7-8-20 Message to Community


Today I'm sharing a number of updates on our return to campus. We continue to have multiple groups working on a safe return to campus, and will continue to share information, including course scheduling for fall, as it develops. The State of Ohio and Butler County has seen a surge recently, but the case numbers are coming back down. I hope we continue to reverse the recent trend of increasing numbers, and I hope we as a nation continue to look for ways to emulate countries that have constrained transmission while also returning to work and school. I hope each of you are taking care of yourselves and your families.

Topics relating to returning for fall:

  1. Face masks
  2. External speakers
  3. University funded travel
  4. Course planning
  5. HVAC in buildings
  6. New developments with international students
  7. More guidance is coming

Face mask update

Today, the governor has announced that any county classified as RED will require everyone to wear face masks both indoors and outdoors.

  • The University plans to order a Miami-branded cloth face mask for each faculty, staff, and student. Once received, a distribution plan will be put into place. To review prior communicated policies:
    • Everyone will be required to wear masks indoors.
    • Service can be denied, and students can be removed from classes if they refuse to comply. Faculty, staff, and students who refuse to comply will receive consequences through existing disciplinary procedures.
    • People with accommodations can be exempted and provided a reasonable accommodation like a requirement to wear a face shield or engaging in the class remotely.
    • In the rare class or situation that does not allow students or faculty to wear masks during class, e.g., during a music or voice lesson, an exemption will be issued.

External Speakers

External speakers are to be engaged remotely via WebEx or similar technology. Unusual circumstances or exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

University Funded Travel

University funded travel will not be allowed except for a strategic need and with approval of a VP. Travel necessary for sponsored programs and paid for by sponsored programs will only be allowed where there are no other travel bans or prohibitions.

Provost Message to Students and Parents:

A message from the Provost to students and families preparing them to understand how our courses are being planned.

As we look forward to welcoming our new and returning students back to campus this fall, in Academic Affairs we continue to plan for how we can deliver the nationally recognized Miami University education at the same high-quality level while also protecting the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students, and community. You’re likely to see updates to your schedule, so my goal today is to share with you what the academic experience may look like.

First, we have to acknowledge that life on all university campuses this fall will not look like it did last fall, or indeed any other fall previously. That doesn’t mean it will be of any lower quality, but that it will be different in order to limit the spread of COVID19. As you look ahead to this semester, it could be useful for you to think about your long-term educational goals, and decide how to best use your time during this coronavirus pandemic to move closer to those goals. It might be helpful to consider that a successful semester, even if it doesn’t look like ones in the past, is one that moves you closer to achieving your goals. The Miami experience is a deeply personal and connected learning experience and our faculty and staff are committed to helping you meet your learning goals. In fact, over the past few months, more than half of our faculty have engaged in professional development opportunities to hone their teaching skills in preparation for returning to campus.

Our first priority will always be the health and safety of our Miami community. No one can guarantee a campus that is free of persons who have the virus or are otherwise ill. Thus, we are making several important changes and incorporating public health guidance to allow for as safe an environment as possible. We value the personalized and on-campus educational experience where faculty and students can build relationships and experience engaged learning. Thus, we are planning to have robust educational engagement opportunities on campus as well as robust and high-quality experiences that will be offered through other means such as online and hybrid courses.

  • Face to Face: Some courses will be traditional, on-campus courses where students and faculty are present on campus in person together throughout the semester. These courses will be held in classrooms that are large enough to accommodate all students with appropriate physical distancing. However, some courses are too large to be accommodated in person with physical distancing or may be led by faculty who cannot physically be on campus for a variety of reasons. These will be handled via online or hybrid modalities.
  • Online courses are designed to be high-quality online experiences throughout the entire semester with no anticipated in-person experiences. These courses take a variety of forms, and may be synchronous (everyone is engaged online together at the same time) or asynchronous (students can engage in the class activities on their own schedule) or a combination of the two. These courses may have personalized face to face small-group labs, recitation sessions, and engaged learning opportunities.
  • Hybrid courses are a diverse group of face to face courses with varying levels of online engagement. Some modern pedagogical approaches such as “flipped classrooms” are hybrid, as are courses that need to have portions of the class rotate between being present in person and joining the class remotely due to space limitations and public health requirements.

Our faculty are busily engaging with pedagogical experts to master these methods, and these courses will support students who need to be remote temporarily due to a delay in arriving on campus, an illness, a period of isolation, or other disruption. Soon, students will be able to view their revised schedules—showing some new delivery modes as well as new locations for some of their face-to-face experiences. Students will also have increased flexibility this fall, to accommodate those students concerned about returning to campus. In a future communication, we will share how you can elect to study online for the entire semester if you choose, or you can choose to delay return to campus for a number of weeks, starting classes remotely.

