continue to monitor State of Illinois and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

Our Mesa Campus maintains a close, collaborative relationship with Maricopa County Health Department, and we continue to monitor State of Arizona and CDC guidelines.

Our Task Force teams will continue to make adjustments to our plan, monitor and consult with experts every day to mitigate all risks and maintain a rich and engaging collegiate experience.

What is a six foot campus?

We know from all the medical guidance that six-foot social distancing, vigilant hygiene protocols and wearing face masks greatly reduces the spread of COVID-19. BenU is creating safe spaces for the healthy return to an on-campus experience. Throughout our campus, we are modifying shared spaces with staggered seating and buffer zones.

Maintaining a safe, healthy campus is everyone’s responsibility. In addition to behavioral signage, heightened cleaning protocols on campus and modified spaces, we will also be leaning on the BenU Healthy Hallmarks with an expectation that students, staff and faculty will be vigilant in their respect and care for each other and follow the critical social distancing, self-check and PPE protocols.

Floor markings will identify traffic flow and safe distancing in public areas or waiting areas. Hand sanitizer stations, acrylic screens and safe buffer zones can be seen throughout campus. Some furniture in common areas has been removed.

All students, faculty, staff and visitors must wear masks in all public spaces, in groups on campus and in classrooms.

Will testing for COVID-19 be offered on BenU campuses?

Yes, but only for resident students and all student-athletes (commuter or resident) on the Lisle campus. We have launched a COVID-19 surveillance testing program, which means that random samples of students will be selected and tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they have a known exposure or are showing symptoms of COVID-19. This allows us to make inferences about the level of spread in the student population and identify asymptomatic cases for isolation.

Beginning August 31, the University will test a randomly assigned sample of approximately 30 students each day, Monday through Thursday, who will be asked to take a COVID-19 diagnostic test at the Krasa Student Health Center. Testing will be conducted in Krasa 012, which is located in the lower level of Krasa Student Center. If a student is selected, they will be notified via their University email with their assigned date and time, along with instructions for next steps.

The University will utilize PCR (polymerise chain reaction) testing, which directly detects the presence of the antigen. By detecting viral RNA, which will be present in the body before antibodies form or symptoms of the disease are present, the tests can tell whether or not someone has the virus very early on.

Testing, which will be at no direct cost to the student, will be conducted by University Nurses and Athletic Trainers.

Test samples will be mailed to a dedicated lab, results are expected within 48-72 hours of test completion. Individual students will be notified of their test result via email if negative or via phone call if positive. Positive results will go through University protocol for COVID-positive students.

*For students and staff who do not live on campus, we will not be offering testing. Therefore,we are asking all BenU community members to consult their personal physician or local clinic at the first sign of symptoms or if there is a known threat of exposure. The DuPage County Health Department and Maricopa County Department of Health have provided resources and testing site information.

 

Are we required to wear masks on campus?

Yes. Everyone is responsible for supporting a safe return to the classroom this fall. We know that wearing masks prevents the spread of COVID-19. The CDC and our local health departments recommend wearing face coverings when we can’t be assured of a safe, social distance of six feet or more. Disposable masks will be available to visitors.

In order to ensure that our student community understands our face covering expectations, we have asked all students to review, sign and submit the Student Acknowledgement for COVID-19 and Public Health Policy.

Please wear your masks and be vigilant with regard to our health guidelines. In doing so, you will do our community a great service by putting your health and the health of our BenU community first.

Will masks and sanitizers be provided to students, faculty and staff?

Yes. Our continued safety and health are incumbent on our allegiance as a community to practice all CDC-recommended protocols. To support this community action, all returning students, faculty and staff will receive a BenU healthy returns welcome kit which includes a BenU face mask, hand sanitizer and safety guidelines. Of course, we welcome all BenU community members to wear their own personal PPE as desired.

Will BenU require students, faculty and staff be tested for COVID-19 prior to their return to campus?

