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HBCU campuses set to safely reopen with help of TMCF, UNCF : TheGrio

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Spelman College (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox)

Thurgood Marshall College Fund and United Negro College Fund partnered with Testing For America to help reopen HBCUs during the pandemic.

Since the beginning of March, UNCF and TMCF have been collectively working with their member schools to prepare plans for crisis management, stabilization, and how to safely reopen campuses across the nation. The two organizations have enrolled over 300,00 students at more than 80 HBCUs with a dedication to promoting academic excellence within the black community. 

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“All institutions must be able to test when they reopen for in-person instruction — whether this fall or 2021,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax. “TFA’s ability to link us to high-quality providers, coupled with other safety guidance and financial support, will bring necessary, continuous, and reliable testing to entire campus communities. We are happy to partner with TFA on this critical work to help our campuses and students successfully navigate this pandemic.”

Testing for America is a nonprofit organization with a mission to permanently reopen businesses, schools, and the US economy by providing accessible, affordable, and frequent testing and screening. In correspondence with their mission, TFA will be supporting HBCUs to safely reopen by offering COVID-19 testing plans for students, faculty, and staff in partnership with UNCF and TMCF. 

Dr. Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University, will be launching this program at DSU, along with another half-dozen HBCUs on August 25. theGrio discussed DSU’s reopening plan with Dr. Allen and the importance of offering an on-campus option for HBCU students for the fall semester. 

Janelle Monae Talks "HIDDEN FIGURES" with Atlanta HBCU Students at Spelman Convocation
Spelman students watch a screening of ‘Hidden Figures.’ (Credit: Getty Images)

Dr. Allen, the 12th university president at DSU, emphasized the importance of offering the safest possible environment for HBCU students on campus, primarily due to the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on people of color. With this in mind, Dr. Allen knew that it was essential to bring DSU students back safely. 

“It was important for us [reopening campuses] because we know that many of the students think of the university as home. We want to make their home as safe as possible using the best science, which is why Testing for America has been so great for us,” Dr. Allen told theGrio

For fall university reopening plans, DSU and many other HBCUs are planning to enforce strict protocols like social distancing, mandatory masks, contact tracing, and a hybrid of virtual and in-person classes. There are even special accommodation dormitories that offer quarantine and isolation for students who test positive.

At Delaware State specifically, Dr. Allen is planning to do random samplings of tests among the university community, with more frequent testing for high-risk populations like athletes.

In the fall, 85% of classes will be offered virtually with limits to large crowds. The in-person courses that makeup 15% will mostly be STEM-based classes that require labs and extensive research. With limited in-person interaction, DSU will implement a daily cleaning protocol in line with state and federal guidelines.

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“Students can continue their classroom instruction remotely if they so choose, but we do know that many students want to come back and we want to make sure that it is safe for them to do so,” said Dr. Allen

Dr. Allen emphasized that students and staff looking after themselves and others is imperative. “

HBCUs are a very different kind of excellence and care,” he explained. “Those that are here [HBCUs] and connected to our institutions believe in their survival and importance. They want to be a part of the solution, so I think our students will respond in the right way.”

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With the unforeseen circumstances associated with COVID-19, Dr. Allen has plans in place to adjust protocols accordingly.

“If the conditions on the ground, change, whether they change, more favorably or worsen. We will take the necessary protocols,” Dr. Allen told theGrio.

With the support of Testing for America partnered with UNCF and TMCF, DSU and over half-dozen other HBCUs will be able to reopen campuses across the nation safely. 

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