University Senate discusses response to University closure

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The University Senate addressed concerns about the Spring semester closure in a meeting Monday night.  Photo by Avery Bikerman/The Daily Campus

The University Senate addressed concerns about the Spring semester closure in a meeting Monday night. Photo by Avery Bikerman/The Daily Campus

The University of Connecticut Senate addressed concerns and questions about the university’s spring-semester closure, as well as recognizing the successes the University has had in the transition to online coursework at a meeting on Monday night.

“A note of gratitude and appreciation to all of you,” UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said, calling the University’s successful response to the crisis a “result of hard work and adaptability.” 

Katsouleas emphasized the successes UConn Health and faculty research have had focusing their efforts on the crisis. 

“If you look at UConn Health, they have prepared effectively for the surge,” Katsouleas said. “They are treating a couple dozen patients, giving them the highest level of care.” 

Katsouleas said donations of thousands of surgical masks, equipped with 3D-printer technology to ensure high-grade protections for the UConn healthcare workers, are being kept as back up. 

The president also praised the research UConn faculty members have completed, and said they have already received five new Rapid Research Grants and a patent disclosure. 

While it was emphasized that no plans have been implemented as of now, Katsouleas addressed the different scenarios and challenges of student re-entry for the fall semester, such as possible restrictions on population density, or the start of the semester being delayed entirely if the current outbreak has not died down enough by then. 

“To do detailed scenario planning for implementation would be a little premature at this point,” Katsouleas said. “But I don’t think it’s premature for we, as faculty, staff and students, to think about what re-entry might look like.” 

The president also recognized that much of the country will be “financially-staggered” upon re-entry, and that the University is facing a $30 million loss in revenue in response to student refunds on dining and housing services. He said it is premature to make any final decisions on how UConn’s monetary stimulus package from the federal government will be used.

“The stimulus package has about $10 million in it that can be used to take a bite out of that $30 million,” Katsouleas said “But we are going to be looking to some additional help from the state, and the state is going to be looking to us be a part of the solution to that problem as well.”

Katsouleas said there will possibly be reduction in non-essential budgets. 

Concerns such as the safety of students returning to housing and effects on graduate school admissions were also addressed in the meeting. 

Katsouleas, as well as Interim Provost John A. Elliot, were both hopeful that graduate schools would be flexible when admitting undergraduate students who have elected to switch some course grading to the pass/fail system. 

“Intent would be for admitting programs to be flexible and remove prior restrictions,” Katsouleas said, explaining it was up to individual graduate schools to admit students based on their own policies regarding pass/fail grading. 

When asked how the university will ensure dorms are safe to return to, whether to move out personal belongings or move back in during the spring semester, Katsouleas said the university will be following guidelines and restrictions in order to ensure the health and safety of returning students. 

“What we have had to do on the Storrs campus is identify specific buildings that we needed for the medical care of our students that are currently living on our campus,” Dean of Students Eleanor Daugherty said. “We also anticipated state need and we have a building available, should the state need it. But they have not requested it.” 

In terms of admissions, so far there has been no early indicator of decreasing student enrollment due to financial hardship from the crisis, Katsouleas said. 

Katsouleas also addressed challenges incoming and returning international students may face traveling back to Connecticut for the fall semester. He highlighted that the university will be holding a virtual town hall April 14 to answer questions and concerns of international students. 

Later in the meeting, the senate voted for ENGL 1007 to be worth four credits and become a prerequisite course for all W courses, as it possibly will eventually replace first-year writing courses such as ENGL 1010 and 1011. 

Student Health and Wellness also announced that the President’s Task Force on Student Health and Wellness (SHaW) launched their website on Monday. 

SHaW also announced their plans for the 2020 fall semester, such as adding evening hours  and the implementation of online scheduling for better student accessibility.

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Amanda Kilyk is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at amanda.kilyk@uconn.edu

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