Dear East Georgia State College Community:
This week, I have been thinking a lot about events during my lifetime which have shaken me to the core. I have thought about sitting in my grade school classroom in Seattle, Washington, listening to AM radio with my teacher and classmates and hearing about the Cuban missile crisis. All around Seattle, Washington, people were building bomb shelters in their basements. I didn’t even really understand what a bomb was, but I knew it was serious and I was scared.
Then, I remember getting the news of JFK’s assassination at the same grade school from our teacher. Again, I did not yet fully appreciate the implications, but I could see the obvious grief and fear in the eyes of the adults in the room. Again, I was scared.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was walking blissfully across campus at the University of Georgia on my way to teach a class. A friend shouted to me across the quad to quickly go turn on a TV. I did. A group of UGA faculty, staff and students sat in silence and watched the news in silent horror. The group was all adults, but we were scared again.
Each of these events is, of course, different from the current COVID-19 crisis in many ways. But, in each of these prior situations, we were collectively terrified, yet we were collectively resolute, and we survived. Our national response to each of these events was imperfect – but we survived together. I believe the same will be true of this crisis. We will make mistakes. We will argue and debate with one another. We will cry. Nonetheless, we will ultimately be resolute, and we are going to survive.
One day, someone will ask each of us what we did during the COVID-19 crisis. There are going to be so many inspiring stories about workers at the grocery stores, nurses and doctors, first responders and so many others who simply kept going to work every day and taking the risk so that the rest of us could survive. Thanks in advance to all these heroes. Also, thanks to all of you who are doing the right thing by sheltering in place, social distancing – simply doing the right thing so that others are safe. You, too, will be able to say that you did the right thing during a critical time. Don’t ever minimize your contribution.
Plan for Re-Opening of the College in Fall 2020
Last week, the University System of Georgia directed each of its 26 institutions to develop a plan for reopening in fall 2020. EGSC is already working on this plan.
Developing this plan is going to be a challenge that is bigger that the challenge of moving to a wholly online environment. As stated in a recent article:
“Overall, colleges have responded quickly to the multifaceted coronavirus threat. Universities swiftly moved classes online, canceled spring sports, and instructed students to vacate their dorm rooms. (Some institutions refunded fees for on-campus housing or found ways to get study-abroad students home.) Still, shutting down was the easy part. Now administrators have to figure what their institutions will do once this semester ends.” Adam Harris, The Atlantic, April 24, 2020.
Draw a picture in your mind’s eye of East Georgia State College on a typical pre-COVID-19 day. Almost all classrooms have about 35 seats. On a typical day, many classrooms are full or almost full for a good part of the day. At the end of assigned class periods, hallways are filled with students going to their next class. As students in our residence halls on the Swainsboro campus awake each day, each unit is occupied by 4 or 5 students. They share a common kitchen and living area as they get ready for their classes. The hallways are busy as students head to class or to the common study, laundry and social areas in the residence halls. The Academic Centers for Excellence (the ACE) on all three campuses are busy places. Students sit in close proximity to tutors and one another as they learn. In Swainsboro, the JAM Student Center is a busy place. We have not even held the grand opening for the new addition to the JAM (it was scheduled shortly after the COVID-19 crisis arrived). It was designed to be filled with students playing basketball, volleyball or video games, students watching movies or planning student activities. This pre-COVID-19 picture is vivid for me. Our campuses were designed for close human interaction to maximize learning opportunities.
Now, try to imagine all of the scenarios we will need to understand to be able to deliver the quality educational experience we have always delivered but with a new paradigm. The questions to answer can seem endless.
Those questions demonstrate just a few of the many challenges the faculty and staff of East Georgia State College are facing right now as a reopening plan is developed. Each of the University System of Georgia’s 26 institutions is unique. Each has been directed to formulate a plan for reopening at the beginning of fall semester 2020. The plan must, of course, both provide an environment with promotes learning and assures health and safety.
Developing such a plan is, to say the very least, a daunting task. However, we are fortunate to have been given that assignment. It allows us to look to the future and imagine a time when students, faculty and staff will be back on campus --- all engaged in learning and all preparing for a bright future for our students. We will approach this task with the same positive attitude which has characterized everything we have done together during the COVID-19 crisis.
CARES Act Funding
Another major development last week was the announcement by the federal Department of Education that the second half of the CARES Act funding for higher education has been released. As you will recall from prior letters, the CARES Act (commonly known as Stimulus III) funded institutions of higher education in the United States in two installments. The first half for student emergency grants was announced earlier. The second half for institutional expenses related to the COVID-19 crisis was announced last week. We will share more information soon about both the student emergency grants and the institutional funds.
Governor Brian Kemp’s Executive Order Issued April 23rd
Governor Kemp issued a new Executive Order (“EO”) on the evening of April 23, 2020. It is attached. The following describes the impact of that order on EGSC operations:
“… This EO is the operative counterpart to many aspects of the Governor’s press conference on Monday. The EO extends the shelter in place order from April 30 to May 13 for certain at-risk populations and provides additional exemptions.
The main takeaway for the USG is that our remote instruction activities remain “Critical Infrastructure," allowing continued participation through May 13th. In-person operations to support Critical Infrastructure must be conducted with efforts to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19, and the EO provides 17 measures to implement, to the maximum extent practicable. These 17 measures may be found on pages 10 and 11 of the EO. “
Private Funds Have Also Been Raised to Partially Address Our Student Needs
As I have written these letters each week, I have asked you to consider contributing to a COVID-19 Relief Fund for EGSC students. Thanks to your generosity and the work of EGSC’s Office of Institutional Advancement, we will be making a call for applications this week for 6 scholarships of $250 each. These grants are designed primarily to assist students who do not qualify for the CARES Act emergency grants described above because of the limitations imposed by law on those grants. These private funds will assist our students who have suffered COVID-19 losses related to their college education, but who do not qualify for the emergency grants authorized by Congress. The deadline for applying for these private emergency funds is Friday, May 1, 2020.These funds will make a big difference in the lives of 6 amazing EGSC students.
Other news of importance
- The Sudie A. Fulford Community Learning Center will celebrate its 10th anniversary on April 30. EGSC will host a Virtual Celebration to mark the special occasion. Everyone is asked to view EGSC’s special page at http://www.ega.edu/Fulford-Center-10th-Anniversary and all social media accounts of EGSC starting at noon on April 30 to view photos and a video to remember and celebrate the ten years. The Virtual Celebration will kick off at noon with a photo slideshow. Each hour, a photo and memory will be shared leading up to the main celebration video at 5 p.m.
- Everyone is reminded to check the EGSC Covid19 site regularly for updates at www.ega.edu/covid19.
I look forward to seeing all of you soon in person. In the meantime, please be healthy and be safe.
Thank you! You are the best.
Robert G. Boehmer