The Associated Students of Oregon State University held a town hall on Friday, April 17 to answer questions and discuss the university’s response to COVID-19, along with the services available to students during OSU’s switch to remote learning.
Participants in Friday’s town hall panel included OSU Vice Provost for Student Affairs and COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dan Larson, OSU Wellness Education Coordinator Danielle Caldwell, Counseling and Psychological Services Mental Health Promotion Specialist Bonnie Hemrick and members of ASOSU’s leadership team.
Larson provided an update of the university’s COVID-19 response. After Gov. Kate Brown’s recent extension of Executive Order 20-09, which suspends in-person instructional activities at higher education institutions until June 13, Larson said the university announced the decision to hold the first few sessions of this year’s summer term remotely.
Larson said Executive Order 20-12, which indefinitely orders Oregonians to stay in their homes, closes retail businesses and requires social distancing measures, will be a guiding aspect of the university’s decisions going forward. Larson said the university anticipates clarity as to when Executive Order 20-12 will be lifted around mid-May, and that when the order is lifted, OSU will undergo a process which will involve different phases that must be met in order to avoid further outbreaks.
“Our hope certainly is that by the summer we’ve gone through those various phrases, and we’re able to operate as we did before COVID, but that remains to be seen in terms of how we do along the progression of the outbreak,” Larson said.
Larson said the decision to teach fall term remotely will be largely dependent on orders set by Gov. Brown and the state of Oregon, and how various counties are doing with mitigating the outbreak through social distancing measures.
“It’s really going to be, you release a little bit and see what happens,” Larson said. “So if we release and people are doing a really good job with maintaining social distancing or physical distancing, and that our systems—we’re able to trace, we’re able to test and we’re able to respond to our medical system, then we’re in a much better place for the fall, but we just simply don’t know that until we start releasing the gates a little bit to see what happens. I think it will be really telling in the next month or so.”
Larson also said the university is hopeful they can design a campus delivery system that optimizes social distancing measures if students are able to attend classes on campus in the fall.
“If you don’t yet have a face covering, it’s time to get one. Not only is that important for your own public health, but it actually normalizes—it makes everyone feel like this is what we do to keep ourselves safe, this is what we do to keep our communities safe,” Larson said. “It would be very likely that, as a campus community, we would expect everybody to be wearing face coverings in the fall. Again, it all depends on how well we do over the summer with face coverings, and how well we do with not having gatherings over 50 people—whatever structures might be put in place. But the way we continue to respond will dictate what the fall looks like.”
Larson said starting next week, the university will distribute stipends as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act—also known as the CARES Act—to students who participated in a work study or lost their job with the university. Additionally, Larson said the university will distribute funding applications for students who were negatively impacted by COVID-19, and that OSU has financial aid accounts that will be used for need-based requests.
ASOSU President Rachel Josephson provided an update of the executive branch’s current work, which includes moving events online and engaging with students remotely. Both Josephson and ASOSU Vice President Kylie Boenisch noted the importance of staying in touch with students while OSU conducts classes remotely.
“Something that’s really important to me, and I know to Ian [Walker] and our senators and representatives, is making sure that we’re communicating well with the university, with things that are impacting students, or should be changed, or maybe something that was missed,” Boenisch said. “That’s something I’ve been really emphasizing, is making sure that we have good communication pathways with students, and also with administrators so that we can make sure we’re doing our jobs and that students are supported in every realm—emotionally, physically, financially, all of those things.”
Caldwell and Hemrick discussed online services available to OSU students through Recreational Sports and CAPS. Despite the switch to remote learning, Caldwell said Rec Sports has over 300 events occuring this term.
“Rec Sports has been working really hard to make sure we have some kind of programming to support students this term, because we know that they enjoy Rec Sports’ programming, they love the social connection they get through our programming, as well as the physical,” Caldwell said. “I think we’ve done a good job of offering a variety of things for students to participate in this term.”
Rec Sports’ spring term remote programming includes Adventure Leadership Institute classes, free fitness classes via Zoom, virtual intramural events and gaming—such as Risk, Scrabble, Fortnite, running groups and weekly trivia nights—and free personal activity coaching and training, according to Caldwell.
Hemrick said CAPS is striving to offer as many of the services they had prior to remote learning. CAPS is still providing individual counseling—appointments take place over Zoom now, rather than in-person—and is beginning to start their group therapy program, which will also take place over Zoom. CAPS’ single-session clinic is still available, and is a resource for individuals who may not be looking for ongoing therapy but could benefit from talking to a counselor, according to Hemrick. Upcoming CAPS trainings and events will also be held remotely.
More information on student resources and services can be found at https://canvas.oregonstate.edu/courses/1793480.