In a special meeting today, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved amendments and clarifications to a variety of Board and administrative policies to address imminent deadlines related to fall semester and federal directives related to handling sexual misconduct under Title IX. The Board also discussed details of the University’s COVID-19 testing and response plan: MTest.
Clarifying student service fee policies
The Board clarified its policy related to the student service fee and online learning in light of COVID-19 and the University’s plans for Fall 2020. Board policy governs the collection and application of the student service fee, which pays for a number of direct student support resources including Boynton Health and other health services--central to the University’s MTest plan--sexual misconduct prevention and response programs, student counseling and mental health services, legal and conflict resolution, and student group operations and programming. These services continue to operate and support students despite the pandemic, offering access to students on campus as well as those living and learning remotely.
Current policy indicates that students must be enrolled for at least six credits to be charged the student service fee and that credits for off-campus distance classes are excluded from the total credit count. When this policy was last amended in 2005, it exempted students in distance-delivered programs designed for students who would never be on campus and who would not ever be able to access fee-funded services, which, at the time, were largely tied to physical access to campus. This was also at a time when most student services were not able to be offered remotely or virtually.
University leaders urged the Board to clarify these policies as the University joins many other institutions across the country in delivering fall coursework in a variety of modalities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the number of distance classes has significantly increased, the need for health, mental health, and other services funded by the student service fee and the service levels demanded of these resources (in person and now remote) remain exceptionally high.
To continue providing these resources when students need them most, credits counted toward the six-credit minimum for the student service fee include classes that would normally be held in person but, due to safety adjustments made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic, will now be held as remote instruction or online classes. Credits for courses that have traditionally been offered in a distanced format will continue to be excluded from that total credit count.
This clarification applies specifically to the upcoming academic year, during which fees at four of the University's five campuses will remain flat from last year and those at Crookston are set to decrease slightly.
Changes to Title IX Policies
Following discussions at its June and July meetings about necessary changes to sexual misconduct policies, the Board took action to alter policies, procedures and employment rules to help bring the University into compliance with updated Title IX regulations. These regulations were unveiled by the U.S. Department of Education in May and take effect on August 14.
Approved changes include:
- Setting “preponderance of evidence” as the single standard of proof in all University sexual misconduct hearings;
- Installing a single, systemwide grievance process for all University members, which will ensure consistency in the application of University policy;
- Creating a systemwide hearing committee made up of trained faculty, staff and students from all five University campuses to serve as decision-makers in hearings;
- Updating the appeal processes for both parties in all matters, and;
- Allowing full participation by advisors in hearings.
These updated policies reflect broad consultation across the University, as well as feedback from Regents. All changes will be effective August 14 and will apply to any reports received on or after that date.
Beyond policy changes made relating to the new Title IX regulations, the Board elected to further deliberate changes that would more clearly define sexual exploitation as a form of sexual harassment. It is anticipated this matter will be discussed at a future meeting.
“MTest” COVID-19 testing and response plan
Jill DeBoer, director of the University’s Health Emergency Response Office, presented the COVID-19 testing plan for the University’s five campuses. It was developed by an advisory team representative of the University’s globally-recognized medical and public health expertise and included representatives from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The plan calls for testing operations that utilize existing resources and align with guidelines established by MDH and the University’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) smart testing recommendations. DeBoer described how this approach fits within the broad, layered public health framework the University has developed and used to manage its response to COVID-19.
In its priorities, the plan calls for testing of:
- People with COVID-related symptoms, with priority access to those who are clinically recommended and those who use campus health services for primary care.
- Close contacts, defined as asymptomatic people with a known exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 at a distance of fewer than six feet for more than 15 minutes.
- Asymptomatic individuals linked to an ongoing MDH investigation, which may include groups of students or staff based on residence or educational, extracurricular, or social activity.
- Asymptomatic individuals requiring specific medical care, at the discretion of a clinician.
Plans also outline procedures for public health officials notifying individuals if they have been exposed and should seek testing; how the University will isolate or quarantine students who live in on-campus residence halls; the care and support on-campus students can expect if they test positive for COVID-19; and other preparations necessary for managing cases or exposures on-campus.
“Along with heavy emphasis on personal and institutional preventive measures such as physical distancing, face coverings and enhanced sanitation processes - as well as supporting those who opt for online or remote options due to increased risk of COVID-related complications - a measured, strategic approach to testing is critical for any plan to effectively respond to COVID-19 and slow its spread,” said DeBoer. “Fitting with MDH and CDC guidance against widespread or campus-wide testing, our approach will make testing accessible to members of our campus communities without overtaxing currently available supplies, staff and infrastructure. It’s a plan that will help ensure that the right test is given to the right person at the right time.”
The University’s testing plan is one component of a comprehensive plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during Fall 2020. For more information about other aspects of the University’s approach, visit z.umn.edu/covid19.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet next on Sept. 10-11, 2020. Visit regents.umn.edu for more information.
- Campus Affairs