No. Restoring and maintaining a healthy, safe environment is a shared responsibility. Students, faculty and staff are asked to conduct daily self-check assessments, for common COVID-19 symptoms reported by the CDC, before coming to campus. Staff, faculty and students will receive a BenU Healthy Return Kit with a mask, sanitizer and other important prevention resources. We are asking everyone to continue to review the CDC’s recommendations and recognize the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 – or any infectious illness – and isolate until 72 hours pass without symptoms.

  • As a part of Department of Public Health protocol and overall community safety, all positive cases must be reported to county health departments. We ask that everyone confidentially report any illness by filling out their respective symptom reporting form. Any medical information collected as the result of COVID-19 will be kept confidential.

 

Will campus facilities have hand-washing stations and will temperatures be monitored?

We have all the recommended protocols in place for maintaining a safe, Six-Foot Campus for our BenU communities. Masks or face coverings must be worn, especially when six-foot distancing is not feasible.

Restoring and maintaining a healthy, safe environment is a shared responsibility. Students, faculty and staff are asked to conduct daily self-check assessments, for common COVID-19 symptoms reported by the CDC, before coming to campus. Staff, faculty and students will receive a BenU Healthy Return Kit with a mask, sanitizer and other important prevention resources.

We will return to a Six-Foot campus protocol. BenU has modified shared spaces with staggered seating and buffer zones to mitigate the spread of infection and to support a healthy campus environment.

We have a heightened cleaning protocol throughout campus to minimize risk. We have increased the frequency in which we will be disinfecting areas of campus such as high touch surfaces, classrooms, common areas and lounges.

Hand sanitation stations can be found throughout campus and residence halls.

What if students or faculty test positive? At what point will campus have to close again?

Maintaining safe campuses amid the threat of COVID requires daily vigilance and collaboration from everyone. At the same time, regulations and decisions about safe gatherings, even with a Six-Foot Campus, will ultimately be directed by our county health departments and state governments. We understand that there is always a risk for a secondary surge of COVID-19, which may result in employee and student absences or state-mandated restrictions. The majority of coursework is being conducted virtually, however, we are prepared to continually modify (or close) campus if local governments adopt new or additional restrictions. We will maintain close, active relationships with our local health and medical community partners:

  • Our Lisle campus maintains a close, collaborative relationship with the DuPage County Health Department and Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare. We also continue to monitor State of Illinois and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
  • Our Mesa campus maintains a close, collaborative relationship with Maricopa County Health Department, and we continue to monitor State of Arizona and CDC guidelines.

 

What will happen if we need to evacuate campus buildings for a fire or other threat?

Public safety is a priority. Evacuation during an emergency creates a challenge for safe distancing, but we cannot compromise public health and safety. The emergency preparedness manager will continue to work with University Police and Campus Safety to plan safe building egress.

With the changes to class formats, will Benedictine University reduce or increase tuition?

All fees and rates will remain the same. We have given great consideration to this question and evaluated all opportunities for cost-savings or tuition increases. We know this is not what any of us envisioned for the fall of 2020, but we can confidently assure our BenU community that all students who put in the effort to engage, explore and challenge themselves, will absolutely receive the valuable, transformative learning experience for which they applied. By employing the BenUFlex model for educational delivery earlier this summer, and in our August 13th announcement about shifting to a predominately virtual learning model, our faculty and staff have had the time to properly prepare to engage students virtually. We believe we have the best of both worlds to deliver academic excellence to meet a changing environment---safe, virtual instruction supported by controlled on-campus, in-person and virtual support services for tutoring, counselling and engagement.

We have invested greatly in our academic future with the Benedictine Learning Center, comprehensive campus modifications, technology upgrades, 24/7 academic and student support services, new communication tools and course delivery improvements. We are adapting the University and its campuses for our collective future together, while ensuring our faculty and our students are well prepared for the new world. There is no question, the world is changing, and we must change to meet new challenges together as a community.

Residence Halls & Dining Facilities:

Will residence halls be open?

