Update March 20, 2020
President Nora Miller and SGA President John Jacob Miller answer questions from students, faculty, and staff regarding The W's response to COVID-19.
What kinds of concerns are you hearing from our students?
Our students have expressed many concerns and we want them to know that we were hearing them and know that their concerns are valid. Some of the main concerns we here resolved around all of the unknown factors that will come into play over the rest of the semester. Many students don't know how to take online classes, what services will be available to them, and there are even some questions revolving around food insecurity. We are taking every one of these concerns seriously and are communicating with University offices and developing plans to address each one.
What is SGA doing to engage students in light of social distancing?
SGA understands the importance of social distancing and are encouraging all students to take their health seriously at this time period we still represent every student and strive to make sure their needs are met. We're taking every effort to keep lines of communication open and to ensure students know their voices are heard and valued. We have had students reach out to The Facebook page, SGA officers, the senators, and myself personally. We want students to know that we are available my email, phone, email, the SGA Facebook page, FaceTime, and zoom.
What will the SGA campaign and election process look like this year?
So, the SGA election process will be a little bit different this year Due to the necessary social distancing protocols we have in place. Thankfully, students will be able to vote using canvas again this year, so students will not face any undue stress to vote. The campaigning process will look much different as students will not be on campus as they normally would. We will be encouraging social media advertising and will work with the candidates to discuss hey zoom candidate forum come on other options.
In addition to instruction, we are also able to provide a number of other services online – tutoring, library resources, counseling services – even on-line workout routines from the Owls Nest. Are there other things that we could do to support students online?
Going forward, understand that communication is vital to the success of our students. Now that our setting has changed, we will be pushed to explore new avenues of communication and learning. And I think that all of us, students - faculty, staff, and administration - will need a little grace in the coming weeks. We will all be faced with new circumstances we could not have planned for, so be kind. We will undoubtedly find new challenges and hardships we could not have anticipated, and we will work to resolve them together.
What would you like to say to any student that feels upset as a result of the necessary social distancing measures?
I understand the stress, grief, and perhaps even anger that you are feeling. I know how upsetting it is to lose things you cherish because of a situation you cannot control; I feel the same way. I never imagined this would be the capstone of my senior year and studies here at The W. But we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation comma and thus we must face it with unprecedented action. And while it hurts to miss the traditions like mag chain and homecoming that we love so much, that was never what The W was about. We are an institution of our people, and the health and safety of our people is what is most important, now and always. By sacrificing this time, you have helped combat the unmitigated spread of this global pandemic in our community, and all over the world.
Has the academic calendar been modified?
To allow students maximum flexibility to adapt to their new learning environment and to account for the loss of an instructional week due to the extension of spring break, students may now withdraw or drop a Full or Accelerated Term course until April 24 (previously April 9). Students may now also drop or withdraw without receiving a grade of WP or WF for Accelerated Term II until April 9 (previously March 24).
Many of the places that students utilized to take proctored exams are now closed, and other proctor sites charge fees that weren’t included in our course fees. How is this being addressed?
As a result, courses may not require a proctored examination to complete course requirements unless doing so is required to meet a licensure standard. This is effective for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester in all courses, regardless of the course's initial delivery method.
Courses that began as face-to-face may consider their students twice authenticated due to their physical presence in the face-to-face portion of the course earlier in the semester. Existing online courses that have yet to perform their second authentication may choose from other authentication methods that are no-cost, low-stress, and low-technology.
Many students are upset or anxious as a result of the Coronavirus and the necessary prevention methods taken by the University. What steps are you and the administration taking to address these concerns?
It’s perfectly natural for us all to be upset and anxious in this time. We are asking everyone first to take a deep breath and let it out. There are resources available – such as tele-counseling. Campus Recreation is posting “Owls in the Nest” workouts on Facebook. These are great ways to deal with stress and exercise helps to boost your immune system.
What steps is the University taking to protect the campus community and proactively anticipate and address student concerns?
We are limiting access to campus so that we are exposed to few people. Cleaning has been stepped up. We are sharing CDC and Mississippi Department of Health materials and following their guidance.
The student emergency fund can provide limited assistance to students. Student Life/SGA has provided links to resources and direct aid for students.
How do you think this pandemic will affect MUW going forward? How do you think this will impact commencement and the campus environment next year?
On a positive note, I think this will move us to more online delivery of services and to improve the workflow of processes. We will be more adept at providing instruction through online delivery and other remote methods. And we will have a greater appreciation for each other and for being able to come together.
We have already announced that our May commencement and related events will be postponed until it is safe to have large gatherings again. What that will look like, or when it can be – we just don’t know. We ask for your input in how to do this.