Academic Concern Forum allows student questions answered


Student Congress held an Academic Concerns Forum on Tuesday, May 12 for students to ask questions directly to administrators through Google Meet. Photo courtesy of OUSC Facebook.

Students were able to voice their questions about the uncertain future regarding campus life in a COVID-19 year to administration at Oakland University Student Congress’s (OUSC) Academic Concern Forum on Tuesday, May 12. 

Moderated by Student Body Vice President Annabella Jankowski, the forum was held via Google Meet and addressed issues from tuition prices and hybrid classes to on-campus housing and facility usage. Questions were submitted electronically both prior to and during the event. 

As per the tentative plan for the fall semester, many students were concerned with the logistics of hybrid learning, which classes will get face-to-face priority and the difference between synchronous classes or online classes that meet at a specific time — and asynchronous classes.

The forum began with a question about options for all classes in the fall for students who have underlying conditions and are worried for their health. Provost James Lentini and Associate Provost Michelle Piskulich responded by saying it will not be possible to have multiple options for every single course offered by the university, but they will offer online options for as many courses as possible.

“We are actively making sure we can meet everyone’s needs in the fall,” Piskulich said. “Because of the uncertainty, I know that’s been something on people’s minds. We are also talking to Sarah Guadeloupe from Disability Support Services also to be certain that we are as comfortable with some of the decision making we are doing as possible.”

Academic Affairs has been working to allow for as many in-person classes to occur as possible, planning for hybrid learning and accommodating for social distancing in classrooms. According to Lentini, lab classes will be given priority for face-to-face instruction, as there is no way to recreate that environment online. 

Tuition cost was mentioned several times, specifically if tuition would be lowered during online or hybrid learning — as asked by student Natalie Bielecki. 

“Tuition is not determined yet,” Lentini said. “Tuition is set by the Board of Trustees (BoT) and there will be meetings happening, the next BoT meeting is in June, and I know discussions are ongoing about this topic.”

He also stated that it is unlikely tuition will be lowered, but instead remain the same or increase as per the usual annual increase that typically occurs in public universities. 

“We are trying best we can to give the same high quality experience that we always do,” Lentini said. 

Student Sarah Miller asked if summer classes will have the option for satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading similar to winter 2020 due to its online-only nature. 

Registrar Tricia Westergaard responded, saying it is unlikely that the university will offer satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading again because both students and faculty were aware of the online nature prior to the semester beginning and were able to adequately prepare for it, unlike the winter 2020 semester.

Westergaard said this may be subject to change, saying, “we are keeping our eye on what’s happening, and we’re ready to spring into action if we need to.” 

Students also asked about campus life and what access to services and amenities they will have in the fall semester. Piskulich affirmed that all student support services are still available remotely and to reach out if students find themselves struggling.

On campus housing and usage of amenities like the Oakland Center (OC) and the Recreation Center is still unknown at this time. According to Associate Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Jessie Hurse, students will still have the opportunity to live on campus in the fall, but the university will most likely have to limit the number to roughly 25-50% capacity.

Also according to Hurse, there are plans for OC to be open, but the occupancy and access students will have will be limited. 

Students also asked if masks will be required on campus, and if they will be provided. 

“They would be available,” Lentini said. “We’ve made orders and purchases of [personal protective equipment] PPE, so to speak. We are stockpiling some of those, and we expect more to be coming in. If anyone does not have access … contact us, contact academic affairs or student affairs, and we will make sure you have access to that.”

The impending construction of South Foundation Hall (SFH), scheduled to begin this spring, was also brought up during the forum. According to Lentini, the state funding OU was supposed to receive for the project was delayed, therefore delaying construction. It is unknown when the project will begin, but the university is awaiting orders from the governor’s office on when and how to proceed. 

According to university officials, despite the plans laid out for fall, what campus life will look like all depends on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders and what regulations will be put into place to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff.

“We are here to assist and support you even though we’re physically not on campus,” Hurse said. “Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of the administrators … we’re all here to assist and provide assistance and to ensure your success as a student. We’re here for you, and we’re all in this together.”