Yes. BenU residence halls will be open and prepared for residential students on both campuses. Please see the Lisle Housing Plan here and the Mesa Housing Plan here.

What is being done to ensure it’s safe to move back on campus?

The University is hard at work to prepare a safe, “Six-Foot Campus” to cover all aspects of campus life, from residence halls to Benny’s Dining Hall and everywhere in between. Everything is being done according to expert guidance to ensure the safety of our resident students. Our Task Force Teams’ work is guided by higher education recommendations from the CDC, the American College Health Association and public health authorities at the state, county and city level. (Please review our BenU Master Plan for a Safe Return to Campus

The health and safety of our entire BenU community is incumbent on everyone’s commitment to Benedictine’s “Healthy Hallmarks” pledge. As directed by expert advice, measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 include:
• Implementing and enforcing physical distancing, wearing face coverings, hand washing and the frequent disinfection of our facilities and common areas.
• Educating residents on cleaning, hygiene and COVID-19 protocols frequently by staff and with highly visible signage.
• Asking non-resident guests and visitors to follow the same physical distancing protocols, wear face coverings, and frequently washing hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
• Implementing our rapid response plan to support residents and protect the BenU community. (see Housing Plan)

Promotion of health and safety behaviors and precautionary measures will be provided by residential programming via signage within all apartments, rooms and hallways to increase awareness and education. Campus buildings and exterior spaces will include directional and physical distancing signage to indicate directional flow and social-distancing protocols, as well as informational signage regarding health and well-being precautions in the Safe Return to Campus Plan.

Every one of us must fully commit to protecting our collective health and well-being as it is incumbent on all of us to comply with CDC recommendations to keep BenU open and mitigate spread of the virus. In the face of extreme challenge, our community is resilient and stronger than ever.

What changes have been made to on-campus housing for the fall semester?

The BenU COVID-19 Task Force has implemented a number of new policies for University Housing:
• Overall occupancy has been reduced by 25% on the Lisle campus, allowing for the availability of additional single-occupancy rooms if needed.
• Cleaning procedures have been adjusted to accommodate more frequent cleaning of shared spaces.
• A quarantine and isolation plan has been developed to maintain the safety of our community should residents be exposed or test positive for COVID-19.

Are there protocols in place for safe move-in to campus residences?

Yes, we are finalizing the specific plans now but it will include reserved time slots for each resident, reduced density efforts (e.g., limited number of move-in guests), check-in process with limited contact and designated traffic flow during the check-in process. Move-in dates are Thursday, August 27 through Sunday, August 30.

What if I was supposed to arrive early? Will there be an early move-in process for students?

Yes. We are finalizing the specific plan now. While we understand there is a need for some students to move in early, our approval process is based upon the recommendation of health officials. An early arrival approval will be made available only to student leaders who are required to be on campus for training leading up to the start of the school year and orientation initiatives.

Will there be social or physical distancing in the halls? How?

Yes, social distancing in the residence halls is very important. Gathering is not allowed within hallways or common areas. We expect students to do their part to create a safe community. We will follow a consistent standard of six-feet of physical distance. At this point, we will treat roommates or suitemates as a family unit, thus allowing more than one occupant per residence hall room. Signage and floor markings have been placed around campus to help with physical distancing within buildings. Hand sanitizer will be readily available in all buildings on campus.

Will lounges be open for student use?

No. We have decided to eliminate the use of common area spaces in the residence halls, like study spaces and lounges for the fall semester. Weather permitting, students are encouraged to socialize outdoors, while practicing physical distancing with friends and guests. Plans for the spring have not yet been determined and dialog will continue to occur. As soon as the information is available, we will share it with you.

How will common areas be addressed by the University?

The University’s Facilities Management team has a robust plan in place for regular cleaning and disinfection. In the common area bathrooms and laundry facilities, students should practice physical distancing and follow any additional posted guidelines for use. Common areas will be cleaned twice a day. Areas will include a standard cleaning in the morning and a deeper cleaning and sanitization in the evenings.

