New normal: How life at UH will look this fall as pandemic continues
As the back to school season begins, the UH campus has change in the air. With the pandemic still at large, many changes will be impacting the University for the fall semester.
Social distancing is the new normal for students, faculty and staff at the University as there are guidelines to follow at multiple buildings around campus, along with the requirement of wearing a mask or face covering.
The University announced that all the guides and protocols related to COVID-19 will adjust as necessary to reflect new information and findings.
This includes a to-do list item for students that differs from previous academic semesters.
Students must now complete the “Protecting Our Campus Communities from COVID-19” safety training on their UH self-service accounts before classes begin.
In regards to the pandemic, the student centers have less tables and seated areas to ensure the six feet apart guideline, as well as asks for gatherings within the building to be kept to under 10 people.
The dining options within the student centers will remain open for the fall with revised hours of operation.
While past semesters have had food trucks scattered across campus, this semester will not be getting rid of that, just limiting it. There will still be a food truck stationed outside of Student Center South on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For the fall, Cougar Woods Dining Hall has been open 24/7 since Sunday. The dining hall will close for few hours a day, the time dedicated to sanitizing.
Moody Towers Dining Commons, which used to be open all day, will now be closed for the entire semester.
The dining commons will have Plexiglas at each station and at the register to check in, as well as offer the taking a to-go plate of food from one of the stations.
The markets at Student Center South, Cougar Village I and the University Lofts will remain open for students to shop at, but the Cougar Woods Market will be closed.
Each campus meal plan comes with some amount of Cougar Cash and meal exchanges. Meal exchanges for the fall will now be available all day and locations such as the Starbucks in SC South will be having meal exchange options available.
A new addition to the technology on campus will be the salad robot available in SC South for students in the fall.
With the addition of The Quad as a place for students old and new to live, UH residence halls will also encourage social distancing guidelines.
Each lobby area has to have a 6-foot distance between group members and less than 10 members gathered in the group.
One regulation that is consistent for each residential hall is that no guests are allowed within a suite that they do not live in.
Organizations such as the Metropolitan Volunteer Program, Student Program Board and Homecoming relied on in-person interaction in the past to host events and meet-and-greets.
Now, events are being transferred virtually or requiring a maximum amount of people to encourage social distancing.
For Weeks of Welcome, events that usually are handled in person, new approaches are being taken. As of Friday, SPB partnered with the Residence Hall Association to host a socially distanced movie in the SC South theater.
Student accounts will receive emails with links to join events held on Zoom or with reservation forms for events with a maximum number of participants.
Before adjusting to the pandemic, buildings such as the M.D. Anderson Library and the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center were spots a student or staff member could visit at any point in time.
For the fall semester, the library will be opened with limited capacity, with services such as the desktop computers and book checkout still available.
Study rooms and group spaces in the library will be closed as well as checkouts of items such as laptops and other equipment will be prohibited.
The Rec Center will be opened for reservation for the upcoming fall semester. Students, faculty and staff will be able to go online and submit a time slot to use the facilities while social distancing on machines and using wipes on all equipment.
With each building on campus, one of the most notable changes is the use of a mask or face covering, as it is required inside all buildings.
“To be successful as a University, individually we must commit to protect ourselves, and each other, from contracting and spreading this virus using a strategy that starts with our first line of defense,” the Coog Strong, Mask On mission statement said. “Mask on. Together, we are Coog Strong.”
For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.