University of Minnesota Regents discuss possible changes to allow for in-person learning this fall

With in-person classes canceled for the rest of the spring semester, the University of Minnesota campus is nearly empty of students. (FOX 9)

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents considered a wide range of changes for the coming fall semester during a meeting Thursday.

The changes range from starting classes earlier to mandating masks.

“The sooner we bring them back, the more instruction we know we can complete,” said University President Joan Gabel. “Or there might be a change in circumstance.”

The Regents worked Thursday to cover every possible corner of campus that could be impacted by COVID-19. The group made some recommendations during the meeting, including resuming some in-person instruction.

Which classes will be on campus and which will be at a distance are still to be determined.

“Not every class will be offered in every modality, but there will be a robust offering of distance education if for no other reason, there won’t be enough physical classrooms to achieve social distancing and offer all courses in person,” Gabel said.

Regardless, it’s being recommended in-person instruction will end by Thanksgiving with several Regents supporting the possibility of starting the semester at least a few days early.

The University is working with landlords to help make an earlier start more feasible, mainly because it is looking for more flexibility to pivot sooner should public health conditions require changes later in the fall.

Mandating masks be worn is also up for debate. Gabel pointed out wearing masks on campus is already a strong recommendation, but not a requirement.

“Faculty, of course, can set whatever they want within their own classroom. That is part of their academic freedom,” Gabel said. “If they want students to wear masks, that is a different conversation, just like they might not want students to have phones on their desks.”

“I just think we are moving in the right direction,” she added. “Yes, there is a risk, there is no doubt, there is a risk of life, but I think the risk is greater if we do not have in-person classes.”