UNLV officials answer student questions and provide insight to upcoming changes during Student Town Hall

UNLV President Keith Whitfield joined the UNLV student town hall to discuss issues ahead of the upcoming school year. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services)

At the Student Town Hall held before the start of the fall semester, UNLV officials informed students of upcoming changes to the fall semester and answered student questions such as delta variant impacts, dorm-life, and student resources. 

The process of preparing for the fall semester began in January. However, various factors involving COVID-19 have forced staff to repeatedly adjust. In Nevada, positive COVID-19 cases decreased in June, but the Delta variant has caused additional concern to return the campus back to normal.

“It’s not going the way we had hoped it was going,” UNLV’s Executive Vice President and Provost Chris Heavey said. “The summer hasn’t played out the way that we hoped it would.”

Heavey addressed that one issue the community has faced is how vaccination rates were lower than expected. As mentioned by The Nevada Independent, 40 percent of those in Clark county are fully vaccinated while 10 percent are partially vaccinated. Nearly 34 percent of the population in Clark County, who are able to be vaccinated, choose not to. 

According to Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and associate professor Brian Labus, case numbers seem to have leveled off since cases have peaked. Despite this, Labus notes that transmission rates remain high at 16.9%, according to KLAS 8NewsNow. 

Additionally, Labus mentions that 18-49 year olds are most likely to become infected yet less likely to be vaccinated. 

With all of this considered, the faculty’s main focus has been figuring out how they can bring campus-life back in the safest way possible.

A student asked if vaccine records will be mandated at UNLV. That decision is up to the State Board of Health, and it will be discussed during the first week of September, according to Labus and Associate Vice President for Student Wellness Jamie Davidson

In terms of on-campus housing, Director of Student Life Victoria McClain explained that students are welcome to return, but there will be precautionary changes made to facilities. The dorms will be adding student COVID-19 response providers who will aid in tracing cases and provide resources for physical and mental health. 

A concerned parent asked how students in dorms will keep infection rates low. President Kevin Whitfield answered by saying residents must get vaccinated and commit to limiting exposure. 

“The vaccine is the only way of protecting ourselves,” Whitfield said. “We’re seeing people in your age group die and it really bothers me to hear.” 

Additionally, departments have been asked by UNLV leaders to move some high demand classes to remote-learning, according to Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Lauren Pritchard

Students who have a class moved from in-person to remote-learning will be informed through email. If a student chooses to, they can swap a remote-learning section for an in-person section. 

Also, classes that were switched will not be charged a web-based fee, which is implemented for classes that were initially planned to be online. 

In regards to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading this upcoming semester, that decision is up to the Nevada System of Higher Education. Pritchard warns that it may not be a possibility this upcoming semester as S/U grading was implemented for the sudden changes to remote-learning. Pritchard has been researching data from S/U grading and will continue to look at the data, she says in the Student Town Hall. 

“Learning has been more challenging for students during the pandemic, and we’re working with faculty everyday to support them to support your learning,” Pritchard said. 

For students who are new to campus, there is an event called “Dude, Where’s My Class” that offers students a tour of where classes are. It will be held prior to Welcome Week on Aug. 20 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Welcome Week will have in-person events that students can attend, according to Associate Vice President of Student Life Renee Watson.

In regards to safety on campus, Director of University Police Services Southern Command Adam Garcia mentions UNLV’s safety app that can connect students to university dispatch or provide an officer escort for students and staff. 

For additional resources related to academics, financial aid, food, housing, security and mental health, students can contact Vice President for Student Affairs Juanita Fain or visit the website for the Division of Student Affairs


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