A "new normality" for the start of the new academic year
Splitting of the students into three groups, wearing of masks, infrastructures and hybridisation of teaching: Benoît Frund, vice-rector in charge of the management and development of the UNIL campus, details the measures taken for the start of the September 2020 academic year.
How are you preparing for the start of the academic year on 14 September on the University of Lausanne campus?
BF: The upcoming academic start will definitely look different from any previous academic year. In the new normality with which we will have to deal over the long term, we first of all remind the UNIL community that respect for social distancing and hand hygiene are paramount and that we are doing everything we can to facilitate this. Secondly, we are developing a system to reduce the number of people present on campus at the same time, in order to reduce the risk of contamination and the extent of quarantines related to potential infections that could occur. The aim is to avoid the situation we experienced at the beginning of the crisis, as in March, when the campus was completely closed. Because we all need contact with our colleagues, peers or teachers. I am thinking in particular of first-year students, who need to access the campus to understand how university education is working, so that they can then carry out some of their work at a distance in an efficient way.
What about wearing a mask?
We ask everyone coming on campus to be equipped with a mask from Monday 7 September onwards. Wearing a mask is required for any movement within the buildings, including cafeterias and libraries, and as soon as the distance of 1.5 meters cannot be respected, especially during practical work or in some rooms. Each UNIL employee, student and researcher will receive a cloth mask at the beginning of September, which has the advantage of being washable and thus reusable. I would like to make it clear that the mask, whether it is made of fabric or surgical, is not the only protective measure on a campus with a total of 20,000 people: hence the general policy of rotating attendance for courses and compliance with health measures.
In concrete terms, how will students presence be organized on campus?
The general concept is as follows: ensuring that every day one third of the student population attends classes.
We have developed a three-colour virtual token allocation system that will allow students to be divided into three groups for courses that are normally attended by a large number of people. One token will be valid for the entire semester. If a student has been allocated a yellow token, for example, he or she will be able to come on campus to take this type of face-to-face course on the day indicated in yellow, while on the other two days he or she will be able to take this type of course at a distance. This system aims to provide equal access to these face-to-face courses for all.
To allow for some adjustments, an anonymous exchange system will be open during the first two weeks of the semester so that students who wish to change groups can do so.
For other courses, especially small courses, practical work, seminars, etc., some freedom will be left to the faculties to allow them to hold a certain number of face-to-face courses for all students, regardless of the colour of their token.
How do you intend to check that this system of student allocation is working properly?
Unisep agents will be present to help people understand the system. We have already prepared the auditoriums with the necessary distances, by sealing off the places that cannot be used. In a few cases, rooms where the distances just cannot be respected will be marked as such and the wearing of masks will be required. The token will take the form of a QR Code. This will provide an opportunity to verify if necessary that the individuals are indeed part of the group expected on that day. Finally, I would like to remind you that everyone is responsible for respecting the sanitary instructions.
How will this system of student groups change teaching?
There will be a hybridisation between face-to-face and distance education. A whole support process has been set up by the Teaching Support Centre, the IT Centre and Unicom, in order to set up a kind of reengineering for each of the courses.
What can staff members expect for the start of the new school year, teleworking or presence on campus?
We are going to continue with a hybrid model, with face-to-face and teleworking, depending on the activities of each and every one and the needs of the organization. It should also be pointed out that all offices have been reviewed in order to bring them into line with the health regulations laid down by the Federal Office of Public Health. It is therefore not dangerous to come and work in the offices of the University. Specific information on teleworking will follow.
What will happen in the libraries and cafeterias?
These services will remain open as at now, respecting sanitary distances and hygiene measures. When moving around in these premises, the wearing of masks will also be required from 7 September.
What events can take place on campus?
A document on the prioritization of the occupation of the premises and on the protocol for the application of the event protection plan is available. Since UNIL's basic mission is teaching and research, priority is given to events directly concerning these two fields, such as colloquia, thesis defences, etc. And if there is space and availability, other types of events will be allowed. We should therefore not imagine being able to make up for the events cancelled in the 2020 spring semester, or to organize as many as usual, given the current conditions and the limited capacity of the premises. As for aperitifs and other coffee-croissant meetings, they can take place, but only in the food service areas, with everyone seated, in compliance with health regulations. Unfortunately, it will be necessary to renounce convivial aperitifs in such premises or services, which are still not authorized.
What about the Welcome Week for new students from 7 to 11 September?
This event has also reinvented itself in hybrid mode. It will include a YouTube live session with all sorts of practical information or videos presenting the various campus associations. The information sessions on the bachelors cursus will take place face-to-face, but registration is required.
Will we still be able to play sports on campus?
Of course you can! All courses will be on a registration basis, which will allow for traceability for sanitary reasons and regulation of the number of people attending a course. And there is a range of online courses, offering yoga and Pilates at a distance, for example. University Sports has also adopted the hybrid mode!