What will community-building look like this fall in the residence halls?

Resident Assistants (RAs) will host events to engage in smaller groups, allowing students on the same floor and in the same hall to build community and get to know one another. Additionally, students will have access to online platforms to engage, find content and connect with peers socially.

What are my responsibilities as a student living on-campus?

Student behavior can have the greatest impact on the spread – or the containment -- of COVID-19. Like everyone in the BenU community, we are all responsible for our behavior and must all be respectful community citizens by following CDC recommendations. Resident students must sign a Housing Health Policy Acknowledgement in addition to their housing agreement. This acknowledgement commits you to a number of practices that are vitally important, which may include wearing a face covering, observing physical distancing practices while in public spaces and agreeing to self-quarantine and self-isolation directives lead by the University. All of these requirements are based on the current guidance from the CDC. If you have underlying health issues that you believe put you at a higher risk to COVID-19, living on campus in a dense community environment may not be the best choice at this time.

Expectations include:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Keep your room (or apartment) clean – bring and maintain your own cleaning supplies.
• Wear a face covering whenever you’re outside your room.
• Practice physical distancing from others.
• Self-isolate if showing symptoms.
• Remember that this is an unusual time and you and/or others may feel anxious about what is going on.
• Be kind to one another and remember we are all in this together. #BUnited #ProtectOurFlock
• Review the Safe Return to Campus Plan.

What items should I bring to campus?

Keep your belongings to a minimum and remember to bring extra face coverings/masks, plenty of personal hygiene items, along with disinfecting and cleaning supplies for your room. Housing has developed a move-in packet for our residential students and it is available online. While we do not set limits on the sizes or number of items you bring, we strongly encourage you to be conservative in choosing what to bring with you this year.

Will all students be required to vacate housing prior to Thanksgiving Break, or are we allowed to stay through virtual finals?

As a result of COVID-19 and precautionary measures, students will need to vacate University housing for the virtual campus period that follows Thanksgiving Break. Fall semester occupancy dates will begin on move-in day and conclude on Saturday, November 28 at 12:00 p.m. On-campus housing will officially close beginning Sunday, November 29 through Winter Break. All residential students, including Founders’ Woods residents, are required to leave housing by no later than 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 28 and should plan accordingly.

Why can't students live on campus after Thanksgiving if many classes are already virtual for the semester?

Since students will likely visit with many family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday, their risk of contracting COVID-19 will likely increase. Therefore, we have asked that all students vacate housing prior to Thanksgiving break (in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 amongst the student community when they return from the holiday).

However, if you would like to stay in your housing through the break (or return to housing after the break), you may file a special request by contacting University Housing.

Will these changes affect housing rates?

No. Campus housing rates will remain consistent with previous years. The Benedictine community has made the decision to not increase or decrease housing rates for the 2020-21 school year. The University has invested additional funds in intense preparations to re-open the campus to provide our students with an engaging in-person living and learning environment while maintaining health and safety. While you have a few less days on campus, it is balanced by the reduction in number of beds and rooms and the additional, significant cost of keeping our residence halls open, clean and safe during the pandemic.

How will quarantine and isolation be handled on campus?

Our quarantine and isolation plan on campus follows the recommendations of local health and medical experts. We have set aside quarantine and isolation locations for our residential community in case of a potential exposure. If a resident student poses a health risk to community members and is required to self-quarantine or self-isolate, the University may require the student to leave campus housing and return home to self-isolate. Additional details can be found in the Return to University Housing Plan.

What if I decide to commute from home or live off-campus after reserving on-campus housing? What is the deadline to cancel my contract?

Benedictine University housing and campuses are open, de-densified and prepared to safely welcome and engage students with on-campus experiences, the University Learning Center, access to campus technology, facilities and dining services. However, we understand some students may be re-considering their housing options this fall.

With classes beginning as planned on August 31 and move-in reservations beginning on August 27, residential students have until Wednesday, August 19 to cancel their fall housing contracts by emailing housing@ben.edu.   Cancellation fees will not be applied. 

