The South Dakota State University JacksRBack Task Force planning process has been underway during the month of May. Part of that process included adopting a set of guiding principles for planning and developing a process for community engagement and a timeline for communication to students, parents, faculty and staff.
The task force was launched and chaired by SDSU President Barry Dunn in early May. The group is responsible for working with the university’s Emergency Management Team to plan and execute with the purpose of restoring operations for the fall 2020 semester that will provide opportunities for teaching, learning and co-curricular activities in an appropriate manner.
In addition to the Office of the President, the task force includes individuals from various areas including academics, student affairs, research, safety and security, general counsel, business and finance, athletics and marketing and communications.
“We have worked very hard and been diligent in our early stages of planning for the fall semester that will include students, faculty and staff back on campus,” Dunn said. “We had a successful end to the semester that included our virtual graduation ceremonies, but now we are focused fully on our planning and processes and the necessary steps we need to take to ensure a campus and community environment with everyone’s health and safety in mind.”
The guiding principles developed by the emergency management team and adopted by the JacksRBack task for include:
- SDSU is committed to participating in and upholding the principles of public health in our operations;
- Planning for a safe return will include a focus on academics, employees, student life, research, scholarship and creative activities, athletics and the Brookings community;
- Decisions pertaining to a return to campus operations will be made with the health and safety of our students, employees and anyone who engages with SDSU considered;
- SDSU administrators will utilize guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the South Dakota Department of Health and ad hoc medical and epidemiological expertise in their decision-making processes;
- SDSU will collaborate with local health care clinics and the South Dakota Department of Health for virus testing, serological testing and contact tracing as dictated by the most current public health regulations and guidance;
- SDSU is steadfast in our mission of providing access to higher education and creating a rich intellectual experience for the purpose of learning, research, scholarship and creative activities whether a student is able to return to campus in fall 2020 or requires an alternate opportunity to ensure academic progress;
- SDSU may direct remote or on-site work performance by employees in the most effective and efficient manner possible;
- SDSU will continue to operate within our core values of being people-centered, expanding knowledge through creativity, operating with integrity, commitment to diversity, and achieving excellence; and
- Changes in key metrics such as hospitalization rates, level of community spread or the emergence of a localized “hot spot,” as well as other emerging information about the COVID-19 virus and related guidance, will be the metrics for movement into more restrictive plan phases or less restrictive plan phases depending on the trend direction of these monitored data points.
“The guiding principles are very important to our process and will support our timeline for a return to campus and the engagement we will have with the Brookings community,” Dunn said. “Our planning and execution will be supported by all of the different criteria within the guiding principles to provide the environment we will need to be effective in this new normal we will be operating in for some time.”
Daniel Scholl, vice president for research and economic development, is serving as SDSU’s liaison to the Brookings community engagement and planning subcommittee. The subcommittee will work with SDSU and community leaders, providing recommendations and support to local health care, business leaders, landlords, city officials and law enforcement.
Various communications will be included as part of the overall planning and coordination with the subcommittee. The timeline includes:
- Communications about residential life and student services planning in early June;
- Communications about the academic structure and classroom environment in early July;
- Communication about move-in day and the process to move students on campus and back into the community in late July or early August.
Included in the communications will be several virtual campus/community forums organized in conjunction with the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce that will allow individuals to engage and ask questions as part of the planning process. Information about the forums will be released soon. Information will also be shared to key stakeholders through media releases, radio, social media, digital communications and available on the JacksRBack website.