Clark University is welcoming its students for the 2020–21 academic year.
Throughout this week, students have been moving into Clark’s residence halls and apartments in preparation for the fall semester. Classes begin Aug. 24.
“The arrival of a new academic year is always a source of celebration and anticipation,” Clark President David Fithian said on Aug. 15, as students began to arrive. “There is nothing more heartening than to witness the intellectual and creative combustion that occurs when talented professors and inquisitive students are brought together in a learning situation.
“As our students begin moving back to campus, we are greeting the reopening of Clark with a heightened sense of excitement and expectation,” he continued. “These are historic and complex times, and I’m so grateful for our students and their families who are persevering through them and who have made difficult personal choices about how best to approach this academic year.”
As of Aug. 15, about 1,200 students were to be living on campus, out of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students who have enrolled in in-person classes (or hybrid, which combine in-person classes with online work). Approximately 8 percent of undergraduates are enrolled in all-online classes and will be studying remotely.
Everyone who learns or works on campus is expected to sign The Clark Commitment, which affirms each individual’s responsibility for their own health and that of others. This means adhering to the policies and protocols set forth in the Healthy Clark COVID Plan.
From the moment they arrived, students have been part of a campus whose operations have been engineered to protect the health and safety of everyone in the Clark community. Before moving into their residence halls, all Clark students were to report to the Kneller Athletic Center for COVID-19 arrival testing, and were to quarantine in their rooms until they received their test results. Anyone who will be on campus this semester — student, faculty, or staff — is required to participate in the University’s testing protocols. Throughout the semester, students will be tested every three days; faculty and staff once a week.
Masks will be the essential fashion item of the fall: Everyone needs to wear one at all times. Students in residence halls are required to wear face coverings any time they are out of their rooms. Staff and faculty also will wear masks when on campus.
In bathrooms, plexiglass partitions have been installed between sinks to provide protection while students are brushing their teeth, washing their face, etc. Guests per room are limited to one at a time, but students are encouraged to use common areas to socialize in larger groups, provided they follow social distancing and occupancy limits. Some housing areas have been reserved to create spaces for potential isolation and quarantine needs.
The dining experience reflects our emphasis on safety. In the Higgins Café, the main dining hall on campus, seating has been decreased from 360 to 160, although additional dining space has been created in Tilton Hall on the second floor of the University Center and in a tent outside the University Center. Contactless technology has been installed that allows students to “swipe” for their meals without having to hand their OneCard to a Dining Services worker.
Students also have noticed that traffic flow in the dining hall has been clearly marked to help with social distancing; and they are receiving their meals in individually packaged containers, whether they plan to eat in the Café or elsewhere. Clark Dining Services also has created designated Clean Teams to increase cleaning between and, if necessary, during meal periods. (Watch a video about the new Higgins Café experience.)
As in the dining hall, cleaning and sanitation practices have been expanded across campus. High-traffic areas, including common and shared spaces, classrooms, corridors, lobbies, entrances, bathrooms, elevators, and associated high-touch surfaces will be sanitized by Facilities Management two to three times every 24 hours, consistent with CDC guidelines. And students and faculty are urged to sanitize their own areas before settling in for class using the products in cleaning stations set up in each classroom. Classroom capacity has been reduced as well, to ensure that students can sit at least six feet apart from each other and their professor.
“Clark staff and faculty have worked with diligence and care for months to prepare for the reopening of the University’s operations in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of each member of our campus community, and provides a fruitful academic experience for all our students,” President Fithian said. “I know we can count on everyone at Clark to be rigorous in following the protocols that are designed to protect us and help ensure a healthy and productive semester.”