On Thursday, Salisbury University President Charles Wight held his weekly virtual COVID-19 Briefing alongside Vice President of Student Affairs Dane Foust and Chief Diversity Officer Joan Williams to update the campus community on the state of the pandemic at the university.
However, Wight began this week’s briefing by addressing national civil unrest and reiterated SU’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Subsequently, new initiatives for the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion were announced, including a sharper focus on diverse student, faculty and staff recruitment and retention, as well as a review of general education and teaching strategies to integrate more “culturally responsive” elements.
As for the virus, Wight continued to insist that students not come to campus facilities if they are feeling sick and to select and remain with a small group of friends for studying, eating and socializing.
Salisbury University’s most recent batch of test results, recorded from Aug. 28, revealed only one positive COVID-19 result out of 195 administered tests, though Wight conveyed the confusion of many students with the relatively low data appearing on SU’s coronavirus dashboard.
In an effort to clarify the dashboard’s data, Wight said, “our [testing] numbers only reflect tests taken on our campus. We received thousands of test results at [the] start of [the] semester, but some of those employees and students had never set foot on our campus; [therefore], it would not be accurate to use those results as a metric to monitor the spread of COVID-19 on our campus because those tests were taken in counties all over Maryland and in many surrounding states.”
Despite the fairly limited data set that is currently available, Wight believes that as the semester presses forward the numbers will incrementally begin to better reflect the entire campus population.
“We are confident that as the semester goes on, the vast majority of our students and employees will choose to get tested at SU, therefore, their numbers will be reflected on the dashboard and this will provide a more meaningful picture of what’s happening on our campus.”
Wight also confirmed that most Personal Protective Equipment supply chains are in “pretty good shape,” though some items, such as N95 masks and gowns for testing administrators, are “more difficult to get.”
Foust, meanwhile, described the protocol for students on campus to follow should they contract the coronavirus.
First, the student will be asked to go home —– if possible –— and isolate until cleared to come back on campus.
However, if students live on campus and cannot go home, SU has now created “isolation areas” in Dogwood Village to house individuals who test positive. Foust also revealed how students would potentially receive their meals if they are required to stay in such areas: “we can have meals delivered to [students], so if [they're] on the meal plan we will deliver [their] meals to Dogwood for [them].”
For students living off campus who are confirmed positive and cannot return home, “if [they] also have a meal plan, [they] can arrange to have a ‘food buddy’ pick up [their] meals…[by contacting] the Dining Hall Office online, and there’s a form [they] can fill out and [they] can request a person to collect [their] meals and deliver them to [them],” Foust said.
Next, students who test positive should notify Student Health Services, who will guide the steps afterward and contact SU Cares in order to alert the student’s faculty members of the confirmed case.
Once those steps are completed, students who test positive are instructed to not physically attend classes and will have their access to campus buildings restricted until they have been cleared.
Foust also announced that while “progressive disciple” will take place for students who repeatedly violate the campus’ COVID-19 guidelines such as not wearing a mask, “egregious violations” would result in an interim suspension pending a hearing, which has already taken place with 21 students found in acts such as “sponsoring a party or involved in a party.”
Finally, CDO Williams continued President Wight’s initial discussions about the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and how the pandemic has affected those initiatives.
Williams announced this fall the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is planning to unveil a web-based training for new students and employees, as well as supervisors, who will be taking additional expanded courses on bias and disabilities.
Other initiatives mentioned include the Diversity Dialogue Program, aiming “to seek common ground and understanding” on various issues between individuals and “to promote civil discourse” among those on campus.
Starting Sept. 15, Multicultural Student Services will begin hosting virtual events to promote discourse and diversity, which can be found on their website, https://www.salisbury.edu/administration/student-affairs/multicultural-student/.
By JAKOB TODD
Featured image: Salisbury University Office of the President.