COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Plan

The Honors College will follow University pandemic planning with special care with regard to community needs and expectations. This includes requiring compliance with the following expectations for staff, faculty, and students who are part of the Honors College community:

  1. completion of the University of South Alabama required screening tool to assess risk of COVID-19 exposure, as well as testing for COVID-19 if indicated by the screening tool
  2. completion of the University of South Alabama’s on-line training module for return to campus
  3. testing prior to return, if required by the University of South Alabama
  4. use of daily symptom checking with an on-line platform, if required by the University of South Alabama
  5. recommend the use of an electronic tool for exposure notification, if adopted and recommended by the University of South Alabama

With regard to its unique sense of community and needs, the Honors College has developed the following additional guidelines. 

Arrival to Campus

Honors students are scheduled to arrive on campus beginning with the opening of campus housing on August 8, 2020. For all students, including residential and non-residential students, the Honors College will protect against risk by requiring honors students who will be on campus to comply with University requirements, including, if available, pre-arrival testing and a daily symptom app to screen for and maintain awareness of the risk of infection with COVID-19.  Students who test positive or exhibit symptoms will be required to report their test result to USA’s contact tracing office (reportcovid@southalabama.edu), and will be required to self-quarantine.  Faculty and staff will also be required to report positive test results to reportcovid@southalabama.edu.  Students in campus housing will be required to follow all housing requirements in addition to these expectations. Furthermore, if a contact tracing notification app is available, the Honors College will recommend that Honors students adopt the app.   

To further protect against risk, Honors College students will for the fall omit its practice of organizing help with move-in for first-year students.  Any other welcoming activities will prioritize virtual opportunities.  In person events will be held outside, weather permitting, and require physical distancing and masks.  Capacity inside the Honors College building, the Bethel, will be restricted in line with physical distancing guidelines

Student Life

The Honors College has a number of unique events that requires adjustment for pandemic circumstances. The usual fall retreat will be held entirely on campus, with no portion at Camp Grace. Students will have virtual meetings and socially distanced activities. The activities will implement a cohort model in which participants will be divided into groups of 10 or fewer.  These groups will wear masks, maintain a minimum of six feet of physical distance, and engage in activities such as creating a “social-distancing assistance device” out of pool noodles, and cardboard cutouts that can be placed on chairs and couches in the Bethel to remind students of social distance as it applies to furniture.  In person activities will be held outside in suitable shade or tents. In the event of rain, events will be moved to a virtual format. Students will be provided materials via physically distanced methods.  Discussions regarding curriculum and expectations will be held online with the entire group.

The Honors College typically holds monthly community building events in the Student Center Ballroom.  For the fall, these events will be held virtually.  If we host smaller events, they will be socially distanced and will take place outside whenever possible.  The size of these gatherings will be compliant with the maximum size allowed by university policy that is in effect at that time.  Any event that cannot maintain social distance will be cancelled or held virtually.

Student groups such as the Honors College Association and the Dean’s Advisory Council will meet virtually or out of doors whenever possible.  When indoor, the meetings will be kept to less than an hour, will require masks, and will require social distance.  The size of these gatherings will be compliant with the maximum size allowed by university policy that is in effect at that time.

Advising will happen virtually.

Facilities

Facilities at the Honors College are being modified to meet the unique conditions of the pandemic.  Water fountains will be disabled as part of a University-wide initiative. We will have one way traffic through the Bethel, one way staircases, clear plastic barriers on tables, and limited seating such that students are discouraged from sitting within six feet of each other. Signage will be placed around the Bethel to remind students of the traffic patterns, fixed furniture arrangements, masks, physical distance, and virus related hygiene. The College will provide sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer along with the procedures implemented by facilities and through the janitorial staff. 

Students typically sign a statement acknowledging expectations for 24 hour access to the Bethel.  For this fall, we will adjust the statement to include pandemic related expectations.  Access to the Bethel will be allowed from 8 am to 11 pm. 

Coursework and Research

For departmental offerings in Honors, we are following the lead of departments for physical distance and online offerings.  The team will work together to create the most positive learning experience possible.

Honors College courses typically held in the Bethel—this is usually HON 201 and 301—will be held online to reduce density in the Bethel and thus to maximize student study space.

The introductory honors experience course, HON 101, is slated to be held in a large classroom in Shelby Hall, which Dr. Marshall has evaluated to provide physical distance through a rotating cohort of students registered in the course.

For students engaged in research, we will coordinate with mentors, departments, and the Office of Research and Economic Development in cases where students need access to laboratories and in-person experiences.  We are being proactive in assisting students to develop research that can be conducted virtually, including the re-working of several thesis projects that originally envisioned laboratory work.  We also have worked through the University’s existing relationship with the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito to arrange for virtual research, and currently have two students engaged in a summer project that likely will extend into fall.

If a student becomes ill during the semester, or experiences other challenges, the Honors College will maintain its usual flexible stance such that students are able to perform and receive a high quality education within the boundaries of University policy.  The Honors College understands that COVID-19 is a multi-week illness that is highly infectious, and will ensure, as far as reasonable, that students are able to receive necessary materials and access, as well as extensions, necessary to complete coursework. Of course, students who are ill will not be allowed in the Bethel or to attend courses in person, in accordance with University policy.

Coping with Illness

Student support during illness is an Honors College priority.  In the past the Honors College faculty, staff, and students have taken the initiative to assist students who are ill or impeded by illness, accident, or other physical conditions. The College has experience helping a student who tested positive with COVID-19 find necessary medical support. We will encourage students to contact the Honors College in the event that they fall ill so that we may help them get what they need.  Students will also be required to report positive tests for COVID 19 to reportcovid@southalabama.edu

Highlights of Honors College Spring and Summer Pandemic Response

When the University closed in March, 2020, the Honors College responded by:

  • immediately moving all coursework online
  • extending deadlines for spring coursework and thesis defenses.
  • contacting seniors to assist with senior thesis and graduation requirements
  • coordinating with mentors and students to create virtual thesis defense experiences
  • creating a virtual tour of the Bethel using 3-D Google Cardboard glasses (with the assistance of Marketing and Communications
  • creating a virtual senior showcase to celebrate the work of our graduates
  • several emails from the Dean to students to offer support and guidance, including directing students to South CARES
  • the creation of unique virtual research opportunities to support students who had limited professional opportunities during the summer due to the pandemic
  • developing, with the Study Abroad Office and the Office of Research and Economic Development, fellowships for students to undertake virtual research with colleagues at the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito thanks to the University of South Alabama’s partnership with USFQ