How MU classes will be taught this fall will probably be decided by July 15 or sooner, the University of Missouri System president said Thursday.
Mun Choi, who is also the MU interim chancellor, made the remark at a “Lunch with a Leader” program put on by Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Choi said that when making the final decision on whether to hold classes in-person or online, MU does not want to call it too soon.
“When we make that decision and announce it, you can imagine that students will want to sign up for a lease,” he said. “But if we make that decision too early and then we have to cancel, then there’s liability. But more important than the financial liability is the reputational damage to the university.”
Choi once again reiterated plans for campus to open fully in the fall while still having faculty prepare online course material in case a quick pivot online or to a hybrid of online and in-person teaching is necessary.
In the event of a full opening, the campus experience may be slightly different in light of social distancing and other health and safety measures.
“There has been some examination of having our dorm rooms only house one student,” Choi said. “While that sounds good, when we look at the reality of that, if we only have one student per dorm room, then what’s going to happen to the 5,000 other students who normally get housed at the university?”
MU is moving forward with a task force of medical experts looking at testing, contract tracing and quarantine options for the fall, Choi said.
“When we open, we open with our eyes wide open, recognizing that there is a strong possibility that we’ll have infections on this campus and in the community,” he said. “We believe that when we decide to open, we’re going to have the protocols and procedures in place to keep our community safe.”
Choi said it’s possible to set up a separate dorm to quarantine infected students.
He also updated the group with current enrollment numbers, which have been looking steady after May 1.
Compared to this time last year, Choi said MU has 1,855 more first-time students registered, 496 more returning students and 117 more transfer students. These numbers might change, however, by the start of the fall semester, he said.
Choi attributed the increase to students’ “pent-up demand” for a residential learning experience.
“What students learn in their university education is far more than courses, what they learn in the classroom,” Choi said. “It’s the interactions within the classroom that can’t be duplicated over Zoom, learning from each other outside of the classroom, learning how to improve one’s personal and professional development.”
Choi acknowledged the blow Columbia businesses are taking with no in-person commencements this weekend.
“It is our strong resolve to have a healthy in-class, in-person experience that will bring back students, faculty and staff to this campus to enjoy our beautiful town and the many wonderful businesses,” he said.