Throughout this past year, access to campus facilities has undergone changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Due to the onset of the pandemic, the Ohio University Facilities Management and Safety, or FMS, created a webpage designated for communicating the access status of facilities on all OU campuses. The page shows three different conditions for facilities: closed, restricted and limited.
No one can enter closed facilities unless they call FMS in advance to reserve access. Restricted facilities are off-limits for visitors but are used by some occupants who have been given access. Limited facilities are closed to visitors outside of OU, but all students, faculty and staff have swipe access. The implementation of these conditions is one way FMS has been able to heighten safety measures in response to the pandemic.
“When COVID occurred last March of 2020, and as we evaluated the actions we could take, we looked at limiting access to university facilities to preclude the possible spread of the disease,” Steve Wood, chief facilities officer, said.
This was done to limit the possible transmission of the virus throughout the OU community.
“I could make up an example to say: if somebody in the College of Fine Arts is with one friend group and faculty, etcetera, and they happen to get sick, we wanted to limit their ability to transmit that to somebody at the College of Engineering,” Wood said.
As COVID-19 progressed, Wood said there have been various iterations to facility conditions. Each semester has experienced changes based on what functions are going on and what students need access to, he said.
Wood said the growing availability of vaccines and continued guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Ohio Department of Health could likely have an impact on usage of facilities in the upcoming semesters.
To gain access to certain facilities, Ohio University staff contacts FMS to inform them who needs access. FMS is then in charge of granting access to the requested individuals. FMS gains data of who has access to facilities, but Wood said this data is not actively used in any way. Rather, it is more of a byproduct of having an electronic access control system, he said.
For example, if a staff member was to call FMS and ask when a student last visited a particular office, FMS can go through the process of retrieving and communicating that data.
Another instance of data collection is the number of swipes a facility receives and the number of individual users who have accessed it. From the data given by FMS, it appears there is no particular pattern as to which facilities are most often used.
Notably, Grover Center is listed as restricted, yet it gets considerably more swipes and users than most other facilities. The Life Sciences Building, listed as limited, has one of the lowest number of users at 178 but receives some of the most swipes at 9,606. One of the highly accessed outliers is Alden Library. Between March 1 and April 1 of this year, Alden received 24,541 swipes from a total of 2,681 users.
Though the number of visitors in a single month may seem high, Kelly Broughton, assistant dean for Research and Education Services, University Libraries, said the visitation is drastically lower than it was during pre-pandemic semesters.
“Our total number of visitors to Alden Library during Fall Semester 2019 was around 470,000. The total number of visitors to Alden Library during Fall Semester 2020 was around 32,000,” Broughton said in an email.
Despite the lower visitation, Alden has still promoted safety measures throughout the building, including social distancing and limited public access to the second and fourth floors, Broughton said.
Chase Harrison, a freshman studying business management, said he notices a significant difference in the student population at some of the facilities he uses. This includes Ping Recreation Center, which he had been to prior to the pandemic.
“It was always packed. All three floors were occupied at all times, and now, it’s only one floor, (which) is occupied like 50% of the time,” Harrison said.
Harrison believes having access to more facilities in the upcoming Fall Semester will be beneficial in a variety of ways.
“I would love to use all those buildings because I think they’re great resources given to us by the university,” Harrison said. “With our tuition, we’re paying for those buildings, so I’d like to obviously be able to use them, and I think it would help me academically, socially and physically.”