Francisco Castro/ The JTAC
On March 20, 2020, Tarleton State President, Dr. James Hurley, addressed members of the Tarleton Family with a student Q&A livestream regarding university action in response to COVID-19.
President Hurley responded to ten of the most highly asked question from students. These questions have been raised as a result of the university extending Spring Break for an additional week, the transition of all academic courses towards online, and the postponing of university events.
Joining Hurley was the SGA President Tyler Schuster, providing the questions from the students, and Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Kelli Styron bringing detains regarding facilities and how students can access them.
Questions raised by Schuster on behalf of the student body included what measures were being taken by the university to respond to the virus, what online classes would look like, is there a possibility to return to face-to-face classes, accessible facilities, commencement, and tuition reimbursements.
Hurley and Styron responded to these questions with as much detail as they could provide.
With regards to classes, Hurley assures students that classes will resume, but in a visual learning experience for the time being.
“Our faculty have been working diligently with our provost and with our deans to ensure that the learning experience continues,” Hurley said. These online courses will begin on Monday, March 23, 2020 and will proceed up until April 10, 2020.
Faculty members have spent this week to prepare their courses to be given in an online format. Hurley mentions that the instructors have been coached to give an excellent learning experience. He does ask that students reach out to their professors and to not operate in the dark.
“Don’t try to do this in isolation. Don’t try to do it with only your friend. Please reach out to your faculty member or a staff member…We are here to help you navigate this process,” Hurley said.
With the date of April 10 as the last day of online instruction comes the hope that face-to-face classes can resume from that point.
“This is something that is evolving hourly, certainly daily and weekly,” Hurley said, “so, we want to be very patient and deliberate in our approach. And so, as of now, our plan is after that April 10th time frame, we will return to that face to face format.”
Hurley also said that while this is the plan at the moment, the university will continue to monitor the situation, and make the final decision before the date whether to continue online or return to face-to-face.
For the time being, Styron makes note that residential facilities will remain open for students who wish to return to campus. Other facilities will also remain open for residential and non-residential students.
“Even if you choose to move out, and we hold with the online platform throughout he end of the semester, you will be able to come back to get your belongings, you can check back in to the residence hall, if you choose to do that. If any of these issues are causing students a little bit of anxiety, the counseling center is open. They’re open and available for students to call and make an appointment. They will be doing some virtual appointments; the health center is available also. We ask that they call for appointments,” Styron said.
Other facilities that will remain open include the library and various labs within the academic buildings. Hurley does mention that the library will implement some limitations in order to adhere to social distancing.
“Albeit, we can’t have 500 people in the library at the same time, like we’re accustomed to,” he said.
Limitations may include time limits for every individual that visits the library.
Hotspots and labs have been temporarily established to enhance accessibility to online resources for students. Per Styron, accessible labs can be found in the Business building, the Math Building, the Engineering Building, the Science building, and the Fine Arts Center.
Schuster also suggests that students utilize the option to download lectures off of Canvas.
“Being able to drive up to the public library, sit in my car, and download the lecture and go home and watch it is a game changer. So, make sure you do that,” Schuster said.
Styron makes note that the dining hall will remain open. They will utilize a to-go format, meaning that students will pick up a meal to take home. Throughout this time, the food trucks will be operational as well and will follow a schedule that will become available soon.
Facilities that have been closed down include the Recreational Center, following the guidelines from the State of Texas.
“We hope that we social distance enough so that we lift some of these bans, If you will. But as of now, that facility is closed,” Hurley said.
With regards to commencement, a question many soon to be graduating seniors have had, Hurley announced that they have chosen to postpone commencement in May. This ceremony is planned to be rescheduled to August, with the scheduled August commencement ceremonies.
“We will have commencement, at some point” Hurley said, “It may be three months from now, it may be six months from now, we don’t know. This is uncharted waters. But at some point, we will have an opportunity for the seniors to experience what they’ve worked so hard and deserve. We will have commencement at some point.”
Hurley also mentions that the university is still committed to ensuring that seniors are still able to receive the necessary credits to be able to graduate. The deans and their professors have worked to establish an online format to ensure that students are able to meet all requirements for graduation.
With regards to tuition, Hurley announced that there will not be any adjustments to tuition.
“We have services that we had to pay for the entire year, certainly semester by semester.” Hurley said, “We are going to continue to provide that educational experience. You’re going to earn all your credits. Seniors will have the opportunity to finish the semester.”
Refunds and adjustments for housing and meal plans are still being discussed, according to Hurley.
“It is something we’re looking at. It is something we’re exploring at the system level,” he said. Hurley explained that much like the tuition, the services revolving around housing and dining services is something that has already been paid for and involves second and third part vendors. Hurley does promise that this is an active discussion.
As students choose to move out of their residence halls and stay home for the time being, but may choose to return to campus later on, Styron reassures that the staff members in housing and in student services are prepared to assist students when they make that transition back to campus.
“We welcome them back at a time that fits with them and their family’s personal decision about their safety and where they need to be,” Styron said.
As the situation continues to develop and the university continues to monitor and respond to it, Hurley thanks the student
“I ask that each of you continue to be patient. To remain diligent in your academic pursuits of a Tarleton degree. We will get through this. This will change the way we move through the education process moving forward. But I promise you, together we’re stronger. United as One.
Students can refer to the university’s COVID-19 webpage at tarleton.edu/coronavirus for more information.