BGSU President Rodney Rogers is hoping to announce mid-June whether students, staff and faculty will return to in-person schooling this fall. He offered a preview of potential face-to-face measures as well as other COVID-19-related updates at Thursday’s virtual town hall.
The status of fall semester
During the assembly inside the Bowen-Thompson Student Union, Rogers addressed questions submitted via Facebook Live and email, including concern for fall semester.
“We humans, we want to learn from each other, we want to work together … what we are planning on the fall, is to make sure that, if we are face-to-face in the fall, that we are putting all kinds of ways in which we can guarantee social distancing,” he said.
This would include increased sanitization on campus, monitoring of student, staff and faculty health and isolation measures for those who may be infected with COVID-19.
Students living on campus would likely experience altered residence life, including reduced housing options based on capacity and health guidelines.
In addition, Rogers said fall athletics would continue in accordance with the NCAA and other conference officiation. Homecoming, which is planned for October, will still tentatively take place.
However, Rogers said a final decision for the fall semester is unknown at this time.
Specialized courses, such as flight school and laboratories, will be dependent on state-level guidelines, and until a final decision can be made, they will continue being delivered virtually.
“I’ll have to commend our faculty in sciences … (and) studio arts. They’ve been very creative in providing experiences this spring for those laboratory and studio-type experiences. We will continue to deliver these type of experiences this summer,” Provost Joe B. Whitehead said.
Study abroad is also pending, and will be based on safety protocol. Rogers said that a virtual format is possible.
University budget cuts, rental fees and the effect on students and staff
Rogers addressed the $26-27 million budget cut that the university is projected to face in 2021 and 2022, stating it would not increase student tuition, but will lead to a reduction in spending.
“The budget reduction is not insignificant, and as such, we are trying to be strategic in thinking about certain areas that we will need to back off from, we will need to eliminate some duplicate initiatives, perhaps,” he said.
He said this will impact some employment at BGSU.
The university has modeled a 20% reduction in state-share of instruction, and as it takes effect, Rogers expects a decline in enrollment for the fall semester, and is looking for potential fundraisers or scholarships to assist students financially in the future.
Rogers, after addressing BGSU’s rationale for dining and housing refunds, said out-of-state fees for the spring semester will remain unchanged at this point, but fees for online summer courses will be decided next week.
For off-campus rental conflicts, he said the university wants to assist students in any way possible, but might not be able to help with all issues, as many locations are private businesses.
“We want to be a part of that solution, if we can find a way that provides our students with flexibility with those issues,” Rogers said.
Beyond the spring semester
Going forward, Ohio is scheduled to reopen segments of the economy on May 1, but the university will maintain its social distancing guidelines, with most faculty and staff working from home or on paid leave.
He said BGSU is in close communication with Wood County officials regarding COVID-19’s effect on the area. As of April 23, Wood County has 105 confirmed cases, 40 hospitalizations and 15 deaths from the virus.
For summer orientation, incoming students will attend a virtual version of the SOAR program.
“The initial engagement will be virtual, and then we’ll keep communicating with students throughout the summer,” Whitehead said.
Current students who were unable to move items out of their residence hall will have access to their dorms when Ohio’s stay-at-home order is lifted.
“We don’t have an exact date of that yet, although he’s discussed May 1 as a goal to move towards,” he said.
Residence Life will inform students when dates are decided. The move-out process will include social distancing guidelines to minimize the number of people in the buildings.
According to Whitehead, the College of Health and Human Services is looking to develop courses geared towards epidemiology and pandemic response.
“We’re looking at more than just degree programs … (we’re) looking at bundling courses together so that a person can get the expertise and knowledge needed in a short period of time, and we have flexibility to change those courses as the need changes,” he said.
The university will also develop additional targeted online programs to benefit “students and society as a whole” in the future, according to Whitehead.
In recalling the period before spring break, Rogers announced that Starship delivery robots, introduced to campus in March, have begun delivery into the city, which will continue into the summer.
In closing, he said the university will continue to release new information to the public as it is released. He also emphasized that students, faculty and staff need to continue working together through the pandemic.
“There’s going to be some difficult decisions to be made as we go through and make certain decisions,” Rogers said. “It will make us stronger, it will make us more adaptable, it will make us more resilient … Bowling Green State University will come out stronger on that other side.”
Students can read updates on the university’s COVID-19 protocol at bgsu.edu/coronavirus.html. Students can read about the virus, submit questions and recommendations regarding its protocol, and donate or apply for the Student Emergency Fund.