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Virtual Town Hall Updates Students on Future Plans

By Lily Sperber

Students, faculty, and staff came together on Friday for a virtual town hall.

Administration and staff from across campus held a virtual town hall event on Zoom this past Friday, to inform students of upcoming plans. Topics included plans for summer and fall classes, grading policies, refunds, and resources for students.

“Reopening in the fall is going to be very complicated,” said provost and vice president of Academic Affairs Barry Pearson, responding to one of students most significant concerns.

Pearson went on to say that the density of people on campus will likely need to remain low and discussed what the college is expecting and preparing for in terms of classes in the fall.

“We are planning to start the semester at least remotely, but as soon as we can, and as quickly as we can, we will transition to face-to-face,” said Pearson.

As announced earlier this semester, summer courses will be entirely online, with the possibility of changing to hybrid or in-person delivery if health restrictions change in the coming months.

In terms of performance-based programs, the administration is considering using the winter term to allow students to perform or exhibit their work, depending on future regulations for density on college campuses.

“We’re talking about what that would look like for the second half of the [fall] semester or, if we needed to use our winter term, to use that as what we’re calling a floating performance block,” said Pearson. “We could get six weeks to do a couple of productions, music concerts, dance concerts, and exhibitions.”

Another concern of students was refunds for the current semester, which are still in the works and should be processed before the end of the semester next week.

“The majority of students have seen their refunds posted,” said Patricia Bice, interim vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “We’re still working our way through some of the accounts. I hope by the end of next week, all will be completed.”

Most refunded fees were prorated based around the dates of March 20 to May 12. These fees include the athletic, transportation, and student activity fees, as well as certain course fees, housing, and meal plan costs.

For students who need additional assistance financially, applying for the Petrie grant or the new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant are options to consider. While funding for the CARES grant is still being processed, students will receive an email when the application is available. For the Petrie grant, more information, as well as the application, can be found on the college’s website.

If students need other assistance, they should reach out to members of the administration or specific departments directly for support in their various circumstances.

Regarding an alternative commencement for graduating seniors in December, Interim President Dennis Craig described the college’s dedication to holding this on campus but wasn’t certain what this would look like or if the date would remain the same.

“The college is committed to having an in-person commencement,” said Craig. “It’s certainly something we hold dear to us and a tradition we want to continue. An email went out with a tentative date of December 18. Everyone knows this is a fluid situation, and convening in mass groups will require guidance and more specifics. No student should graduate from here without having that, and as the situation becomes less fluid, we’ll have more information to share.”

Decisions about future plans are still being determined and based on the safety of all members of the campus.

“All of this is going to be driven by being able to keep everyone safe and free of any danger of contracting the virus,” said Pearson. “We won’t bring anybody back onto campus until it’s absolutely safe. If social distancing can’t keep students safe, we won’t bring students back on campus.”



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