Published March 23, 2020
Over the past two weeks, UB has prepared for the return of a significantly smaller student population to campus housing.
Approximately 1,500 students — many of whom never left during the spring recess — are expected to live in residence halls and in on-campus apartments for the remainder of the spring semester.
There’s usually 8,000.
The decline is the result of UB’s transition to distance learning instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and steps UB is taking, including new protocols within campus housing, to safeguard the well-being of UB students, faculty and staff.
For example, to stay in on-campus housing, students must meet one of four criteria:
Thomas R. Tiberi, director of campus living, says students who remain in university housing have been issued strict guidelines that they are expected to follow while living on campus.
“Students must limit interactions with others and always follow social distancing requirements — remain six feet away from others, even in shared spaces,” says Tiberi. “Students are not permitted to enter residence halls or apartments other than their assigned living space.
“Students from other residence halls and off-campus guests are not permitted to enter residence halls or apartments. To connect with friends or other students, please video chat, call or text them.”
Additionally, Tiberi says that if there is a university directive for students to remain in their room for an extended period of time, the students must comply. Any students who have questions should contact Campus Living.
To guard against the spread of COVID-19, the university has enacted mandatory quarantine protocols for suspected and confirmed cases of the virus.
If a student or other individual tests positive, the Erie County Department of Health will take over supervision of that person and, in collaboration with UB, the individual will be isolated from the campus community.
Should individuals be placed in mandatory isolation, they will receive ongoing support from the university. This includes medical and mental health services, faith-based and social services, food and mail delivery, daily trash removal, and laundry and maintenance services.
Additionally, the university is taking increased cleaning precautions across its campuses to ensure the health and safety of the UB community, in accordance with guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cleaning protocols are reviewed and adapted as the COVID-19 situation evolves and new recommendations are released.
A sizable number of UB international students who live on campus stayed over spring break, says John Wood, interim vice provost for international education.
Many graduate international students found the decision to leave or stay was complicated by challenges they faced here and in their home countries as the guidelines and advisories enacted to stem the spread of COVID-19 evolved and changed around the world, he explains.
“China and Singapore, for example, impose a 14-day quarantine on all students returning from the U.S. once they arrive in their home country,” he says. “The highly dynamic and complex international travel environment at present is making decisions about travel (for students and others) very challenging.”
To help international students adjust to the changes, International Student Services posted guidance to its website and continues to communicate with students regularly.
“We have sent an alert to all of our international students letting them know our International Student Services staff is working remotely,” Wood says. “We are transitioning to virtual advising through Zoom, prioritized to the immediate need.”
Students on campus and off have been instructed to self-monitor their health.
On-campus students who are not feeling well and may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should immediately contact UB Student Health Services, where the staff is prepared to answer questions and provide support.
“If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have it, stay home or in your on-campus room, unless you need urgent medical care,” says Mary E. Stock, senior physician, UB Student Health Services. “Students are asked to please not go to the Student Health Services office before calling — that will further spread the infection.”
Medical care advice is also accessible by contacting the on-call service when Student Health Services is closed at 716-829-3316. Call and follow the prompts to reach the service. Students who have medical needs unrelated to COVID-19 should call, not visit, Student Health Services.
Faculty and staff should call their health care provider if they develop symptoms, Stock says.
For UB students and other members of the university community who ask what to do following direct or indirect contact with a person diagnosed or under investigation for COVID-19, Stock emphasizes that staying home and away from other people is critical.
“The most common reported symptoms include fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, cough and fatigue,” she says.
Other reported symptoms, such as body aches, sore throat, headache, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, chills and shortness of breath, can also occur.
To accommodate a smaller population of students living on campus and to comply with public health guidelines on social distancing, significant modifications have been made in some university services, such as dining and transportation.
UB Parking and Transportation has implemented a modified busing schedule.
Campus Dining and Shops is adhering to all New York State guidelines by closing all dining room seating and only offering to-go services. All campus recreational facilities are closed, including residential fitness centers. In addition, Campus Living Academic Success Centers are closed.
UB Libraries are open but at a reduced capacity, with the goal of lowering the number and proximity of people on campus. More information about hours and services is posted on the Libraries’ website.
Beginning today, more than 4,000 distance-learning courses — including all labs — will be delivered to more than 30,000 students who are completing their coursework from home locations all over the world. There is a small number of clinical courses, such as providing emergency dental care, though, that are face-to-face.
Student Life is also providing up-to-date information about campus services that are impacted. UB’s Student Counseling office continues to support students, providing guidance on how to cope with COVID-19 related stress and anxiety. More information about these resources and the office’s hours of operation is posted here.