Olivet Update: August 23 Campus Community Communication

Communication regarding health, safety and the start of the fall semester.

The following letter was sent to all students, faculty and staff on August 23, 2021, outlining a few changes to campus operations for the start of the fall semester.

To the ONU Community, Greetings from Olivet!

We are looking forward to the start of our fall semester. You will have so many opportunities to immerse yourself in the Olivet experience including in-person classes, a full chapel schedule, athletic competitions, musical performances, and great social events like Ollies Follies. As we approach the new semester, we want to give you an update on our plans for the semester in light of the increased cases of COVID-19 across the country.

Earlier in the summer we wrote that we anticipated having a normal year in respect to most things on campus and in many regards, we still expect that. However, with the rise of the Delta variant, the current national and local context is different from when plans were first made for the fall semester. As of today, 90% of the counties in the U.S. have either substantial or high levels of transmission and Kankakee County falls within those categories. Given this, as well as updated recommendations from the CDC, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and the Illinois Department of Public Health, we believe it is in the best interest of the ONU community to make a few adjustments to our original plans.

In order to have a successful start to the semester, we are making some initial adjustments. Beginning Wednesday, August 25, masks will be required for students and employees (vaccinated and unvaccinated) in the following indoor venues where student attendance is required and other events where specified:

1. Centennial Chapel. Chapel is a critical piece of our shared experience on campus. We believe it is wise to all wear masks while we worship together.
2. Classrooms, labs, and choir practices. Once class begins, only professors may remove their masks to teach if they are able to maintain social distance.

At this time the University is not requiring masks for vaccinated individuals in other indoor public spaces, such as Benner Library, Ludwig Center, and Perry Center where attendance is not required and distancing is possible. Unvaccinated individuals will continue to be required to wear masks in indoor public locations. According to the CDC, “Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.” We fully understand the lack of enthusiasm for any return to masks, but also know that adding this simple measure reduces risk for our entire community while enabling greater opportunity in other areas of campus. It is our sincere hope and desire that this is a temporary measure of precaution, and we will review this policy after the first few weeks of classes.

We have learned how to be adaptable over the past year and will continue to utilize outdoor tables and chairs for dining options and tents for outdoor music rehearsals. We will continue to be innovative and creative and take advantage of the beautiful fall weather by hosting many events outdoors. We encourage everyone to be wise in following recommendations for reducing the transmission risk of COVID-19. This includes actively monitoring your own health and seeking medical attention if you experience symptoms of COVID-19, whether vaccinated or not.

Instructors will once again work with students who are unable to attend class for reasons related to COVID-19 so they are able to complete missing assignments and keep up with course material. Many instructors will record their lectures as we did last year while others may accommodate students in different ways. As is always the case, our faculty are dedicated to providing full educational opportunities to all of our students.

Thank you to the many students who already completed the questionnaire regarding vaccination. If you have not completed that, please do so prior to arriving on campus. While the Delta variant is causing breakthrough infections, data still indicate that spread and severity are substantially lessened among those vaccinated. Importantly, the vaccines continue to demonstrate overwhelming efficacy at preventing severe disease. We continue to encourage anyone who has not started the vaccination process to do so in consultation with their primary healthcare provider.

We are grateful for your cooperation as we move into this new semester. Our prayer is that we can come together acknowledging that although we may have some differences of opinion related to COVID-19, we share the common goal of experiencing an enriching and transformational year of personal and spiritual growth at ONU.

We believe the Lord is both for us and with us. We believe that together as a University we can model how Christians can live in community together: with love for our neighbors, understanding for those who differ from us, and respect and compassion for those around us. Let us each commit to doing so together.

Sincerely,
ONU COVID-19 Task Force
Lauren Beatty, Marketing Communications Manager
Drew Benson, Dean of Residential Life
Lori Latham, Director of Administrative Services
Dr. Stephen Lowe, Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dr. Mark Mountain, University Registrar
Kyle Olney, Director of Emergency Management
Dr. David Pickering, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Dr. Dan Sharda, Chair, Department of Biological Sciences
Dr. Lisa Vanderveer, Executive Director for Counseling & Health Services
Dr. Woody Webb, Vice President of Student Development

Published 08/23/2021
LB