UT interim president takes the reins of Rocket Restart

The University of Toledo is headed back to campus for in-person classes August 17 for the first time since early March.
Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 8:30 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - UT’s Interim President Gregory Postel is leading the efforts to ensure safety when welcoming students and staff back to campus in the midst of a pandemic.

“Our number one priority is student safety, and then behind that number two is quality of education. So those are the two things that guide all of our decision making. We can’t do anything that’s unsafe and we can’t do anything that lessens the quality of our education,” Dr. Postel said.

The University of Toledo under Interim President Postel’s leadership has spent the entire summer developing ways to balance safety and proper education on campus.

Postel, who had previously served as a special advisor to the Board of Trustees, was named interim president on July 6 following the departure of Dr. Sharon L. Gaber.

“I’ll say that any interim position, particularly as the President of a large institution like this, it’s going to be difficult. There are going to be a lot of issues to deal with and it depends where you go as to what the issues are. It just so happens that dealing with the coronavirus is one of those things,” Postel said.

Dr. Postel, who was the former interim president and executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Louisville, as well as a licensed neuro-radiologist, is now an active member working to ensure a safe return to campus for the University of Toledo.

“I immediately became an active participant in our COVID-19 planning groups and task forces, and there are people on this campus who are seemingly doing nothing else but looking at what the fall is going to be for the University of Toledo,” Postel said.

Postel and the University of Toledo spent this summer crafting its restart plan entitled, “The Rocket Restart.”

According to the University of Toledo, the plan is structured following the guidance of local, state, and federal health experts as well as government officials. The plan is subject to change at any moment in response to increases in COVID-19 cases.

“Every day there’s tweaking and change to the way things are happening, not just until August 17. It will continue all through the semester as we monitor the virus and its impact on this campus,” Postel said.

With the hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19, the plan requires all students and staff to wear a mask while on campus. The Division of Student Affairs is providing “Rocket Welcome Bags” that feature hand sanitizer, a thermometer, and a cloth face mask to all students.

The Rocket Restart also details the University’s actions on campus, including implementing more frequent cleaning throughout campus, with a focus on disinfecting populated areas.

UT’s plan also details the implementation of 350 new hand sanitizer dispensers placed near and around areas where students and staff frequently use their hands such as stairwells, elevators, and classroom doors.

The plan spotlights a wide variety of facets of campus activity with new guidelines and rules set to limit the exposure or possible spread of COVID-19.

UT’s Rocket Restart also states what happens when a student tests positive.

“This is a very detailed and complex plan as we deal with students who inevitably are going to show to be positive,” Postel said.

The newest addition to the plan states that “all reports of positive or probable COVID-19 cases connected to campus” will be received by a designated group of contacts established by the University.

“We’ve had students test positive already, as you know we have been testing student-athletes who have been on campus already this summer. And we had a small number test positive, as one would expect. It’s in the community so why wouldn’t it be here?” Postel said.

The University of Toledo has COVID-19 testing available for all symptomatic individuals at its Health Science Campus.

Dr. Postel said even with a well thought out action plan in place to combat the virus, keeping students safe requires the effort of everyone.

“Sitting in an administrative building I can’t control what happens to 20,000 students. The only way we are going to have a safe and near normal college experience this fall is if every student and every staff member and every faculty member understands that they are part of the solution to this, because we’re not just protecting ourselves but people we care about. That’s why we have to do this,” Postel said.

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