Will students who decline housing for Fall semester be reserved a spot for the Spring semester if they choose?

Yes, you can reserve a spot for Spring semester by contacting University Housing.

How will BenU accommodate safe on-campus dining (Lisle Campus)?

Our Dining Services team has created a detailed plan in collaboration with health and wellness experts to make a number of changes to mitigate risk and accomplish six-foot distancing in our campus eateries.

  • Increased cleaning protocols, staff face masks and gloves, Six-Foot Campus behavioral signage, hand sanitizer stations, staggered seating and disposable plates and utensils will be the new norm.
  • We have increased pre-packaged and grab-and-go offerings at a number of our campus eateries.
  • To review the full plan, please visit the BenUeats website.

 

Will the Fitness Center, Rice Center and outdoor athletic areas be open for use?

Yes, the Fitness Center and Rice Center will reopen on Thursday, September 3. However, we require everyone to follow our new policies and hours of operation:

Fitness Cente

  • Hours will be 10a – 2p and 3 – 7p daily (the Fitness Center will be closed for deep cleaning from 2 – 3p). These hours are temporary and may change later in the semester as we test our protocols to ensure maximum safety. Our goal is to expand hours as soon as possible.
  • Capacity: Lower level capacity is 15 individuals; Upper level capacity is 20 individuals.
  • Because capacity is capped, students should book timeslots at the Fitness Center in order to guarantee entrance. These time slots will be limited to 45 minutes in order to allow extra time to clean post-use. Click here to visit our online booking system.
  • Please enter the Fitness Center through the main entrance of the Rice Center through the double-doors at the back. A student worker will be posted at this entrance to monitor capacity.
  • Cardio machines and weight equipment have been spaced out in order to ensure 6 feet of separation. Please be mindful of all signage, especially as it relates to traffic flow and social distancing.
  • The multipurpose/yoga room will remain closed for the time being.
  • Bathrooms will remain open, but the locker/shower areas are also closed for the time being.

 

Rice Center

  • Hours will be 10a – 2p and 3 – 7p daily (the Rice Center will be closed for deep cleaning from 2 – 3p). These hours are temporary and may change later in the semester as we test our protocols to ensure maximum safety. Again, our goal is to expand hours as soon as possible.
  • Because capacity is capped, students should book timeslots at the Rice Center in order to guarantee entrance. Click here to visit our online booking system.
  • Capacity & Timeslot Availability:
    • 6 basketball hoops (2 people per hoop): 30-minute timeslots
    • 3 designated volleyball spaces (2 people per space): 30-minute timeslots (no nets)
    • Track (4 people): 30-minute timeslots
    • 2 batting cages (2 people per cage): 30-minute timeslots

 

Fitness Center & Rice Center General Rules of Conduct:

  • Masks must be worn at all times (covering your mouth and nose).
  • Please maintain 6-foot social distance from others.
  • Please bring your own water bottle, as fountains will not be in use.
  • Please comply with all requests or instructions from Fitness Center or Rice Center employees.
  • Do not use a machine until it has been cleaned after previous use.
  • Please be considerate of others – try to stay in one area and use minimal equipment.
  • Do not come to exercise or play sports if you do not feel well.

 

Outdoor Athletic Areas These spaces will be available for use after September 3. Students are expected to follow strict social distancing and masking guidelines.

Academics:

When will classes begin?

Monday, August 31st will be the first day of classes for both BenU campuses. Please see President Gregory’s announcement about our fall 2020 plans. Following Thanksgiving Break, we will be moving to a virtual campus model, where the last two weeks of class instruction and the final exam period will be conducted entirely online.

What format will classes be offered in for fall 2020?

During the Fall 2020 Semester, classes will operate in a virtual format, with some exceptions for labs and other experiential learning coursework, as announced by University leadership on August 13, 2020. Our plans to reopen campus will continue, offering students opportunities for small group learning, individual study, tutoring and access to other campus resources.