Board of Trustees dicusses the university’s plan regarding Coronavirus

Emily Echevarria, Student Government Reporter

Wednesday night, UNF announced via email that classes would move online for the two weeks following Spring Break. During a regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting early Thursday, the focus was on the Coronavirus and UNF’s current plans to handle its impact on students.

Here are the major answers they gave and the questions they weren’t so clear on. 

Does UNF have a plan?

Around 2 to 3 weeks ago, UNF convened a group to discuss the impacts of the Coronavirus on campus, including the Crisis Management Team, which created an Infectious Disease Plan. The group discussed continuity of instruction for moving classes online and preparing instructors behind the scenes. Before the Board of Governors announced that all state universities in Florida would transition to online classes, this team had a contingency in place and was deciding when to make the switch. 

“They’re meeting at this point almost daily,” said Interim VP of Administration and Finance Scott Bennett. 

UNF is also working on emergency funding for students affected by the Coronavirus and campus changes, but has not announced details of the plan yet. 

Is there any precedent that UNF can draw on?

“Nothing like this,” Bennett said. UNF has handled its fair share of natural disasters, from severe thunderstorms to hurricanes, but the Coronavirus situation is unprecedented on campus. 

What happens after Spring Break?

Following Spring Break, UNF classes will move online for a period of “at least two weeks”, according to the BOT, Interim VP of Administration and Finance. 

When will on-campus classes resume?

The question was asked if April 6th was a tentative date for student return. There will only be 3  weeks left before finals when students return to on-campus classes. If professors wish to finish out the semester online, rather than transition for only 2 weeks, they will be permitted to. 

What if I live on campus?

Students will be asked to stay home after spring break for the two weeks of online classes, but housing and dining services will remain open for students who need to remain on-campus or can’t go home. 

What if I’m studying abroad?

UNF currently has 54 students studying abroad, and all have been in contact with the university. Within this, there are 2 students in Argentina, 1 in Japan, 4 in New Zealand, 1 in Sierra Leone, 1 in Finland, 11 in France, 3 in Germany, 1 in Luxembourg, 1 in Romania, 16 in Spain, and 5 in the UK, as well as 8 others in Europe. There are 46 students in the European zone currently. Every student abroad has been advised to return home, but multiple students have expressed desires to remain abroad. 

“These are young, spirited, committed people, and not all of them want to return. Some of them are making the arguments they’re in a safer place where they are,” said Provost Simon Rhodes. 

For students that return home, UNF has plans to “support them in their academics and for financial considerations,” said Rhodes. 

All study abroad has been suspended for the Spring and Summer semesters, and UNF has also suspended all domestic travel. 

“We were actually one of the first institutions to actually put restrictions on domestic travel,” Bennett said. 

What if I don’t have the technology to access online classes?

“Certainly we can flip the switch and get the classes online. That’s almost the easy part,” Bennett said. 

The hard part is making sure that students and professors are equipped with the technology and abilities to complete coursework. IT is working to train professors on online resources for the two week period, and the university has over 100 computers ready for students and faculty to check out to teach, work, or take classes at home. 

What about Athletics?

Athletics events and traveling will be taken “trip by trip, athlete by athlete,” and the Athletics Department is in close communication with Bennett and Rhodes. 

What will be open on campus?

During the two week period of online classes, campus services will remain open. This includes things like Housing and Dining Services as well as non-essential services such as Student Government, Spinnaker, and the Student Union. 

What if I work on campus?

Campus will remain open, and students in OPS positions will still be allowed to work at this time. 

Student Body President John Aloszka asked about paid time off for part time employees who are affected by the virus or who have to self-quarantine for 2 weeks. 

“For a lot of students, it’s already a stretch, if they are a part time employee, to have to go for Spring Break and they don’t get paid. Now they’re not going to get paid for 3 weeks,” he said. 

“We’ll certainly do everything we can do,” Bennett said. The university is currently working on a way to provide additional funding to students who find themselves in this situation. 


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