Members of the administration respond to the university shutdown
Tamonda Griffiths – Editor-in-Chief
Jacob Waring – News Editor
On Wednesday, March 11 Southern’s campus was void of students on the academic East Campus, save for few art students picking up and cleaning up their work.
In a university-wide email Tuesday evening, the community was informed that classes for the remainder of the week would be canceled and following spring break all learning would commence online.
“I would want the students to try to understand that sort of broader notion of the situation and understand that we are making every decision very thoughtfully and in what we think is in the best interests of the health of our community and our larger communities,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree on March 11.
It is important, Tyree said for students who disagree with the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to understand this is a matter of public health, the collective community health and the “nature of this situation.”
The situation, Tyree said is not about whether or not students might get sick but rather they could be a carrier of the virus without even knowing it.
“We have students that are going home to families who maybe they’ve raised or live with older people that are more up at risk,” said Tyree, “or maybe they’re with family members who are being treated for cancer then. So, their immune systems are compromised.”
According to Tyree, Southern is the 17th university in the country to decide to close their institution and transition to online-only courses.
During President Joe Bertolino’s livestream on March 10, regarding the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bertolino, Tyree, and the other vice presidents of the university answered students’ questions and “what if” scenarios about the potential impact on the campus community.
Now, Tyree said the president’s leadership team has been utilizing the five-day shutdown to discuss and think through the complexities of various aspects of the closures such as campus payroll.
“There are factors like some students work on campus paid by federal work-study, where other students have jobs on campus that are institutional dollars,” said Tyree. “The federal government has guidelines that that will be different than just what our institutional practice might be.”
Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Mark Rozewski said on March 11 there is no question the university will be impacted substantially financially.
“We really don’t [know,]” said Rozewski, “because so many specifics are yet to be known. How long will the dorms be closed? How long will people not have access to the meal plan they paid for? — All these kinds of things that are going to vastly affect the financial impact.”
Rozewski said the university’s custodial staff will be getting paid overtime to conduct a “deep-cleaning” of all touchable surfaces on the campus. As a result, he said payroll cost will soar.
“Maybe someday they’ll be federal funds or some emergency declaration that might come back to us,” said Rozewski. “That can take years, that’s happened.”
Rozewski said the university just recently received such funding in response to Hurricane Sandy, the deadliest hurricane of 2012, according to World Vision.
In terms of the reimbursement to residential students, Rozewski said the university would have to look at that matter in-depth.
“They would’ve paid – they would have not really paid to be here during spring break or snow days or something like that,” said Rozewski. “But if it goes on to a protracted amount [of days], they may have a point and were going to look at that in-depth.”
Rozewski said the university would then have to look at the per diem cost owed to students over time if they were, in fact, unable to move back into the university housing.
“Don’t want to hazard a guess at this time,” said Rozewski.