by Caroline McCarthy & Jilleen Barrett, Asst. Features Editor & A&E Editor
The Manhattan College Senate held their second virtual meeting of the calendar year on Feb. 16. This session largely consisted of discussions about COVID-19 and the outlook for hyflex classes during the 2021-2022 school year.
Provost Steven Schreiner, also a member of the senate, announced during the meeting that there will no longer be hyflex classes– classes that are held both remotely and in-person– during the upcoming school year.
“We are still planning to return to normal and in-person mode for next fall,” Schreiner said. “We had to make some decisions about the block class schedule and things for registrar so we went ahead and if you look as it comes online, you’ll see that the times have changed for classes… the plan right now is that there should be no hyflex classes.”
Concerns about this decision were raised by Ira Gerhardt, chair of the council of faculty affairs, who pointed out that many students and faculty alike may not be able to make a full return to campus if COVID-19 persists.
Schreiner said that he believes an in-person plan will be best for the school at this point, although there are no policies enacted stating that one cannot continue to work and learn remotely. When questioned on students who are unable to return to in-person learning due to health risks, Schreiner revealed there was no definite plan to accommodate this situation.
“For planning purposes it seems very prudent to assume that there is going to be wide vaccine distribution and people will be much more comfortable coming back and we’re going to go back towards more fully back in-person,” Schreiner said.
Senate member and VP of Student Life Emmanuel Ago II addressed the COVID fatigue phenomenon experienced by the Manhattan College community.
“Public safety has noticed a significant uptick in students wanting to congregate both on-campus and off-campus,” Ago said. “They attribute that to General COVID fatigue which is happening all across the globe.”
The administration plans to orchestrate opportunities for students to congregate in monitored, COVID compliant activities in an attempt to relinquish the fatigue while continuing to abide by One Manhattan guidelines.
He added that the Office of Student Engagement is planning to create online activities for students in quarantine as well.
“The student engagement office… is [also] hosting these virtual, remote activities, specifically for students a quarantine,” he said. “…These activities include online recreation competitions, social media campaigns and free master classes offered by not only Manhattan College staff and faculty, but off-campus facilitators.”
In addition to COVID-related news, Ago discussed a few of the current programs running on campus, including the mid-year orientation. He said that about 50 first year and transfer students went through the orientation process preceding this semester. He also discussed other areas of student life, such as the JasperFit mentoring program, as well as a new plan to enforce social distancing on campus and support groups for students who are in quarantine.
“…The counseling center is actually conducting remote quarantine support groups, so students can actually log in and really have a discussion around these concerns in terms of their well being with licensed professionals as well as share opportunities with others who are in quarantine as well,” Ago said.
Residence Life director Charles Clency was in attendance at the meeting as well and updated the senate on the bridges leading to Horan and Lee Halls. On weeknights, he said, the bridges are open between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. However, to ensure students were not bringing guests from outside of the college, the bridges will be inaccessible for entrance or exit on the weekends.
Secretary Isabel Frazza questioned Clency’s judgement by pointing out that Jasper and Chrysostom Halls have no security at the entrance of the building and therefore non-students or guests without green passes can come and go as they please. Clency said that there have been actions to implement security measures in those buildings, though there has not been any COVID issues related to guests.
“I do know this conversation, being had currently about upgrading the security of Jasper in particular, but there’s no action plan in place that I can speak of, or duress right now,” Clency said.
Margaret Toth, Ph.D., an English professor at Manhattan College, shared a concern for the college’s recently established expression policy, which allegedly works to censor whom students may elect to speak at gatherings.
“This is a policy that actually nearly every campus that I know of has,” said Schreiner. “This is not something that’s in reaction to any particular thing happening on campus, this is something that we just recognize that it’s probably a policy to have. I’ve been through this kind of policy development in a previous institution and I don’t think it’s quite as far-reaching as you might have been suggesting.”
Finally, the topic of furloughs was raised, given the many faculty members who faced furloughs during the fall semester. Richard Satterlee, the Vice President of Student Life and a member of the senate, spoke on this topic.
“Furloughs are still in discussion, so I wanted to make sure everyone is aware of that,” he said. “…the last analysis, the president has said, we’re going to not be doing any additional furloughs.”
The next Senate meeting will be held on Feb. 22 at 1 p.m.