Joshua Ceballos/Investigative Editor
University President Mark B. Rosenberg and Senior Vice President Elizabeth Bejar released a video this evening addressing student questions and concerns amidst the coronavirus. Here are some highlights:
Several thousand students signed a petition this week to make the spring semester pass/fail, meaning students who currently have a passing grade would just get a “passing” designation and no longer have to take class.
Addressing this petition directly, Bejar said that the University is considering a variety of options for students and is prioritizing flexibility.
“Part of the complexity is that there are so many variables involved with a student. What we’re going to propose is maximum flexibility for the individual student, not by course and not by faculty member,” Bejar said.
Bejar made the point that while some students may be okay with a “satisfactory” designation, others who are applying to graduate and professional schools need a real grade for their GPA’s.
While no concrete plans were shared, it seems the University is weighing all options.
“I’m confident that in a couple days we will have something that comes with max flexibility,” said Rosenberg.
Another option proposed was a clean-slate scenario for students who want to just start the entire semester over.
Bejar said that they are considering into expanding the existing “NC” or “No Credit” option so that students can choose to do that should they have to.
In the wake of the Florida Board of Governors mandating that state universities cancel all in-person commencement ceremonies, Rosenberg said in the video message that FIU is looking into how to do a virtual commencement ceremony for spring graduates.
“There will be graduation at the end of this semester. We will have graduation. It looks to me like it will not be face to face,” Rosenberg said.
In an email sent earlier today, the University announced that commencement ceremonies will be held online and that those who have already bought tickets will be refunded.
Rosenberg said in the video that 16,000 commencement tickets were already purchased before the quarantine period.
Housing students who are able to leave campus have been asked to do so in a series of emails over the last few weeks. A question was posed to Bejar about students who cannot return home for various reasons, to which she had this to say:
“We are working with every single student. We need to know what the situation is with every single student,” she said. “If there is a home for them in a safe environment, they should certainly go there.”
For international students who cannot return home due to travel restrictions or flight cancellations, Bejar said they are allowed to stay and are being offered three meals a day at the dining halls and there are 24-hour staff members available to assist them.
She also mentioned that resident students who are immune-compromised or have immune-compromised people at home should stay on campus.
“[The residence halls are] the best place for them,” Bejar said.
Employees of the University have also been asked to remain off campus amid coronavirus concerns, and Bejar said that they will continue to work remotely as long as they can.
“We’re working from home for as long as guidance says we should work from home. For faculty, they can work remotely and we’ve provided them with the tools to do that,” she said.
For those employees whose jobs are “front-facing” and normally require students on campus to work, Bejar said that supervisors are looking into professional development opportunities for those positions that can be done remotely.
Student employees will continue to be paid as long as they are working, according to Bejar.
“Every student that has work, we will see them through. We’ll address challenges as they come,” she said.
High School Students
According to questions sent to the University, there has been some concern about high school students set to graduate this semester and move on to college. Will they get to attend classes in the summer or fall at FIU?
“We’re optimistic for fall. Summer will have challenges, more or less in the same condition. It will likely be fully online,” said Rosenberg.
Rosenberg said the State University System is working together to ensure high school students will still have a smooth transition to college. Bejar added that FIU is making sure there will be enough core requirement classes available next semester for dual-enrollment and freshman students.
While the 20-minute video did not address the depth and breadth of questions of the entire student body, the moderator, Professor David Kramer, expressed an interest in holding another session to address further concerns and add updates.
One question that was specifically tabled for another discussion was the topic of reimbursements for housing and other costs. No questions about this were brought up during the video.
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