As Gordon College pivots to conduct over 500 classes online and works to navigate the revisions to college life brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, GCSA held a Virtual Town Hall meeting with President Michael Lindsay and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Sandy Doneski, where students could send their questions about how the college and its strategy for various issues via email.
The student body president, Jonathan Frink, opened the meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, April 6. Lindsay offered some remarks on the current situation with Covid-19 and the school’s response, saying: “We’ve had to make a lot of changes in ways we never expected. But the resilience and the grit of the Gordon community has come through. And I’m so proud of the adaptable, patient spirit that we see in the student body, and frankly across the whole campus.”
Lindsay went on to share that, to the best of their knowledge, no one in the immediate Gordon community has tested positive for Covid-19. A few individuals have been symptomatic and have self-isolated. Nevertheless, because of the magnitude of the outbreak, Lindsay anticipates that there will be some positive cases before it is all over. While there are no confirmed cases in the current student body, Lindsay did mention that there are over 750 Gordon alumni who are currently working in the health profession.
Regarding the Gordon community. Lindsay shared that there are about 100 students who are living on campus, and who will remain there through the end of the semester. When it comes to the classes that have moved online, Linsday said: “We know that there are going to be lots of areas where we need to improve. And we’re working on that. But I have to say the faculty have done a tremendous job and are trying to be as responsive as possible.”
Doneski similarly expressed pride at how the faculty and staff have responded and adapted. Frink then opened the floor to questions. See below for questions and answer summaries.
Q: Are there any resources for students who are having trouble communicating with their professor and/or not feeling adequately supported in their class?
Doneski: If you do not feel like you can reach out to your instructor or advisor, visit the Learning and Living Remotely page on the website. Under Support & Resources, there’s a form that you can fill out that will connect you with the remote response team, who will work with you to figure out a solution.
Q: Is there a possibility that Covid-19 will affect things on campus next semester? Particularly Study Abroad programs?
Lindsay: The truthful answer is that it is possible. It remains to be seen what the impact of that will be. No decision has been made about study abroad. But international travel is probably going to be one of those issues that the college will have guidance around. It remains to be seen if the federal government or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will put certain stipulations in place.
Q: Is there is an estimate of when students will be able to get back to Gordon to collect their things if they have not already?
Lindsay: Governor Baker’s state stay-at-home advisory has been extended to May 4. So the hope is that students will be able to sign up to come back to get their stuff between May 4 and May 15. Additionally, while students are not encouraged to come to campus, they are not barred from doing so. Some students have chosen to come and pick things up. If you choose to do that, however, it is important to communicate with your RD so that they can make sure there are no more than 10 people in the building at a time. If the governor extends the advisory, college will extend the move out process.
Q: How will it work for students who have been doing research or other presentations that were supposed to be on-campus?
Doneski: We’re working through figuring those out on a case-by-case basis. However, we’re working to make as many of them as possible to be completed electronically.
Q: For out-of-state students traveling to commencement, is there any financial support that could be provided for them to make it during Homecoming? For example, help with air-fare or hotel?
Lindsay: Truthfully, it’s probably not going to be something that the college has the resources to provide. However, commencement was scheduled when it was to try to make it as cost-effective as possible (during the school year, in conjunction with Homecoming, etc.).
Q: What about reimbursements for dining dollars and housing?
Lindsay: For students who are not on campus an adjustment needs to be made, and the board is working on finalizing a plan to share by April 15 or around that time.
Q: For students teaching and doing their practicum, is there a process in place for that?
Doneski: Students are continuing to work virtually with their cooperating teachers as possible. It is our goal and the goal of the New England Commission of Higher Education that students be able complete their graduation and certification requirements this semester. It will look different. But we will be communicating with each of the education students to figure out how we can get there.
Q: Is there any update on the unsatisfactory/satisfactory petition that was presented to GCSA?
Doneski: Yes, it has been received and has gone to the academic programs committee (APC) last Thursday to begin discussions and then will go to the whole faculty by division, with other stakeholders across campus.
Additionally, the APC has extended the date to withdraw from a class to the last day of classes, May 6.
Q: Should students be currently worried about financial aid and how the current situation might effect it?
Lindsay: No, we are committed to prioritizing the financial aid that has been provided to students. We are looking at it though, because financial aid is connected to on-campus housing and always has been. It is our intention, however, to protect those financial aid dollars.
This is a “once in a generation” challenge for every institution. This is not something we will get over in a matter of weeks. It is a really big deal.
Q: Is there a process for returning textbooks at the end of the semester?
Doneski: That’s on the list and the bookstore will be in communication with students about that.
Q: Could you expand on what graduation will look like?
Linsday: Our current strategy is to have the Baccalaureate service at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2. Adrian de Visser will be preaching. The Celebration of Faithful Leadership will be held afterwards at 8 p.m.. We’re very pleased that Beth Moore has agreed to be the keynote speaker for that event. Commencement will take place Saturday morning on the Quad, if weather permits. We’re also currently thinking that the young alumni event, held on Saturday evening, would also become another way to celebrate the class of 2020.