Student Concerns Forum addresses fall semester uncertainty

Lauren Reid, Staff Reporter

Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC) hosted a virtual public forum addressing concerns surrounding campus life leading into the fall semester on Tuesday, June 16.

With approximately 50 attendees, representatives from various departments were available to answer electronically submitted questions and provide as much information as possible, considering the ever-changing situation COVID-19 presents. 

The forum began with a look into the current plan for classes. Michelle Piskulich, associate provost and associate professor of political science, mentioned many courses will be offered in a hybrid format. In-person classes are being prioritized, since seating numbers will be reduced in these settings to meet social distancing requirements. 

“Our goal is to have face-to-face classes where it is possible,” Piskulich said. “[But also], to provide opportunities for students who cannot [be at Oakland University] for their own health concerns or that of a family member. We are making investments in some classroom technology that will allow us to stream courses while lectures are ongoing to maximize flexibility.” 

Although final schedules have not been determined, Piskulich ensured that the registrar’s office is working nonstop to finalize plans. 

“This is a lot of moving parts we are working through,” Piskulich said. “We will have it so [students] know how [their] classes will be offered in the fall very soon.”

Additionally, all students will be required to do a brief, daily screening for COVID-19.

“The daily health screenings will be tracked through [students’] net ID,” said Jessie Hurse, associate dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator. “Answers to three screening questions will be submitted to the appropriate individuals for their review.” 

Senior Director for the Office of Student Involvement, Jean Ann Miller, said on-campus activities will be face-to-face as much as possible while considering Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders and OU protocol. 

“We will work to make sure there is a very robust programming in the fall,” Miller said. “[Also, OU] will have a Grizz Fest, most likely virtual, ensuring all students have the opportunity to be involved, along with student organizations and student activities.” 

On the campus housing end, Director of University Housing, Jim Zentmeyer, mentioned housing will be reaching out to all students with a fall housing contract. These students are advised to get tested for COVID-19 and fill out a screening before arrival. Move-in will look different as well, with housing currently considering a five-day period with many check-in stations. Specific dates are forthcoming. 

“We are looking at extremely limiting the number of people that are on campus at any given hour with regard to checking in,” Zentmeyer said. “More than likely, [each student will get] 1-2 helpers to help with the move-in process. I would not be surprised if we asked those individuals the health screening questions before they enter the halls and mandate they wear a facial covering or mask.” 

Dining will also look different, as dining halls will be spaced out. The self-serve option is to be eliminated, with associates filling plates. New take out options will be available as well — like grab-and-go, take out and meal delivery for students in isolation due to COVID-19. 

When it comes to visitors, non-OU residential students are defined as “guests” and according to Zentmeyer, “the CDC recommends that [housing] not allow students to bring in outside germs and exposure to the campus [pertaining to guests.] To bring an outside entity into the ‘family unit’ — what the CDC considers a room in housing, equipped with roommates and suitemates — would be a risky proposition from a health perspective.”

Fellow OU students, considered “visitors,” are allowed for visitation in public areas. 

“It’s going to be rough, it’s going to be very different. But again, we are following the guidelines being established by health officials in our local community,” Zentmeyer said. 

The forum addressed a multitude of other concerns including counseling, exams, parking, club and intramural sports, undergraduate research, social distancing enforcement, grading options, scholarships and internships — all of which are being worked out and modified to accommodate concerns as well as possible. 

The Black Lives Matter movement was also touched on — Hurse mentioned discussions are being held and events being planned — with more information to come. 

“A number of us [representatives on the forum] and those in other offices are in contact with students,” Hurse said. “Our goal is to have everything be student-driven, student-led and student-initiated. We want to support our student body with the plans they have and the efforts they want to put forward.”

Counseling Center Director David Schwartz mentioned the center wants to follow the students’ lead as well, being supportive in whatever way they can. 

“We are very open to listening to what the students are doing and being side-by-side with them, supporting them,” Schwartz said. 

Miller mentioned a Black Lives Matter student organization is being formed, a well as a candlelight vigil that will take place during welcome week. 

Students looking for additional resources and clarity for the upcoming academic year are encouraged to review in detail the recent email message sent out from the office of the president regarding specific guidelines. Those interested can also start at: Reopening Campus – Oakland University