Bertolino outlines upcoming semester

Sam Tapper Editor-in-Chief

Abby EpsteinManaging Editor

Campus life next fall will be as normal as it can be in COVID-19 times. Even with a 1 percent infection rate this spring, President Joe Bertolino said at his Town Hall meeting that he still wants the campus community to follow CDC guidelines and get vaccinated.

The university will not require everyone to get vaccinated. This is because as a state agency, the university does not have the authority to make such a decision. The decision must come from an executive order by the governor, by the legislature or by the federal government.

“While we may not be requiring vaccines at least at this time, unless the governor changes his mind or the variants become problematic, we strongly encourage every member of our community to get the vaccine,” said Bertolino.

The university has partnered with Yale/New Haven Health at three separate locations around the state to give students the opportunity to get vaccinated.

Additionally, unvaccinated students will still need to be monitored for COVID-19 next semester. However, the future of the campus COVID-19 testing center and what will be required is still uncertain.

“That has not been decided for sure,” said vice president of Student Affairs Tracy Tyree. “But we do not anticipate the possibility that surveillance testing will continue, especially for those who have not been vaccinated.”

“Getting the vaccine means campus can start “‘embarking on a new normal’,” said Bertolino. Starting June 1, faculty and staff will begin phasing back in to working on campus. On Aug. 1, 100 percent of staff will be on-ground for final preparation for the fall semester. In the fall, 75 percent of classes will be on-ground or hybrid and the other 25 percent will remain online.

“This is exciting because this shows a growth of more than 10 percent in the number of online offerings compared to fall 2019,” said Bertolino. “The fact that this has happened has provided us with an opportunity to invest more in our technology and invest more in our instructional technology so students will have more online options.”

With having more class options for students, enrollment is still dropping. Bertolino said there was an enrollment problem before COVID-19, and it has only become worse since. There has been a 20 percent downfall in enrollment from last year’s class.

“Even as we face the reality Southern may permanently become a smaller institution, enrollment remains key,” said Bertolino.

At the end of Bertolino’s address, Robert Gregory, professor of health and movement sciences asked if there were any positive lessons learned from COVID-19 times that the university can apply moving forward.

“[We have] increased our technology footprint enormously, I think just across every area of the university that provides great opportunity for us moving forward,” said Bertolino.

“Our community is a caring and resilient community and we’re going to continue to focus on the health and wellbeing of all members of our community,” said Bertolino. “We must remain vigilant in the work we are doing.”

Photo credit: Desteny Maragh

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