Campus Readiness Team prepares for upcoming semester


Courtesy / GVSU

Rachel Matuszewski

Grand Valley State University’s campus has been quieter for the past academic year. The halls of the Kirkhof Center are mostly empty, there are now open seats in the library on Sunday nights, and the sidelines for sporting events hold smaller crowds.

This might not be the college experience students expected, however, the Campus Readiness Team is preparing for the fall semester to look different.

In a campus-wide email sent by GVSU President Philomena Mantella in March, the Campus Readiness Team was created to set guidelines for people who are interested in holding events on campus. They have had three weekly meetings thus far to discuss academics, athletics, events and more.

“We have to have a consistent message and follow a process,” said Campus Readiness Team Co-Chair Rence Meredith. 

The guidelines that will be put into place surround in-person events on campus and provide an outline for what people securing space for these events need to be aware of. There are several people involved in this discussion, including people in camps, those in event planning and conferences, dining and athletics. 

“We’re just looking at all the parameters around that and trying to figure out how do we best handle all the requests that might come in because we don’t want to turn anybody away,” said Meredith. 

Anyone looking to host an event on campus will sign up through the Office of Student Life once it meets the event matrix guidelines.

When signing up for an event, the event holder needs to make a variety of decisions. This includes the event’s location to reserve, putting in a work order for facility services in case the event needs extra cleaning such as PPE, or a list of items to add to the space such as tables, chairs and hand sanitizer. The dining option alerts staff if boxed lunches or meals will need to be supplied. Finally, safety considerations are also part of the decisions on whether GVPD needs to be contacted.

Tim Thimmesch, the other co-chair of the Campus Readiness Team, said he hopes to bring in-person learning to 80% or 90% this coming fall. 

One of the biggest challenges surrounding the Campus Readiness Team is the uncertainty of the course of COVID-19. The Campus Readiness Team works to abide by every new and changing guideline.

“It’s really the uncertainty around COVID and the percentage of the number of people who have been vaccinated versus the number that haven’t, and how do we blend the two and make sure that everybody’s still safe,” Meredith said. “We’re not stepping outside the boundaries of the guidelines and the public health orders.”

Health precautions at GVSU have instilled plans throughout the year that have been put in place by the Incident Management Team. They have been working since February of last year and the beginning of the pandemic to ensure safety and cleaning protocols were implemented, such as cleaning public areas and ensuring air is exchanged within buildings through the HVAC systems. Meredith said the protocols the university has put into place would work whether the pandemic grew worse or better.

The whole process has taught Meredith and Thimmesch to be flexible, adapt and pivot with ever-changing plans and circumstances.

“The goal of the group is to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to do that.” Meredith said. “That’s the goal of senior leadership all the way up to President Mantella. Let’s give college students the experience they were expecting their entire life, that they were planning to go to college in 9th grade in high school and on or whatever that looked like, let’s try and get to that point where we can provide that experience and get them back to normal.”

Courtesy / GVSU