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W e d n e s day, M a r c h 2 5 , 2 0 2 0

a virtual reality? In a virtual town hall, OSU address how they’ll handle graduation, final grades and more amid COVID

Adam Luther/O’Colly


C OV E R S T O RY

Graduation, online classes discussed during virtual town hall Elli e M elero N e ws Editor @ elean o r _ m el er o

Oklahoma State University emphasized in Monday’s Virtual Town Hall that it is doing its best to maintain normalcy as it transitions to online classes. Doug Hallenbeck, the vice president of Student Affairs, and Jeanette Mendez, the vice provost of Academic Affairs, joined OSU Communications’ Monica Roberts in giving an update on OSU’s new policies during the COVID-19 pandemic and answering questions from parents and students about the transition to online learning. Roberts said more than 1,000 questions were submitted for the Town Hall that were condensed into eight main questions. These ranged from questions about moving out of the dorms to how labs will be conducted. One of the most asked questions, Mendez said, was whether or not graduation will be canceled. She assured that it has not been canceled, just postponed. “We have a commit-

tee that’s convening,” Mendez said. “They have sought student input. We have heard the students’ voices, and we know you do not want to have this canceled.” Mendez also said students will be given a “pass or no pass” option for their grades going forward, and, even though graduation has been postponed, degrees will still be conferred as soon as final grades are posted in May. The university is also trying to provide as many tools for student success as it can, Mendez said. This includes moving the LASSO Center, the Mathematics Learning Success Center and the Writing Center online. Mendez asked that any students who don’t have internet or VPN access please reach out to let the university know so they can help those students get the resources they need. Additionally, summer and fall advising will be conducted online. Mendez said to sign up for an advising appointment the way students normally do. Mendez also touched

on how lab classes will be conducted going forward. While it’s up to each lab instructor to decide the best way to have classes, each lab has been restructured to allow students to complete the labs online. “You will not be required to purchase any lab kits, come to the lab to complete these assignments or go to any other lab to complete these assignments,” Mendez said. Thursday the university announced that students have been asked to leave the residence halls, and move out began Monday. Hallenbeck said the university is doing its best to follow social distancing guidelines as students move out, which is why residents were given a 12 day period to leave. Students who moved out before spring break will be allowed to mail their room keys back to Residential Life instead of coming back to campus, and Hallenbeck said it may be possible for students planning to return to their same dorm room in the fall to leave their belongings there.

courtesy of osu communications

Monica Roberts hosted the Virtual Town Hall on Monday where Doug Hallenbeck and Jeanette Mendez discussed OSU’s steps going forward with online classes.

Students who can’t leave the dorms by April 3 have been asked to fill out an extension request, and those who come back to campus have to pass a screening before they will be allowed back. The screening consists of a phone interview with University Health Services, and there may be follow ups depending on responses. Hallenbeck also said students will be given partial refunds for certain student fees, and told people to look for an email with more information on that. Bonnie Griffin, one

of the many parents who submitted a question for the Town Hall, said she was pleased with how the meeting went overall, but the broadcast also raised some new questions. “It was very informative,” Griffin said. “I liked the format of it, how you could see the people talking but then they had the questions up on the board. I wish they would have gone more in depth about the grading option, the ‘pass or no pass.’ I think it’s great that they’re going to partial refund for the fees and that kind of stuff, so overall,

I thought it was pretty informative.” Mendez asked people to stay patient and be flexible going forward, and she said the university is working to answer people’s questions in a timely manner. “I just want to let the students and the parents know that this is a challenging time for all of us,” Mendez said. “We’re doing everything we can to make this as seamless as possible, but, of course, we need a little bit of patience... We’re working through this.”


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Kelsey Knight/Unsplash

As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads, some OSU students continue their vacations.

Experts warn OSU students to be cautious amid COVID-19 Rya n N ovoz in s k y D i g i tal Edi tor @ rya n n ovo 6 2

