Preparation for an academic year at Ferris State University is a certainty. Efforts
made for the 2020-21 schedule focus on a desire to promote the health, safety and
ease of access for students, faculty and staff considering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Associate Vice President for Physical Plant Mike Hughes is a member of the university’s Re-entry Committee, which includes service on the working group for campus facilities. Hughes said details on extensive advancements in cleaning practices and materials applied by maintenance crews are available on the Ferris coronavirus campus information page.
“We have implemented a great deal of new technology, and updated our procedures,” Hughes said. “We would hope that students, faculty and staff are aware of and compliant with safe practices, protocols and guidelines that apply to social distancing and other measures.”
Hughes said the Ferris campus community should see that sanitizing stations are near many entryways to buildings, to promote good hand hygiene.
“There will be products available to meet the goal of keeping clean and caring for touchpoints like tables, chairs and other equipment where people congregate,” Hughes said. “A full-fledged effort to support these goals will promote the safest and healthiest campus environment possible.”
University Center Director Mark Schuelke serves with Hughes on the committee’s facilities working group, with additional responsibility to make adjustments to the Interdisciplinary Resource Center Connector. Schuelke said the re-engagement plans promote social distancing when those in the campus community are spending time outside the classroom.
“We had to consider the ingress and egress patterns of all entryways to campus buildings, with an eye on distributing the student density in each of these locations,” Schuelke said. “We have arranged the seating and placed signage across campus to illustrate our dedication to maintaining the six-foot standard in terms of separation in lounge areas and other spaces.”
Nearly all the soft seating in those areas was removed, and Schuelke noted that good hygiene practices also apply to the campus community’s use of these buildings while studying, or waiting for their next class.
“There are sanitizing stations at easy points of access as you arrive in buildings. We expect that students will be able to interpret the arrangements we have made to comply with density requirements, for 50 percent of recommended capacity,” Schuelke said. “I would imagine this is what students and the campus community can expect for at least the fall semester.”
Other University Center-based operations that have adjusted their operations in the name of compliance with regulations and user safety include the Ferris Bookstore. Manager Karen Bohren said they have acquired a Safe Space counting system to monitor customers’ passage into the store area.
“We will have those entering arrive in one door, with those who have purchased their books or other items leaving by the other,” Bohren said. “We have density orders prescribed by the state of Michigan to meet, with the expectation that our customers are aware of their obligations to wear masks and meet other requirements designed to promote health and safety.”
Those students and other customers who have made book purchases online can head to the Commuter Lounge on the University Center’s first floor. Bohren said that area provides them a pickup point that meets with social distancing guidelines.
“This is a positive outcome in promoting safe access and acquisition of textbooks and other materials,” Bohren said. “We will have students come into the lounge and space themselves in line to receive their orders.”
Dining Services Director Scott Rossen said his staff is prepared to employ various methods and outlets to meet the needs of their customers in the year to come.
“The ‘Safe Space’ system display near the entry doors will tell our customers how many people are already dining in say, the Quad Café or The Rock, and show the remaining capacity we are allowed, under current guidelines,” Rossen said. “We hope our customers can appreciate the need to comply with these protocols, which may mean eating and leaving a dining area to accommodate others, who are awaiting their chance to be fed.”
Customers will find, once in their dining facility, that staff will have completed a number of the steps ordinarily managed by a customer, in a continued effort to promote sanitary and safe practices consistently.
“We will encourage customers from residence halls to bring their ‘Green Box,’ or carry-out container for our staff to fill so they can take their meal and go,” Rossen said. “There will be drinks already poured for customers, salads available with dressing and minimal fixings included, all there to be removed and eaten with minimal contact. Ready-to-eat options like General Tso’s Chicken, meatloaf and mashed potatoes will be packaged and available at The Market and The Snack Shack. We have developed a pleasant variety of meals, or snack options that should be efficient, and, most importantly, safe choices to serve our clientèle.”
Rossen said the university plans to station the Bulldog Bites food truck near the University Center throughout the Fall semester, providing combo meal options, such as a hot dog, chips, and a drink, for another quick and easy dining choice.
“We are considering providing ‘Brutus Bowls,’ our salad-to-go packaging in buildings like FLITE so that we can meet our customer needs while helping them to stay safe through social distancing protocols,” Rossen said. “Our range of meal card-swipe options will be varied, and considerable, to achieve this goal.”
Lastly, Ferris’ Information Technology Solutions Center continues its vigilance as the university moves ahead in phase two of its re-engagement plan. Director Scott Thede said his staff has remained on campus throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and now stand ready to assist the return to learning in classrooms and labs, which will involve a variety of platforms.
“We are working to predict and adapt to the needs that will arise on the campus, in terms of the technology required to facilitate instruction,” Thede said. “We want our faculty, students and staff to know that we are here and prepared to serve their pursuit of learning excellence in this cause.”
To support students, staff and faculty with their IT equipment concerns, Thede said as much of the work as possible will be accomplished through virtual means.
“There is a cloud service management system called QLess that we will employ, so that contacts can best manage their visit to the center, with reducing waiting line in an essential gathering,” Thede said. “University Center Room 116 will be utilized with separate entry and exit doors, for single customer visits with a technician, for the optimal safety of our clients and our staff. Remote desktop responses received through a connection with our technicians will also be a preferred and safe method of offering service.”
Faculty and staff are returning to on-campus workspaces with Sunday, Aug. 23, established as the conclusion of phase two of the university’s re-engagement plan. Thursday, Aug. 26, will present the first move-in dates for Housing and Residence Life facilities, and Monday, Aug. 31, is set as the first day of classes for the Fall 2020 semester.