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Slabach hosts first virtual 2020 Town Hall meeting

by Hannah Onder

Over 90 faculty and staff logged into Zoom Tuesday afternoon for the first 2020 Town Hall meeting of the semester and the first meeting since the COVID-19 restrictions.

President Frederick Slabach headed the meeting and answered general questions as usual. But unlike regular town hall meetings where one group has the focus, Slabach had several offices and departments provide updates on finances, academics, student engagement, athletics, enrollment, marketing and communications, and advancement.

Vice President of Finance and Administration Donna Nance shared how the university plans to cut costs with methods like putting a freeze on hiring for vacant positions, raises, and travel funding to plan for the scenario of enrollment dropping 20% next fall due to COVID-19.

“It’s easier to restore the budget later, so we have assumed the worst-case scenario when planning the budget,” Nance said in the meeting.

Nance said the university may receive federal relief funding at some point, and they will be continuing to monitor the situation as they plan the 2020-21 budget.

Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Hector Quintanilla thanked CETL and IT for their assistance with helping students and faculty transition to online classes, academic advisors for staying on schedule with their advising, and faulty for their support of the pass/fail policy.

“I think it’s been really inspiring to see faculty and student adaptability during this time,” Quintanilla said in the meeting. “We’re learning how to create beneficial technology updates (with the recorded classes making it easier on international students in different time zones and students with kids at home).”

Quintanilla also mentioned that the summer 2020 semester will have a mix of online and face-to-face classes available though they will switch to all online if it’s necessary.

Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Dennis Hall talked about how student affairs are working to create online resources and engagement for students, and how residence life and dining services have been working to remotely support the 124 students still currently on campus. Students not on campus will be refunded for their room and board.

“One of the first things we started doing was compiling a list of support options for students,” Hall said in the meeting. “We’ve also been doing weekly updates for the students over email.”

Hall also mentioned the results of a student survey launched last week which indicated that over 50% of students have indicated they have higher levels of stress with their academics being the number one cause during this time.

He also talked about Morton Fitness Center streaming workouts over Facebook and Instagram and SGA’s continued meetings and their upcoming election.

Athletic Director Ricky Dotson announced that the NAIA has granted athletes another year of eligibility due to the cancelled season, and 12-15 athletes have shown interest in the offer of returning.

“I’m extremely proud of our coaches for trying to stay connected and stepping up our recruitment,” Dotson said in the meeting.

Dotson also mentioned that the athletics website has been working to roll out new content like senior spotlights.

Associate Vice President for Enrollment Djuana Young said admissions has worked to make the admissions process easier by allowing students to apply without SAT or ACT scores and with unofficial transcripts due to availability issues.

“Freshmen enrollment is up 19%,” Young said in the meeting. “We’re still in communication with high school counselors and community colleges.”

Young also announced how incoming students would still be able to earn their Smarter U scholarship, since one step was a campus visit, though a virtual campus tour. Admissions is also working to connect students with advisors and student engagement.

“29 students have already been advised for the fall term,” Young said. “61 students have been scheduled to be registered.”

Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications Shannon Lamberson said her department is working to keep everyone updated on COVID-19 information with the banner on the homepage as well as specialized sidebar once updates page is accessed.

“The COVID-19 updates page is where you’re going to find all the accurate information,” Lamberson said in the meeting.

Lamberson also talked about how they worked with admissions to create the virtual campus tour, and how they’re division of marketing and communication is willing to assist in digital promotion of events.

Vice President for University Advancement Jerri Schooley announced that a lot of alumni donated their refunded alumni reunion registration fee to the Ram Relief Fund.

“The Ram Relief Fund assists students with paying monthly tuition fees,” Schooley said in the meeting.

Schooley also talked about mentioned that the office of advancement would be hosting an online giving day on April 28 for the Wesleyan Fund.

Slabach said there’s currently not any COVID-19 cases in the Wesleyan community.

“We do not have any information of anyone in our Wesleyan community testing positive for COVID-19,” Slabach said.

Town hall meetings will resume in fall 2020.

 

 

 

 

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