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Facemasks and virtual events will greet Troy University students when they return in August

By Lauren Johnson

Many students are looking forward to returning to the Troy University campus in the fall, but are still wary that anything can change between now and the Aug. 12 start of classes.

“I hope we will be able to come back in the fall. Everyone is looking forward to it,” said Matthew Ross, a junior at Troy University.

While it has been announced that Troy University will open this fall, students are now waiting for decisions to be made on other activities. Ross, like most students, is waiting to hear what the final verdict will be on having events and activities like football games and Greek events.

Brandon Williams, another Troy University student, is concerned about what the classes this fall will be like. “I’ve done online classes before, but I’m a person that needs to be in a classroom to learn,” he said. “I’m a visual learner and a hands-on learner, so I need somebody to help teach me, guide me, and show me what to do.”

Williams also said  people with financial aid can’t take online classes without paying out of pocket.

“The coronavirus context can certainly shift depending on any directives we might get from the state agencies, federal level, or local decisions, so we will continue to review and be aware of them,” said Dr. Hal Fulmer, associate provost at Troy University.

Fulmer said since Covid-19 appeared in the spring, the university has undergone a lot of changes and has continued to evolve with the help of a  task force. Fulmer has worked in higher education for 40 years and has never experienced anything like this.

“We’ve been in an active state of monitoring, meeting, discussing, and deciding since January,” he said.

One change the university has made is that students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving break. The remainder of class meetings as well as finals will be completed online. Testing labs, computer labs, and dorms will stay open for students who aren’t able to stay home due to poor Internet connection or other issues.

Wearing a mask will be required on campus when social distancing cannot be achieved. “Putting the mask on is a part of being Troy strong and Troy smart. Wearing the mask helps not only stop possible transmissions of the virus, but it is also a reminder that the virus is out there and we need to be careful,” Fulmer said.

The university is also working to apply social distancing guidelines within classrooms. With the larger classes, the university plans to take advantage of their online technology to spread out students and give them the option to alternate meeting in person and online.  “This way the learning continues and the engagement continues, but we’re not asking students to sit shoulder to shoulder every day of the week,” Fulmer said.

Students, faculty, and staff are asked to wash their hands often and follow social distancing guidelines even outside of the classroom.  “We’re going to take all the precautions that we can take to keep everyone safe,” said Herb Reeves, the Dean of Students.

For activities and club events on campus, the university has modifications in process. Reeves said there’s also a possibility that some events will be virtual or will have limitations on the number of people who can attend.  Reeves said students do not need to be afraid to return to campus in the fall, but if they are, the online option is available for them. In the event that the university has a case of COVID-19, Reeves said they are prepared to address it.

“We need everybody to buy into what we are trying to do to provide a safe environment,” Reeves said.

Troy University will also be working with the other four-year and two-year institutions in the state of Alabama to develop a plan on how to provide testing before students return. Because the university has a high number of international students, the college is also taking action to help these students. Fulmer explained that a number of international students have remained in the U.S throughout the summer and plan to attend in the fall. “If we have Troy international students who went home to their home country and can’t return here, we’re working on how we can deliver instruction to them in an online format,” Fulmer said.

The decision on athletics for the university and what to do about the football season is still in the works. While there is a lot of uncertainty about the football season, Troy University’s decision will reflect the most up-to-date information and guidance from ADPH, the Governor’s office, the Sun Belt Conference, and the NCAA.

“Because the corona context continues to change, the decisions that we would have made a month ago might not be what we can do today,” Fulmer said. “Within the next couple of weeks, we will have a resolution about the football season.”