Kent State hosts Q&A webinar for faculty, staff ahead of fall semester

Emma Andrus Reporter

Kent State held a virtual town hall for faculty and staff Thursday to answer questions and concerns related to the fall 2021 semester.

Panelists included Peggy Shadduck, vice president for regional campuses and dean of the College of Applied and Technical Studies; Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health; Manfred van Dulmen, chair of the Pandemic Leadership Committee, associate provost for academic affairs and dean of the Division of Graduate Studies; Julie Volcheck, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of University Health Services; Jack Witt, vice president for human resources; and Melissa Zullo, a professor of epidemiology and the interim associate dean of the College of Public Health. 

The panelists answered a range of questions, from the university’s guidance on masks and vaccines to the likelihood of students and staff being asked to return to remote instruction.

The university updated its mask guidance Aug. 3, requiring masks to be worn indoors and on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status. 

“This is something we’ve wanted to do because our goal is to stay together, in-person, throughout the semester. We want to start safe and stay safe,” van Dulmen said. “This was not due to a concern about safety, … but we needed to, preemptively, move in that direction.” 

Kent State is also offering testing for both asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals. 

“We do have testing for asymptomatic people, people without symptoms and possible close contact or exposure on campus,” Volcheck said. “Monday through Friday, Visit Healthcare is providing a service, and they are located at the Ice Arena, Eastway Lounge and the MACC Third Floor Loge.”

Symptomatic testing will be available at the DeWeese Health Center. For more information on the university’s COVID-19 testing plan, visit this link. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should call the university’s COVID Response Team, which can be reached at (330) 672-2525.

During the town hall, panelists answered a question inquiring about whether faculty and staff have the ability to ask students and coworkers about their vaccination status. 

“The simple answer is no, because knowing that vaccine status shouldn’t change what the student will, or coworker will or won’t do,” Volcheck said. “That is personal health information, and people, if they, through casual conversation, want to disclose in the office, that’s one thing, but nobody should be asking them outright. Just like we don’t ask other things about people’s health, we shouldn’t be asking about vaccines.”

Volcheck said the university is working on a project that will allow the university to have people disclose that information. 

van Dulmen said the university does not have a threshold or a certain number of COVID-19 cases that would cause a switch to fully remote learning at this time. The university, he said, regularly checks its COVID-19 numbers and indicators. 

“Thank you for the hard work that everybody has been doing throughout this entire time of the pandemic,” Shadduck said. “We’ve had a lot of individuals on the regional campuses, as on the campus, who have been finding safe ways to continue to work on site. … Very excited to return to the sense of community that comes from working together, the ways that we can best support the students and the learning.” 

A recording of the virtual town hall can be found on Kent State Today.

Emma Andrus is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]