On March 26, Missouri Southern’s Board of Governors held an open session conference call to briefly discuss the University’s efforts to combat COVID-19 and recent campus updates.
University President, Dr. Alan Marble, lead the meeting by confirming that none of Southern’s faculty, staff, or students have tested positive for COVID-19. Marble did, however, mention that five faculty members had been to a conference in New Orleans, a city that has since been put on lockdown. The faculty members that visited completed the mandatory quarantine and showed no symptoms.
Also discussed were the 11 Southern students who were studying abroad amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Of the 11, eight have returned home and completed their quarantine with no symptoms. One of them was a Saudi Arabian international student who was studying in India, and returned home with no symptoms. Two other students felt more comfortable in their countries of study and have decided to reside there throughout the duration of the semester.
Since the original University announcement on March 13, the administration has released an updated announcement stating campus would be locked down for the remainder of the semester.
The newest announcement closed campus to all. Students are now required to vacate the dorms, close the Lion Club Academy and postpone commencement.
Administration contacted campus staff who they believed were essential to campus grounds and have decided to pay them an extra $100/week. Remaining faculty and staff have been directed to conduct their classroom responsibilities from home.
“How faculty have shared with each other has just been a remarkable thing to watch and I couldn’t be prouder of how they’ve responded to this crisis. I somehow think it has to do with the tornado experience, and people here know that you have to do things differently sometimes when crazy things happen,” said Marble.
Darren Fullerton, Vice President of Student Affairs, says as of today there are still 230 students living in the dorms who will be there through Friday, Mar. 27. After Friday, there will only be 76 students who will remain for the remainder of the semester. It is dependent upon international travel or unmet needs at home. Prorated refunds will be administered to students who check out of their rooms.
The Lion Club Academy was also closed in accordance with the rest of the campus, due to the concern for the children’s safety.
Dr. Paula Carson, Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs, believes that the biggest hurdle has been working with accreditors in finding alternative ways for Health Science and Education students to fulfill their clinical and teaching hours. Officials have hit a wall in converting the Dental Hygiene program to a distance-learning format.
“Dental Hygiene is an issue because the professional accreditors and professional associations have not given us any leeway whatsoever in order to replicate in a virtual or simulated environment the online clinical experience,” said Carson.
Carson explained that if businesses are no longer allowing students, online programs have been created for them that include such things as Industry Analysis or Strategic Plans.
Although challenging, Carson says the accrediting bodies are mostly working with the University to educate the students while maintaining program guidelines. If no changes are made to the Dental Hygiene program by the accreditors, students will finish with an “incomplete” for the semester and finish course work when it can safely be carried out.
The administration also made a difficult decision in postponing commencement. Marble said that the administration is still working on determining whether the ceremony will be carried out in the summer, in accordance with fall commencement, or through a digital format.
“We’ve put all of our tutoring online, advising is online, and we’re still enrolling for the fall semester,” said Fullerton.
Fullerton also said that on the opening day of enrollment, Project Stay and Student Support Services enrolled 50 students.
Although fighting an uphill battle, the administration agrees that they will continue to provide the best support and services they can to students throughout the duration of the semester.