NIU Goes Remote For Undergrads

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Below is an important update that I sent to students this afternoon about the timely actions we need to take to address the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases we’ve seen, especially among our off-campus, undergraduate students. Effective immediately, we are temporarily moving undergraduate courses online and expect all students who reside on campus, and undergraduates who live in DeKalb County, to limit in-person activities and interactions until Sept. 28.

This immediate action is similar to what other universities recently had to implement. By doing this now, when our positivity rates are lower and manageable, we have more opportunity to stop the spread of the virus before things escalate further.

In view of these changes, student-facing offices might want to modify the fraction of services offered in person and shift more toward being virtual during this period. Supervisors should work with their divisional leadership to make those determinations.

I’m reminded on this 19th anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, that when we come together to address a crisis and make caring for others a priority, we are at our strongest. I appreciate everything you are doing to follow public health guidelines and to support our students in these challenging times.

Together Forward,

Lisa C. Freeman

Message sent to students

Dear Students,

I’m writing today to inform you of several, important developments in our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our Huskies. Effective immediately, we are temporarily moving undergraduate courses online and expect all students who reside on campus, and undergraduates who live in DeKalb County, to limit in-person activities and interactions until Monday, Sept. 28. It’s imperative that you read this entire email so that you understand the latest information and expectations as an NIU student.

Why is Action Necessary?

More than 120 students are currently positive for COVID-19, and more are currently quarantining due to exposure and/or pending test results. Through contact tracing, we have determined that the vast majority of student cases involve those who live off-campus or who attended off-campus gatherings where masks were not worn and physical distancing was not respected. We are also aware that some students are not fully cooperating with health officials and following guidelines on reporting symptoms and potential exposure.

These careless and unacceptable activities have led to a substantial increase in the overall positivity rate for DeKalb County and put our entire community at risk. We continue to work closely with our partners at the DeKalb County Health Department, and together determined that we need to take immediate and significant action to reduce opportunities for further spread. 

Limiting In-Person Activities & Interactions

Effective immediately, the university expects all students who live on campus, and undergraduates who reside in DeKalb or the county, to strictly limit their in-person interactions to only those that are essential such as obtaining meals and groceries, seeking medical care or attending work. It also means absolutely avoiding gatherings or parties, indoors or out.

I know that this is very frustrating, especially for those students who have been diligently following the rules and prioritizing the health of fellow Huskies. By taking bold measures and limiting exposure now, however, we have the best opportunity to stop these trends.

Changes in Course Delivery

Undergraduate courses will be delivered online beginning Monday, Sept. 14, through Friday, Sept. 25. A few exceptions may be granted by the Provost in response to a faculty member’s request. Please check your Blackboard course site after noon Sunday, Sept. 13, to see if your course is one of the exceptions. Our intention at this time is for in-person classes to resume Monday, Sept. 28.

On and Off-Campus/DeKalb Housing Restrictions

On-campus students are required to stay in their residence hall room as much as possible for the next two weeks. Students can leave their residences to:

•             Pick up meals from dining facilities or the Holmes Student Center

•             Pick up to-go meals from local establishments

•             Pick up deliveries (grocery and restaurant deliveries)

•             Spend time outdoors doing individual activities while masked

•             Use university Wi-Fi, computer labs or the Founders Memorial Library

•             Utilize the Student Health Center and Counseling and Consultation Services

•             Take care of essential errands (grocery store, medical appointments, getting a flu shot)

•             Attend work (both on- and off-campus) after getting approval from supervisors

•             Participate in off-campus internships or clinicals organized by a student’s college

•             Manage child care responsibilities

Undergraduate students who live off-campus in DeKalb County (apartments, houses or fraternity and sorority houses) should stay in their respective locations and also follow the above guidance for limiting in-person activities/interactions to those that are essential. 

University Events and Student Organizations

All planned, in-person events have been canceled for the next two weeks, but virtual events will continue as scheduled. Student organizations are not to meet in person over the next two weeks.

Gatherings/Parties

I cannot emphasize enough that the points of origin for the spread of COVID-19 at NIU are parties and gatherings, especially ones where participants have failed to wear masks and physically distance. It is because of these activities that we now must take this two-week pause.

I want to be clear that ALL student gatherings and parties of any size, whether on campus or off in the DeKalb area, are strictly prohibited during these two weeks. This includes residence hall common areas (such as lobbies, lounges and hallways), Greek housing and all outdoor spaces (parking lots, streets and lagoon areas).

Guests & Parking

All guests of students are prohibited from campus, indoors and outdoors, weekdays and weekends. Guests are expected to voluntarily abide and comply with requests to leave; those who do not can be cited for trespassing.

Additional on-campus parking restrictions have been put in place for after 5 p.m. weekdays and on weekends.

Surveillance Testing

The university will continue to do surveillance testing during this time. Students who have been scheduled to participate must come to their appointments.

Students Currently Isolating/Quarantining or Recovered

Students who are currently under orders by the DeKalb County Health Department to quarantine or isolate must continue to do so as directed. Students who have previously tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 are also expected to abide by requirements outlined in this letter.

NIU Helpline and DeKalb County Health Department

We need all students to cooperate in an open and honest manner with NIU and public health officials about testing, tracking and tracing efforts. All students who have been exposed, have symptoms or test positive MUST notify the NIU Helpline (815-753-0444), respond to any calls from state or local health departments and follow guidance of public health officials.

Responsibility & Accountability

Every Huskie is expected to take very simple, responsible measures to keep one another safe. When Huskies choose otherwise, such as hosting and participating in gatherings, breaking quarantines/ isolations or failing to cooperate with public health officials, we must hold one another accountable and take immediate action. We have begun taking measures with individuals and student organizations, including our Greek system, for these types of actions that have put the health and safety of our community at risk, and will continue to do so moving forward. Failure to comply with the instructions in this letter will result in disciplinary measures that can range from written warnings and loss of university privileges to semester-long suspensions and, if necessary, permanent removal from the university.

Together Forward

The actions we’re taking might seem harsh and too challenging, but they are precedented by other universities and provide students and NIU the necessary time and precautions to be able to prevent an outbreak. I have confidence that if you work together as Huskies, and take this situation and each other’s well-being seriously, that we will see improvement and can resume our semester plans. Your fellow Huskies and the DeKalb community are counting on you.

We will provide you with a status update prior to our intended return on Sept. 28.

Together Forward,

Lisa C. Freeman

President