SIU looks into the future regarding the COVID-19 outbreak

By Elizabeth Biernacki, Staff Writer

Erin Denae Douglas | @cornbab

SIU discussed the future of the university’s preparations for COVID-19 at a press conference held Thursday.

An alert was sent to students on Wednesday evening about spring break being extended and classes being offered in alternate formats due to COVID-19. 

(See more: SIU extending break, arranging for online and alternate format classes due to coronavirus)

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University spokesperson Rae Goldsmith said while classes will be offered in other formats such as online, the campus will be open to students and staff.

“We’ll still be doing business,” Goldsmith said. “Students who want to stay on campus will still be allowed to be on campus, the library will be open.”

Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs, said students who stay on campus are allowed to continue their jobs and get paid.

“If [students] choose to finish the semester from home we’ve been asking them to just notify their employer to let them know that they won’t be returning to campus,” Stettler said.

When asked about the residence halls, Stettler said students will be able to move back in on Sunday, March 15 or come get their stuff if they would like to take their classes at home or in their community.

“We have families who live on campus, we have international students, they don’t have other places to live so we will be making sure we’re accommodating them, ”Goldsmith said.

However, because there is a choice to live in the dorms or to live off campus, Goldsmith said there are no plans to reimburse any part of the room and board costs.

There will also be no reimbursement for classes changing formats to online or other.

“The tuition rate actually is the same for both online and distance; there’s no difference in tuition,” Judy Marshall, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said.

Meera Komarraju, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said in terms of the quality of the experience, SIU is trying to keep classes as close as possible to an in class experience as well.

With classes changing formats, concerns were voiced about classes that included labs and  integrated hands on learning.

“There are ways to teach lab courses online so we are looking into that possibility,” Komarraju said. “Say if students want to stay back and do it in the lab, that is also a possibility.”

There are options to do online lectures either live or recorded and to communicate answers via email and phone calls, Komarraju said.

“We are allowing the programs to customize their experience for the student so the lecture part they might get online, but for the hands on part, if the student chooses and wants to be close to equipment, they can do that,” Komarraju said.

Regarding how long the campus will be adapting, Goldsmith said the question is still open and changing.

“We did not, like some other institutions, say we’re done through commencement,” Goldsmith said. “We are gonna give it a little time and make that call when we think it’s an appropriate time to make it.”

Goldsmith said the university has not decided whether or not it will cancel its graduation ceremonies.

“Students are very interested and concerned about it,” Goldsmith said. “We will have to make a decision at some point and that’s where we’re hoping to assess things day by day.”

Staff reporter Elizabeth Biernacki can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @elizabethb_619.

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