We appreciate your patience and flexibility as we have worked to finalize these details. This will be a new experience for all of us, but one that also offers exciting new possibilities for learning. These changes will continue to reflect our intense focus on high-quality, personally engaged learning while reducing the risk of spread of the virus.

Fall Course Planning

You will recall that departments have been developing balanced course offerings. Now that parents and students have been informed of the process and provided a high-level overview of what the different course modalities mean, we can begin entering these changes into the system. Guidance from the Provost office to departments that was released yesterday:

The approved proposed Oxford course formats currently reflect the following distribution of individual sections (I expect online to rise slightly as we match courses with spaces moving forward):

  • 26% Online
  • 36% Hybrid
  • 38% Face-to-Face

Later today, your departmental schedulers will be receiving directions from the registrar on how to proceed with making the course changes in Banner. Unfortunately, the system that we had hoped to use to help optimize the course schedule does not work for this particular situation (with changing room capacities, etc.), so we are switching to Plan B. They will be asked first to move online courses to that format in Banner, thus opening up classrooms. In the second phase (later this week), they will identify the courses that are moving to hybrid and select open classrooms (within Banner) for courses that need larger spaces for F2F learning.

This distribution identified above will not yield enough larger classrooms to accommodate all of the requests. If additional sections want to move from far-to-face to hybrid or online, I will ask that the departments make that change (once it has been approved by the dept chair and dean’s office). If a larger room is still needed for a course, you can work with me later this week to look for an additional space that is not currently a registrar controlled classroom (we have a number of them identified and once we know the needs, we will work with you to accommodate as many as possible).

COVID-19 and HVAC in Buildings

COVID-19 and HVAC in buildings has been a concern as we know that better ventilation is another measure we can take to reduce airborne exposure, along with facemask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing. Cody Powell in the Physical Facilities Department provided this statement on how we are managing HVAC in buildings:

HVAC is a critical component to mitigating the spread of the virus inside our built environment. We are following the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and general CDC recommendations. We have three separate initiatives which have been identified as important to address:

  • Filtration - Our air-handlers serving large sections of our buildings typically have MERV8 air filters installed. Recommendations are to install air filters with a much higher filtration capability - specifically MERV13 filters. We are in the process of changing all of these filters on campus now and will be complete prior to the students returning to campus.
  • Ventilation - Buildings are designed to "mix" the air. Essentially some portion of the air is returned, or reused and mixed with some quantity of fresh air. Most systems are now designed to reduce energy consumption by minimizing the amount of outdoor air and maximizing the amount of return or reused air. We measure air quality (e.g., CO2 monitors) to ensure occupant safety. In current conditions, we are forgoing the energy savings and maximizing the outdoor air (or fresh air) and minimizing the return air. We are able to do so with our digital building automation system. While each building has design limitations, we are definitely enhancing the amount of outdoor air in the spaces.
  • Operating Schedules - To achieve our energy and sustainability goals, we employ many different control strategies to optimize the operation of our heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment. One example is that we "set-back" or limit the operation of the equipment when the buildings are less occupied. In current conditions, we will be returning the equipment to normal operation earlier in the morning and continuing to run the equipment later in the evening to ensure the building's air is changed-over with fresh air. In essence, we will be flushing the building's air much more regularly than we historically would.

While we are doing many things behind the scenes with how building HVAC is controlled, I think these are the largest and most important items to share. Please feel free to reach back out if you have any additional questions.

Message to International Students

In light of new guidance from the US Government around international students and online courses, this is the message provided to our international students:

You have probably heard the news that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued guidance yesterday afternoon regarding online study for fall semester. Notably, the guidance indicates that international students will not be permitted to take only online courses while remaining in the United States.

Miami University intends to offer a range of in-person, hybrid, remote, and online courses for fall semester. International students who are in the U.S. should be able to register for a sufficient number of in-person courses to be eligible to remain in the U.S.

For Miami University students who will remain outside the U.S. this fall, this new guidance does not change what we have been advising. While you will not be able to maintain your F-1 status while abroad, you are permitted and encouraged to take online courses that further your academic progress at Miami University. ISSS will assist you with obtaining a new I-20 to return to the U.S. in January 2021.

Miami University’s ISSS team will follow this new guidance and any related developments very closely and continue to provide updates. Miami University is working hard to ensure you have a safe and quality educational experience on campus this fall. We understand that these are stressful times, but we want to assure you that we are here to support you and that you are welcome and valued at Miami University.

More Guidance

More guidance will be coming from a variety of sources. We continue engaging shared governance in multiple ways to ensure we are doing the best we can for a successful fall semester. We are also conferring with health experts, other high-quality peer institutions, regulatory authorities, etc., and you will continue to receive updates from our AAO Return to Campus Committee, your senators, and routine communications like this one.

Many Thanks,
Jason Osborne