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UVenus Reponds to COVID-19

How has COVID-19 impacted you and how is your campus responding?

March 24, 2020
 
 

Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

This is a question that is on everyone’s minds, but especially those of us who work in centers on campus having to do with distance/online/hybrid learning (don’t believe me, check out the POD Listserv discussion on this very topic). On our campus, we’re refining what resources we’ve already developed for any sort of interruption in instructional continuity as well as going all-hands-on-deck to support faculty in rethinking their courses. This is, of course, on top of whatever precautions the university itself is instituting. More worrisome for me is if the K-12 system shuts down. Already, my daughter has an acute sense of justice and fairness, and she is worried about those who might not have reliable internet or computer access at home, as well as the quality of her distance/online learning experience. What will kids who rely on schools for two of their three meals do? What will this mean for parents who can’t take time off to stay home with their kids? I wish there were ways to better coordinate our responses, to share our resources and expertise.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

We are a quarter school, and finals officially ended Saturday a few hours before Illinois’ shelter-in-place order took effect. “Nonessential” staff began working remotely last Tuesday. As of today, the entire university community has entered a 14-day period in which we will depend upon the diligence of those charged with tracing contacts among those who already have and the exponentially increasing numbers of those who will test positive for COVID-19.

Anna CohenMiller, Nazabaryev University, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

I live in Kazakhstan and just became a part of the nationwide state of emergency. As an international university, the campus houses not only a large student population, but also some staff and a large number of faculty. This means that in addition to figuring out how to move all courses online, there are exceptional details to determine for life on campus. There are some unique cases living in an international university in this regard. For instance, a few women are pregnant or expecting children soon and need to return to their home country. So, questions emerge about when and if they can travel.

While there is great stress over all (as there is worldwide), the support of the campus leadership is exceptionally clear. Faculty, staff and students receive regular updates via email on the latest changes and where to go for help. We have just had our second virtual town hall meeting with the president of the university. They created a form to ask questions in advance, answered most of them live and confirmed they will answer all questions asked prior and during the event in written form. Knowing there is a platform to use and seeing the follow-up definitely helps ease the overall anxiety that many people are feeling.

Most students will be sent home, and everyone is working to find solutions for those who might face issues of accessibility or support as classes move to online teaching. Fortunately, spring break is coming up, which allows for a bit more flexibility in timing and preparation. As someone who has worked in education and online learning for many years, I have been working on developing and consolidating online teaching resources, such as remembering to manage expectations or join with others to discuss ideas on online teaching.

The most important messages I hear on-campus address equity, accessibility, and creative solutions. The concept of coming together as a community. In other words, if we are all in this together, none of us are alone (even if quarantined, such as some faculty have faced, yet they were supported by their whole department and university). And none of us are facing anything insurmountable.

Mary Churchill, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

Boston, Massachusetts and the United States have all declared states of emergency. Each day (or is it hour?) seems to bring additional cancellations and temporary closures. I work at a university. My partner works at a university. Our son is in ninth grade, and all K-12 schools in the state have closed. The three of us are finding ways to work and live together while being home 24-7. Each day brings with it new words and phrases: global pandemic, social distancing, remote teaching, fluid situation and rapidly changing environment. I’ve had several online meetings via Zoom today, and while folks seem stunned, we are also concerned with the more vulnerable and in trying to support one another and others in our communities during this challenging time.

Meg Palladino, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Yale has moved all courses online through the rest of the spring semester and sent all nonessential employees to work from home. Decisions on the impacts of all of this are made on a day-to-day basis: employee policies, academic policies and other decisions are changing daily as this evolves. My office, Summer Session, is wondering how this will impact summer enrollment, and even if we will be able to use the campus this summer. I’ve been working from home; my 7-year-old is in the background of every Zoom call, on his tablet. We’ve been taking nature walks on our lunch breaks. It’s a strange time.

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