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 A statue is wearing a surgical mask on campus at University of New Mexico in Albuquerque on June 3.

Fall semester will include masks, physical distancing and a lot of online classes

 The University of New Mexico is planning a combination of both remote and in-person classes for fall 2020.

“We expect fall will be a hybrid semester – some classes in-person, some a mix of remote and in-person, and some fully remote, and lots of masks,” Provost James Holloway said.

On May 22, UNM released a tentative plan for how the University will resume operations. Coined “Bringing Back the Pack,” the plan details rules and restrictions for faculty members returning to work and sheds light on what campus life will look like in the fall 2020 semester.

UNM President Garnett Stokes’ office said that as of June 1, “some faculty, staff and students will need to return to campus when it is appropriate in order to complete their work in campus mission areas.”

In addition to wearing masks in public areas and practicing regular self-screenings, those returning to campus will be asked to respect physical distancing when possible and will be expected to thoroughly clean personal and shared surfaces within workspaces.

The UNM Human Resources Department and Health Sciences Center are expected to publish a training on how to disinfect items properly and ensure proactive behavior around others (i.e. minimizing physical proximity, covering coughs, etc.).

Faculty, students and staff will also be required to verify their health and travel status daily before returning to campus. The Human Resources Department and Health Sciences Center are in the process of developing an advanced method of daily screening, but until then employees are asked to self-report symptoms verbally or in written form.

Shared workplaces and face-to-face interaction will continue to be discouraged, which means there will be a continued use of telecommunication platforms for classes, meetings and a separation of shared spaces using walls or other barriers. In order to facilitate these virtual correspondences, any individual affiliated with UNM can request a Zoom Pro account, which ensures there is no time limit on calls.

Some professors have already chosen to offer their fall classes remotely. Classics professor Luke Gorton revealed in an email to his future introduction to Greek mythology class that he will be canceling the fall in-person course while opening more online offerings of the class to compensate.

“You can either sign up for one of the online Myth sections once they open, or … you are welcome to wait until the fall of 2021 when the large in-person lecture class will likely be back on the schedule,” Gorton said in the email.

Provost Holloway said that he links academic success to social engagement — especially among diverse populations such as that found at UNM — and concluded that in-person interaction combined with remote services is the best way to tackle the months ahead.

“The state public health orders will govern things like large-group gatherings and guide our decisions, and our own health protocols group is putting together plans dealing with specifics on things like hygiene, mask wearing, distancing and screening,” he said. 

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Despite the constantly evolving nature of upcoming semesters and what they will look like, Holloway expressed optimism at how staff, students, and faculty will handle the change.

“I’ve always believed in students. You are bright, energetic, creative, and you want to make the world better,” he said. “This fall semester will not be typical, but it will provide students with opportunities to learn and grow, and it will require all of us to take on greater responsibility for not just our own health, but others’ as well.”

Beatrice Nisoli is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli

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