Chancellor Joe Gow and COVID-19 task force host COVID-19 eForum campus update to discuss semester break


Photo retrieved from UWL COVID-19 eForum.

Julia Balli, Executive Editor

On Nov. 24 at 10 a.m. the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse held a COVID-19 eForum campus update hosted by UWL Chancellor Joe Gow and the COVID-19 Task Force.

To begin Gow introduced members present from the COVID-19 Task Force, and discussed some of the decisions made throughout the fall 2020 semester. Gow reminded viewers to work remotely, as COVID-19 cases are on the rise around the nation, and to only go out for essential needs.

COVID-19 cases have been on the decline at UWL since the “Eagles Return Safely” plan, however, in the overall La Crosse community, there has been a rise in COVID-19 cases. UW System President Tommy Thompson has provided funding and testing to establish the BinaxNow Testing Program. This program will test up to 500 people a day through mid-December, and it is open to the La Crosse community and is located on the third floor of Cartwright Center.

Gow recommended that UWL community members quarantine and get tested prior to going home or traveling during the semester break, as well as getting tested and quarantining when they return from traveling or visiting home. “For Thanksgiving this year it would be best not to travel, it would be best to just celebrate where you are with the people in your immediate household or do that virtually. I know that’s really hard for some people,” said Gow.

According to the Director of Residence Life Jenni Brundage, there are approximately 1,400 students who will be leaving for semester break and returning the week after. “There are approximately 160 students who are going to stay through the holiday [Thanksgiving] on campus,” said Brundage. Approximately 750-800 students will be staying home after the semester break and will not be returning to campus until the spring 2021 semester begins. All students returning will be required to be tested for COVID-19.

Brundage encourages on-campus residents to check their email for the survey on staying on-campus after the break, so UWL can keep track of students who will be staying or returning.

Gow asked the Director of University Centers, Larry Ringgenberg, what dining on UWL campus will look like during and after the semester break. “Beginning on Thursday [Nov. 26] we’re going to allow seating at Whitney Dining Center for the 166 people that are here for the weekend,” said Ringgenberg. “We are going to see how that goes and allow students to eat with their roommates. We won’t have full seating in there, but we’re hoping to have some options so that people don’t have to walk back to their residence hall and end up with cold food.”

Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Bob Hetzel discussed returning textbooks at the end of the semester. This semester there will be two forms of returning textbooks at the end of the semester. If students are in the La Crosse area at the end of the semester they are able to return their books in the Student Union. There will be extended hours the week of finals to allow more time for students to return textbooks.

However, students that are not in the La Crosse area will need to ship their textbooks through FedEx or USPS back to UWL on or before Dec. 23 to avoid paying late fees. A step-by-step process to mail back textbooks can be found in UWL student emails or by clicking here. “For about five textbooks it costs about $15 to FedEx books back to the university. The good news is that all students that paid into Textbook Rental for the fall semester are receiving a $90 credit because we haven’t bought many books this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hetzel.

An alternative option for shipping textbooks back to UWL is Media Mail through the U.S. Postal Service. Through Media Mail people can send books, videotapes, DVDs, CDs, printed music, and other sound recordings as long as they weigh less than 70 pounds. USPS estimates that Media Mail will arrive in 2 to 10 days, and is considered to be a “more cost-effective” option according to Gow.

Director of Human Resources John Acardo then discussed COVID-19 leave for UWL faculty. “The COVID leave that was originally introduced for employees back in May allowed for up to 80 hours prorated on your work schedule to be used all the way through the end of this year,” said Acardo. “I know right now there are conversations about what that will look like into the next year but I don’t have information on that right now.”

Provost Betsy Morgan then discussed the change in schedule for the spring 2021 semester, with spring break being canceled to limit travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is no planned break. There won’t be a day where we say ‘on this day we have nothing,'” said Morgan. “What we will see in a little bit is the Faculty Senate is releasing a document that helps faculty think about ways to build breaks in for faculty, staff, and students. So that it doesn’t feel like it’s 14 straight weeks and then finals.” Morgan also said there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission during in-person courses during the fall semester.

Fall commencement has been canceled, with UWL doing a similar online event as conducted in the spring 2020 semester.

Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion Barbara Stewart then mentioned the Upward Bound office moving into the first floor of Centennial Hall and the Diversity and Inclusion office being moved to the first floor of Graff Main Hall, the ACCESS Center will be moved to the first floor of Wimberly Hall. “I’m proud to say that we will have all of our diversity and inclusion offices in a newly renovated office of some sort…We are all very excited about that,” said Stewart.

The eForum concluded at 11:15 a.m. with Gow wishing everyone a good semester break. To watch or review the COVID-19 eForum, click here. For more updates regarding COVID-19 visit the UWL COVID-19 website.