University Communications fields your questions about the switch to online classes

On March 11, The Valley Vanguard asked readers on Facebook their questions about SVSU’s decision to move to online only classes in light of the coronavirus outbreak. J.J. Boehm, interim executive director of University Communications, answered the most-asked questions from Facebook. Below are his responses.

Why is SVSU cancelling in-person classes until April 17?

We looked at (April 17) as that is the last week of regularly scheduled classes for the semester. If health protocols dictate it is safe to resume in-person instruction at that time, that may allow for a more orderly conclusion to the semester. By the same token, if the guidance is that we need to continue to take measures to minimize large gatherings, we may extend it beyond that.

What will the switch to online classes look like?

We are working to make the transition to online and remote instruction as quickly as we can. We will be hosting a number of workshops for faculty Thursday and Friday to make sure we make this transition as seamless as possible for them and for students.

SVSU sent out a survey asking students about their ability to access classes online. Are the results of the survey known yet?

I do not have that information yet, but we are concerned about (student access to internet). A lot of our students come from rural areas where broadband may be limited, even if it is available. So, we do have to consider our student population and their unique needs. We’re trying to be as mindful as we can possibly be of what is in their best interests.

Will RSOs still be able to meet?

Based on my understanding, (RSOs) would be a small gathering. Make sure you’re practicing good hygiene and following those proper precautions that we all should be doing. At this time, those would not be canceled. This is a rapidly changing environment, so we may issue new guidelines with relatively little notice. But right now, RSO meetings and things of that nature can continue.

What constitutes a “large” group?

It is my understanding that 100 is the working number to use at least as a benchmark to be looking at what constitutes a large gathering opposed to a small gathering.

Will club and varsity sports be affected?

We have not made final decisions about all of that at this time. We do not have home basketball contests or sporting events that would bring larger crowds scheduled for right now, but we do know those are coming. We do have varsity teams that are scheduled to travel. So, we will be evaluating that and making decisions quickly that pertain to both club sports and varsity athletic programs.

Will services like the library and Ryder Center remain open?

Right now, we are planning to maintain operations for both the Ryder Center and the library. It is possible there could be reduced hours, but we have not made any final decisions about what those hours might be. We are at this time planning to keep those operations open.

Are student workers expected to still come to work?

For the remainder of this week, if you are a student employee, you are certainly welcome to come in. Any student who feels uncomfortable going to class should notify his or her instructor. If they feel uncomfortable coming in for an advising appointment or a student job, they should notify their supervisor. We want students to feel empowered to make their own decisions regarding their health and welfare.

Will large events such as commencements, the graduation fair and career fairs be canceled?

We have thought about them. We have not made any final decisions regarding those events. The guidance we are receiving from local, state and federal agencies is changing almost daily. So, we want to be mindful of that, particularly with something as important to students and families as commencement. We would want to hold that ceremony if at all possible in whatever way possible. We have some time before we make our final decisions.

Do residential students have to vacate their dorms?

Our plan at this time is that residence halls and campus dining will remain open. We are going to make some adjustments with campus dining to make some more ‘grab and go’ options and take other steps to reduce communal dining, but our residence halls and campus dining will remain open at this time. I have not personally heard what the ‘grab and go’ options are, but I know those are options we are looking into.

What will happen to classes with labs or clinicals?

We are working diligently to work through those specialized academic concerns for classes with labs, senior design or things of that nature that have very specific requirements. We will be working with faculty and the deans to come up with guidance for students and professors in those unique situations.

SVSU said its “leadership team” has been working with the Saginaw County Health Department. Who is on this team? What have they been doing? 

On the call (March 11) was myself; President Bachand; Deb Huntley, the provost; Jim Muladore, who is our vice president for administration and business affairs; and Ellen Crane from our General Counsel. The five of us were on the call with the health department (March 11). From the SVSU team, I know Jim Muladore and members of his staff have been in communication on a daily basis for a week or more.

Did SVSU anticipate switching to online courses?

We had known for some time that this was moving quickly across the country. I saw (March 10) how quickly things were moving in Ohio, which is a neighboring state. That gave some guidance that things were moving in this direction. It wasn’t until I woke up (March 11) that I saw there were confirmed cases in Michigan. But, yes. We have been actively planning for possible scenarios, including this one. We don’t have every ‘i’ dotted or every ‘t’ crossed, but we are going to work through those to the best of our abilities as quickly as possible.

The Vanguard will update the story as more information is provided.

Kaitlyn Farley

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