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many top health organizations are encouraging simple messages: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, cough into your elbow and practice social distancing. But some college students across the country — including those at Oklahoma State University — are not taking these steps. The rise of COVID-19 in the United States intertwines with OSU’s spring break. While some students went straight home and practiced all of these measures, others kept their original vacation plans. “I’m in Destin, Florida,

and very happy I went,” OSU sophomore Michael Zurales said. “Our private beach is still open. I got to hang out with 15 of my friends on the beach for six days. Now I’m still here with two closest friends and we’re thinking about extending our stay a week. COVID-19 didn’t really stop any spring break activities. I’m not saying what we did was smart or right, but it was definitely fun.” This mindset is in direct contrast with the message that the facilities fighting this— including the Oklahoma State Department of Health — are trying to convey. “Well the main thing, no matter where they are, whether the beach or

wherever, whether they’re in Florida or Oklahoma, our message is the same and that is that the staying home and the practicing social distancing is very important for the sake of everyone in order to be able to stop the spread of this virus,” said OSDH public information manager Jamie Dukes. The term “social distancing” has been trending for quite a few weeks now. The reason for the persistent preaching of this message is due to the impact it can have on the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the Center for Disease Control, the disease is transmitted from person-to-person contact, even if that person is six feet away. This is why some expects and lead-

ers — such as Stillwater mayor Will Joyce — are encouraging to avoid faceto-face contact with other people. “My message I think is that you are putting other people in danger with your actions right now,” Joyce said. “That goes for everybody. That goes for anybody who’s not a student too, that’s still not adhering to the social distancing guideline from the CDC and from local authorities. “I think a lot of folks feel like this virus is not particularly dangerous to them and therefore they’re not worried too much about it. But you can give it to somebody else and it is highly contagious and you can give it to someone

who is maybe not quite so able to deal with it as you are, and so those actions and that carelessness in attitudes and in behavior is absolutely putting other people at risk of serious illness and death from this virus.” Even other OSU students are calling on their fellow classmates to follow the rules and help contain the virus. “I would like to first point out that these words represent me and I am not speaking on behalf of anyone and anything I represent,” OSU student Brenden Determann II said. “As a college student myself during a time of crisis such as the COVID19 one, students are taking these vacations maybe to reward

themselves for their hard work or even just a way to escape from the stressors they endure throughout college. “It is important for students to understand that everyone should ‘essentially’ be seen as a carrier and to practice social distancing and to quarantine themselves if they have traveled to a destination they normally do not visit. With not knowing if someone has a weakened immune system, social distancing and placing a stoppage on vacations, allows us as a community to slow the rate of infection as a precautionary step before things progressively get worse before they start to get better.”


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Covid-19 changes how local government operates A le x Sloan Staf f Repo rter @sloan _al ex

The Payne County Board of Commissioners extended their previously issued COVID-19 emergency proclamation for an additional 30 days at their meeting Monday. In addition to conducting normal business like contract approval, the board spent a considerable amount of time on the COVID-19 emergency. Discussion about Payne County’s emergency response began with an update from the emergency manager. Emergency Manager Jeff Kuhn said Payne County had three confirmed cases of COVID-19, prompting an escalation in the county’s emergency response. The emergency plan, which the Board of Commissioners had approved previously, revolved around a series of “triggers.” Going into the weekend, Payne County was at trigger level 1. Kuhn said by the time the meeting started on Monday, Payne County was at trigger level 3. He said the escalation would lead to the Payne County Expo Center being closed, and a reduction of county government services. Once the update had been presented, discussion moved to how the public will interact with the county government going forward. Commissioner Chris Reding

kurt steiss/O’COLLY

Monday’s Payne County Commissioner’s meeting may be the last in-person meeting for a while.

said Monday’s meeting may be the last in-person meeting of the Board of Commissioners for some time. Reding said even though the government would be limiting its interactions with the public, the county will continue to carry out its constitutional duties. The public will still be able to conduct business with the county and participate in open meetings remotely.

“We’re working to keep the government working as well as possible, as long as possible,” Reding said. He said county officials are using gloves, sanitizers and limiting public interaction as precautions. Some of the county’s elected officers had already implemented strict safety measures. The county clerk said neither citizens nor members of

other county offices are allowed past the front counter of the clerk’s office. “We’re going to continue to operate cautiously,” County Clerk Glenna Craig said. She said her office is requesting citizens call ahead before coming to conduct business at the clerk’s office, and conducting business by phone, mail or over the internet is encouraged.

“All of our records are online for free, for the citizens,” Craig said. She said she encourages citizens to contact her office or email her directly if they are having trouble locating the records they need online. The City of Stillwater has put restrictions on businesses and public gatherings, but not every community in Payne County has done so. Commissioners Zach

Cavett and Rocky Blasier discussed responses by communities in their districts in emails after the meeting. Cavett said both Yale and Cushing had taken additional steps to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Blasier said communities in his district are following the guidelines handed down by the governor.

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