July 31, 2020

University of Arizona preps for reentry amid pandemic risk

Arizona 360 learns more about its strategy.

Months after the novel coronavirus cleared campuses and instruction went online, the dilemma persists as to how schools can safely bring people back. In less than a month, the University of Arizona will put its plan to the test. This week, Arizona 360 learned more about how administrators plan to minimize the risk of COVID-19, as well as some of the concerns among faculty and students.

In May the university tapped former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona to lead its Reentry Task Force. Carmona explained new protocols in place and what it will take for the UA’s plan to succeed.

In addition to academics, the university must also navigate how to support its 500 student athletes. Like professional leagues and college programs nationwide, the UA Athletics Department is in the process of determining the best ways to protect the health of players and staff. Athletic Director Dave Heeke discussed some of the department’s options, such as delaying the start of the fall season and limiting fan attendance.

The pandemic setback the University of Arizona financially resulting in planned furloughs to save on costs. Projected losses total at least $250 million. The UA’s Office of Business Affairs said the current furlough plan set to take effect August 10 impacts 7,500 positions and would save the university about $70 million.

Students, faculty and staff critical of the university’s approach are making their voices heard through the Coalition for Academic Justice at the University of Arizona. The group includes several hundred faculty, staff and students, according to journalism professor and CAJUA member Celeste Gonzalez de Bustamante. Gonzalez de Bustamante discussed the group’s concerns and the direction it would like to see senior leadership at the UA take instead.

Enrolling in online-only courses briefly had added consequences for international students in the United States when Immigration and Customs Enforcement mandated that foreign students would not be allowed to enter or stay in the U.S. unless they attended in-person classes. ICE quickly rescinded the policy after the University of Arizona and several other institutions mounted their own legal challenges. But as Tony Paniagua reports, some students studying abroad at the UA remain uneasy as they enter an academic year full of uncertainties.

All three of Arizona’s public universities plan to offer some form of in-person instruction this fall. Their plans received approval from the Arizona Board of Regents, which developed a set of principles that the universities’ reentry plans must address and integrate. Arizona 360 discussed the guidance provided by ABOR with Chairman Larry Penley.

For most University of Arizona students, college as they knew it changed last spring. But for incoming freshmen, it’s all they will know for the foreseeable future. In their own words, UA freshmen Diego Salcedo, Nooreen Qureshi and Celeste Mesa shared what it’s like to begin a new chapter of their lives during a pandemic.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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