Worried about classes on campus? Other arrangements are possible

Picture: DUB

The new academic year, which starts on September 6, marks the return of on-campus education for Utrecht University. The Dutch government has decided that a maximum of 75 people can be together in the same lecture hall, without having to keep 1.5 metres of distance from each other. But not everyone feels comfortable with that idea. The Executive Board is accommodating these worries as follows: teachers and employees whose presence on campus is required can contact their manager to discuss the situation and available options. As for students, they can get in touch with their study advisor. UU spread this information through its latest Covid update, sent to all UUers today. More information can be found on UU's website.

1.5 metres and face masks
Many classes will be held on campus again from September 6, but not all of them. UU's schedule had assumed a hundred people would be allowed to gather in the same lecture hall, but the rule turned out to limit that amount to 75, which means a lot of scheduling work still has to be done before September 6.
 Each programme is independently responsible for downsizing the groups in their classes. The options vary: they can either take that class back to an exclusively online environment, devise a hybrid forms of education, or divide students into groups and teach each class twice. Students will be able to see what’s going to happen to their classes by September 4.

Discussions are ongoing within the Dutch Ministry of Education to define if the limit of 75 students also applies to exams.

Although students don't have to observe social distancing in the lecture hall, the 1.5-metre rule still applies outside the classroom. As for face masks, they are still mandatory inside all university buildings, but as soon as students sit down in the lecture hall, they can take the mask off. Teachers are free to make additional agreements with their students. For instance, they can ask students to keep distance from them, or create rules about entering or leaving the classroom.

The university says the ventilation in workspaces and classrooms meets the criteria established by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM in the Dutch acronym). All spaces where the criteria can't be met are closed. Once the new academic year starts, all canteens will reopen as well. There, too, the limit of 75 people per room applies, and those who enter must wear a face mask.

Study spots, self-tests and vaccinations
The study spots will also become fully available in the new academic year, as long as there are no more than 75 students in the same space. Like in classrooms, there is no 1.5-metre rule here. For the university libraries, the rule is that each floor is seen as a separate space. The study spaces in the Hijmans van de Bergh building are not available due to renovation works.

To prevent the university from becoming a hotbed of Covid infections, the Executive Board is asking employees and students to take a self-test twice a week once they start attending classes on campus. All employees and students can still apply to receive free self-tests.

The university hopes that as many people as possible will get vaccinated. If you haven't gotten a jab yet but would like to, a vaccination station will become available in the Utrecht Science Park from September 6. It will be at the ground floor of the Van Unnik building, which used to house the Children’s Knowledge Centre, right next to the entrance to The Basket, at Genevelaan avenue.

Employees who aren’t directly involved with educational activities should still work from home as much as possible. UU will not change this rule until the Dutch government decides that working from home is no longer necessary. It is expected to make that announcement by September 20.

Graduation and PhD ceremonies, happy hours
Graduation or PhD ceremonies can be held on campus from August 30, with a maximum of 75 people in attendance. Guests do not have to keep 1.5 metres distance from each other. The 1.5-metre rule will stay in effect for meetings, brainstorm sessions and drinks. Here, too, the maximum number of attendees is 75, and everyone needs to have a seat of their own.