It feels strange to be on campus on the second day of Fall, our busiest semester, and yet not see too many students walking around. Without the presence of students, and with empty parking lots, a core component of campus life seems to be missing. Hopefully we will see a fuller campus as the days go by and the impact of the pandemic lessens. We planned for about 10% of our class sections fully on campus and another 20% in hybrid mode. Given the state of the pandemic, the volume of students we are seeing on campus seems manageable. Additionally, with few students present physically, we have the opportunity to remain socially distant and take the precautions we need to resist the spread of COVID-19. We are continuing to improve our capacity to mitigate the effect of the pandemic – free testing, free vaccination, advanced cleaning protocols, improved air handling, and contact tracing – we are focusing on all these areas to keep the campus safe.
As I mentioned on Institute Day, the students who need us the most, those from underrepresented minorities and economically challenged backgrounds, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. If you are teaching a class, you may find you have empty seats in your classroom, physical or virtual. If you have students on the waitlist, please reach out to them and accommodate them in our classes. Helping those who are seeking access at this critical time will move us closer to fulfilling our mission of expanding access. You may consider taking a few students above the class capacity, as some students tend to drop out for a variety of reasons by the time census takes place. Student services was receiving a large volume of calls today from students that are trying to get into classes – let us focus our attention to improve access for the next few days.
This is going to be an exciting semester – not only are we celebrating our 100th Anniversary, we are also developing our strategic plan for the next five years, embarking upon equity work to eliminate the achievement gap by 2026, seeking stronger partnership with the high schools to expand access through dual enrollment, and strengthen local economy with expanded partnerships. We will also explore avenues of improving teaching and learning in the fast-changing environment with the inaugural year of Institute of Applied Creativity and Community Transformation (ACCT). There will be multiple opportunities for you to participate in the activities coming up in this centennial year to pave way for our students and community for the next 100 years!
Looking forward to a great semester!