An inside look at buildings on campus as faculty and staff prepare for the fall semester

Plexiglass Barriers in Ogden College Labs

Gabrielle Bunton

Departments across campus are preparing their buildings for the upcoming semester with different methods to ensure the safety of faculty, staff, and students.

For Ogden College of Science and Engineering, Dr. Micheal Carini, professor, department chair, and director of Bell Observatory, said the labs were lucky because they have natural social distancing.

Carini said it came down to plexiglass barriers and making sure the tables in each lab were separated enough to maintain social distancing. 

“What we were worried about was the student on the other side of the table, so we worked with our Environmental, Health and Safety and our facilities management and they constructed these plexiglass barriers,” Carini said.

Most lab instructors chose to wear a face mask and shield. They were also supplied with a safety kit that included various items such as rolls of paper towels, disinfecting spray, face masks, and more.

Safety kits were delivered to all offices across campus.

According to Carini, the lab will be disinfected between classes. Students also tend to finish labs at different times which Carini hopes will discourage students from coming to class early and congregating outside. 

“We are going to ask students to show up on time. In a normal situation, we would love for them to come in 20 minutes early, but for right now we want them to trickle in,” Carini said.

Larger classrooms, such as the auditorium at the end of Ogden College, have creative methods that have been put into place to ensure students socially distance themselves.

Dr. Stuart Burris, professor and associate dean of Ogden College of Science and Engineering, said the department had to sit down and figure things out. Burris took an architectural drawing of the building as a guide to how to construct the auditorium. 

“I came in with a tape measure and tried to be sure that I was following the six-foot guideline and still meet the request of faculty in terms of the modalities they wanted to use,” Burris said.

Burris credits his idea to Dr. Greg Arbuckle, dean of Ogden College after he saw a news piece on Good Morning America. People in the clip used a rope to block off seats in the auditorium and Burris mimicked the idea.

Certain desks with the auditorium will also have a sticker where students are allowed to sit.

The auditorium can now host 80 people, but Burris said the most realistic amount of people in the large classroom will be around 50 to 51 people.

In the case of Gordon Ford College of Business, several things have been done throughout the building.

Each seat in every room is six feet apart as well as spacing desks and tables to be six feet apart to protect students and faculty members. 

Classrooms will be unlocked at 7 a.m. and remain unlocked all day to have students move quickly from one class to the next so students don’ts wait in hallways for them to be unlocked. 

Dr. Evelyn Thrasher, professor and associate dean of Gordon Ford College of Business, said the overall goal was to have students move orderly to various classrooms.

“We’re trying to be a bit more efficient in how we transition from one class to the next,” Thrasher said.

Professors have unique ways of how students will enter the classroom like sitting in seats from back to front to monitor traffic.

Students are asked to keep their belongings under the tables to prevent students from tripping over one another as well as easier movement. Thrasher said the extra space between students will make things easier.

“The desks are wider apart and the rows are further away so that is going to help as well,” Thrasher said.

Departmental offices now have a chain on the doorway to stop people at the doors and to be allowed to go in when invited.

In one of their biggest classrooms in the building, there is now a plexiglass barrier around the stand of where the professor is.

In certain classrooms, there is also a camera for professors to use to conduct classes online.

Within the Gordon Ford College of Business, there is a popular elevator that students tend to take to the fourth floor to get to the top of the hill. That elevator has a can of Lysol with a paper wrapped around it that instructs people to not take it out of the elevator. 

The tradition began in the spring during the earlier days of the pandemic.

Thrasher said faculty, staff, and students came on two different workdays to tackle various classrooms to make sure spacing was correct, excess furniture was moved and spaces were taped off to show that they were not accessible. 

“We had such a good showing,” Thrasher said. We had about 25 faculty and about eight to ten students who pitched in. Everyone was masked and socially distanced while they were helping.” 

Burris encouraged students to follow the plan that they have for the building. 

“We’ve been working diligently over the past few months [on] how to do things with our spaces,” Burris said. We certainly hope that we have students who want to cooperate with everything that we want to do.”

Carini said that every move that has been made has been for the students, faculty, and staff safety.

“Any information that we can get out to early in the semester is to let students know we are thinking of them,” Carini said. “Our purpose is to keep them safe as well as faculty and staff.”

Thrasher said on behalf of the faculty and staff, they have a priority to keep themselves and the students safe while in college. If plans don’t work out as they should, they are prepared to change and adapt.

“The keyword this semester is going to be flexibility and just realizing that we are all in this together,” Thrasher said. “We will do the absolute best we can to make it a good experience.”