Delta State University's response to Coronavirus

Coronavirus Update #8 – April 2, 2020:

TO: Delta State University
FROM: DSU President William N. LaForge
UPDATE #8: Coronavirus Update from President LaForge – April 2, 2020

It’s time for another Campus Update to share with you some recent developments and changes regarding the university and our response to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), especially in light of the Governor’s “shelter in place” executive order that goes into effect tomorrow, Friday, April 3, at 5pm. Please note some significant changes below.

But first, I hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy, adhering to social distancing protocols and more stringent hygiene practices to combat the spread of the virus, and managing to have some semblance of normal daily life in the midst of this crisis. Thank you for your perseverance during this challenging time, and for your patience and understanding as we make every effort to maintain the academic mission of Delta State, while simultaneously doing everything possible to keep our Delta State family and our campus safe and virus-free.

I must admit that the campus is like a ghost town, and I miss you! But it’s important that we all lie low for a while until this scourge passes. The Executive Committee and the Cabinet continue to function as usual, but we do so virtually via Zoom meetings and other means of communication. My team and I continue to monitor developments around the state, nation, and world as we attempt to maintain the proper responses to the virus on our campus. We certainly look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus when this cloud dissipates and when it is safe to be social again. We will continue to keep you up to date with key developments.

Students

A special note to all students…Please engage fully in your course work. Be sure to attend your “virtual classes,” and be prepared. This is not a time to slack off. Ask for help if you need it — from your instructor, online or off-line; from the library; from the Student Success Center; from OIT for technical/connection issues; from the counseling center; and, from the writing center. The Registrar, Student Business Services, Financial Aid, Admissions, and all campus offices are just a phone call or an email away. Our campus resources are open and available to support you in your course work and academic progress over the remaining weeks of the semester and beyond. For students who resided on campus and/or had a meal plan this semester, we (along with the other seven state universities) are awaiting guidance from our governing board and the State Attorney General before we can formulate a policy regarding possible refunds for room and board. We will communicate our plan to address this issue when we know more. This morning, SGA President Elizabeth Swindle and the Social Justice Club hosted a virtual “State of the Student Union Address” to update the student body on the current situation, as well as to address student concerns that were expressed to the SGA. I have provided below the link to that informative session.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47Sv3EIhslo

Faculty and Staff

In response to the Governor’s executive order placing the entire state on “shelter in place” status, Delta State is already in basic compliance, for the most part, with both the letter and the spirit of the directive. I have included below a link to the Executive Order, as well as a couple of documents that provide helpful guidance. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the content of these documents, if you have not already done so.

To adhere strictly to the mandates placed on us by the State, we are making the following changes to campus policy and practices previously announced in Campus Updates, which are accessible on the Delta State website (www.deltastate.edu):

  1. All buildings on campus will be closed during the operational period of the Executive Order — Friday, April 3 at 5pm through Monday, April 20 at 8am. Exceptions include Residence Halls for housing the few students who remain on campus, and the limited operation of the dining hall for the purpose of providing take-out meals for students living in our residence halls and staff/faculty with meal plans. The U.S. Post Office (located in the Nowell Union) will continue to operate from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, but access will be limited to the exterior entrance on the northwest side of the Nowell Union.
  2. The campus will remain operational, and all employees should continue to work from home when possible, per instruction from his/her supervisor.
  3. Faculty and staff should enter your on-campus building only to retrieve materials needed to teach your online courses or to perform your job responsibilities at home. You should make every attempt to do that before the 5pm Friday deadline. If you forget something, you may return to your office or building for that purpose, but you should not spend any significant time on campus. Our goal is to reduce the presence of faculty and staff on campus to a bare minimum. Staying home and away from public places are part of the safe practices to curb the spread of the virus.
  4. Classes will continue to be taught remotely. Henceforth, all online courses must be taught from home. If any faculty members have not already done so, you should make arrangements by 5pm Friday — tomorrow — to have all the materials and equipment you need at home to teach your courses until the end of the semester, at minimum. If you need assistance, contact your chair, dean, the Provost, or OIT. Teaching from campus offices will no longer be allowed, pursuant to the Executive Order.
  5. Delta State’s outdoor walking trail, located on the west side of campus — at Canal Street and Maple Street — remains open, but the exercise stations around it are closed and are not to be used during the “shelter” order period. You are encouraged to enjoy outdoor time, recreation, and exercise, as long as it does not entail group activities or proximity to others.

Recruiting Initiatives

The staff in our undergraduate Office of Admissions and our Office of Graduate and Continuing Studies continue to work hard to recruit new students to Delta State. Due to the current situation, they need your help more than ever. You can support our recruiting efforts by referring prospective high school and transfer students to www.gotodsu.net and prospective graduate level students to http://www.deltastate.edu/graduate-and-continuing-studies/. In an effort to encourage prospective students to apply, and to assist those whose families may be experiencing financial hardships at this time, Delta State will waive the undergraduate application fee for the month of April. We need YOUR help to make sure we meet our enrollment goals for the fall semester.

New Student Orientation

Due to the uncertainty of when we will be able to resume normal activities on campus, our Student Affairs operation has transitioned our summer orientation program for new students to a virtual format. The New Student Orientation (NSO) dates are:  June 8, June 22, June 29, July 13, and July 27.  Students will meet their advisors virtually and be enrolled in their fall courses after a Zoom advising session.  Please encourage students, who have been accepted to Delta State for the fall semester, to register for an orientation session. There is a link on the University’s main web page or you can use the link below.

https://www.deltastate.edu/student-affairs/student-life-2/orientation/

Hang in there!

Thank you again for your patience, understanding, and flexibility as we continue to navigate unchartered territory in responding to the pandemic. I will continue to keep you up to date, and, as usual, I encourage you to check your email, our website, and social media regularly to stay abreast of developments. We are going to weather this storm successfully, and return to a campus that will welcome you back with the green carpet treatment you’ve come to expect.

Here’s to continuing good health for all of us in the Delta State family!