December 17, 2020

2020 brought many changes and challenges for Susquehanna’s students, faculty and staff – tireless and unified, we accomplished what seemed a herculean task.

Students, faculty and staff completed 11 weeks and two days of on-campus Matthew Duperon, associate professor of religious studies, teaches a class inside of a tent. Matthew Duperon, associate professor of religious studies, teaches a class inside of a tent. instruction. (And yes, we were all counting.)

“The past few months have tested the endurance of all of us,” said University President Jonathan Green. “I am so thankful for tireless work of this campus community, which allowed us to achieve what we all wanted – a residential experience for our students and an exceptional remote-learning experience for those students who couldn’t be with us on campus.”

How did we do it? First, and perhaps most importantly, we all made a collective commitment to maintaining proper health and hygiene practices to give us the best chance at completing the semester on campus.

“We persevered through the semester with the attitude that we were all in it together,” said Susan Lantz, vice president for student life. “I think that attitude, our diligent work and shared sacrifice all contributed to our hard-won success.”

We also used wastewater testing as an early indicator of the presence of the virus on campus. More than three-fourths (77%) of the 61 students confirmed with COVID on campus through Nov. 19 were found as a result of wastewater testing.

Using a 24-hour continuous monitoring system, Susquehanna collected wastewater samples from residence complexes on campus. A positive wastewater result led to students being place under protocols for individual COVID testing while collectively sequestered in their residence area. If an individual student had a positive test result, they were moved to isolation and cared for, and their subsequent close contacts were quarantined and tested to further contain the spread.

We also required random COVID testing for students, faculty and staff, used UV-C air filtration units with ultraviolet light in residential living spaces to destroy pathogens in the air, and increased air filtration in classrooms throughout campus. To expand outdoor options for learning and other activities, the facilities department erected several tents, and installed more than 13,000 pieces of signage around campus to help guide traffic flow, manage room capacity and remind everyone of good hygiene practices.

Even though we made the decision to switch to remote learning earlier than scheduled, David Richard, professor of biology and the university’s COVID-19 response coordinator, still views the semester as an overall success.

“We moved to online with just eight instruction days left before the Thanksgiving break,” Richard said. “I have heard some say, ‘We almost made it,’ but I think this downplays what was quite a successful semester and our combined efforts are something we should all be proud of.”