DSU Leadership Team Answers Your Questions During Virtual Town Hall
More than 200 members of the DSU community tuned into a virtual town hall meeting for the chance to hear from Father James Greenfield, OSFS ’84, and his leadership team.
Fr. Greenfield was joined by Brother Dan Wisniewski, OSFS, provost; Dr. Gerard Joyce, executive vice president; Linda Zerbe, vice president for student life; and Robert Snyder, vice president for administration and finance, for the 90-minute Q&A.
“I’m delighted that we’re all together tonight. And I just want to say thank you for your patience over these past few weeks as we’ve been in this new way of delivering our education and being together as a community. That’s the hallmark that I’ve noticed from everyone—that even though we’re stressed and anxious at times, everyone has been so patient and respectful.”
One of the biggest questions centered on graduation. A virtual conferral ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 16, for undergraduate, graduate, and ACCESS students. Caps and gowns are being mailed to campus and will be sent out to students. The ceremony will have a similar feel to a live graduation. Each graduate’s name will be read and will appear on the screen along with a photo, if one was submitted. Students will then receive their degree in the mail.
The issue of refunds and a possible tuition freeze were also hot topics. According to Snyder, room and board refunds were processed last week and applied to resident students’ accounts. The University refunded approximately $3.2 million for the second half of the spring semester. Anyone with questions should contact the treasurer’s office at email@example.com. As for a possible tuition freeze, the University is currently looking at the cost of attendance and will have a decision by mid-May.
“When it comes to a cost standpoint, teaching online is just as expensive, if not more expensive, than teaching in class,” said Snyder. “We have the same excellent full-time faculty teaching classes. We had to make additional investments in different kinds of software. But we are sensitive to the fact that this pandemic has impacted our families and students. We want to take that into consideration when we make a decision.”
Fr. Greenfield also noted that the University is still getting advice from the federal government on how to distribute the approximately $900,000 in funds it has left from the stimulus package. Qualifying students can also receive Salesian Solidarity grants or money from the DeSales Emergency Relief Fund, which was recently established to help undergraduate, graduate, and ACCESS students navigate the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
As for healthcare labs and rotations that have been put on hold, Brother Wisniewski commended the faculty and staff who have been working hard to modify schedules. But he noted that clinical rotations in hospital settings can only resume once the hospitals allow students back in.
“The faculty has been excellent in coming up with alternate scenarios. Once we know that we can either bring our students back to campus for some onsite simulation and skills testing and once the healthcare systems allow us back into their settings for clinical experiences, then we’ll be able to move forward.”
Perhaps the biggest question still up in the air is whether students will be allowed back on campus in the fall. According to Joyce, the University will be waiting for guidance from state officials over the next couple months to determine what it can and cannot do.
“Our hope is that we would be back on campus in the fall but we can’t guarantee that,” Joyce said. “In the meantime, we will be working on a variety of contingency plans so that our DeSales University students receive the education that they signed up for and are able to be successful.”
Added Fr. Greenfield: “I want everyone to hear from me as the president of DeSales. We will be open in the fall and delivering education as we promised. We have to be very concerned because safety first. We’re getting our campus ready for all of that.”
One idea on the table is possibly starting the fall semester a few weeks early. If classes do need to be held online again, the leadership team is working with faculty to up the game and learn new modalities. Going forward, more town halls also will be planned, possibly including faculty members or coaches.
“We definitely will do this again,” Fr. Greenfield said. “We may not have answered the questions the way you wanted us to. I’m aware of the fact that we’re all thinking that we need answers. We don’t even know some of the questions yet that are going to be involved. We’re in a marathon with this Coronavirus; it’s not a sprint.”
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