Amid coronavirus fears, Faculty Senate is thinking ahead


President Diacon takes the stand to share of his experience of finding out about coronavirus in Florence.

Wyatt Loy Reporter

Professors, faculty senators and university vice presidents packed the rows of the Governance Chambers, all looking for answers to mounting concerns about COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.

At the Faculty Senate meeting Monday, members discussed plans in the event coronavirus comes to campus. Pam Grimm, chair of Faculty Senate, introduced a resolution that plans for such a situation, and also provides guidelines for future events.

“As we became aware of the situation that was evolving quite recently in Florence,” Grimm said, “it became evident that Kent State is completely lacking in any kind of group to address any one incident that would require university closure.”

The resolution, passed unanimously at Monday’s meeting, serves three purposes, Grimm said. First, it establishes a committee to put into place “guiding principles and processes if we face this kind of thing in the future,” Grimm said. 

“The second purpose is to say,” Grimm said, “‘we have something right here, right now; something might have to happen now, and let the faculty exec form a committee.”

At the meeting, senators were welcomed to share concerns with university administration.

“My one concern, specifically with the recall of the Florence students,” said Sen. Brett Tippey. “I think the majority of the faculty found out on the local news. I had two students studying there, and had one of them emailed me, I wouldn’t have known what’s going on.”

Sen. Robert Twieg said his major concern was “the tipping point at which the university would shut down face-to-face instruction.” 

Interim Provost Melody Tankersley said that, with advice from the Ohio Department of Public Health, confirmed cases on campus would have to exceed a certain amount before the university would shut its doors.

Concerns also extend beyond Kent campus. 

“Let’s say there’s a confirmed case on Kent campus, and the campus shut down,” Sen. Linda Piccirillo-Smith said. “Would East Liverpool or Ashtabula or Tuscarawas shut down as well?”

Tankersley said the university is in the process of “figuring out that policy.” Tankersley is also set to meet with the deans of the regional campuses on Tuesday to receive their input.

“I’m super concerned for the vulnerable populations that students have to work with,” Sen. Janice Kroeger said. “Especially young children, special needs children, nursing places, the elderly.”

Kroeger is also a professor in the early childhood education program, and she said her students will ask the same kinds of questions. 

In a closing remark, Grimm elaborated on the last purpose of the resolution.

“Quite honestly, the third and final goal of the resolution,” Grimm said, “is really to just say that we as faculty will do our best to help our students have a successful semester to the largest extent that we possibly can.”

Wyatt Loy is an administration reporter. Contact him at [email protected]