The COVID-19 coronavirus has ravaged all over the world, leaving companies, governments and institutions with many challenging decisions to make including balancing financial vitality, health and continuing to deliver their mission.
Shippensburg University was not immune to these challenging decisions. The university needed to balance best serving students, its fiscal constraints and the health of students, faculty and staff.
Many students and staff have claimed that the “only reason we are back on campus is to save the university’s bottom line,” but their efforts lead me to believe otherwise. The university has made the hard decision to reopen safely and their decision truly puts students first.
The amount of time, effort and money they have sunk into bringing us back was not for their bottom line, but to benefit students. Their efforts may not have been noticeable before arriving to campus, but their efforts are inescapable both on-campus and in-town.
Considering students have been back for over a month and there have only been four cases, shows how the policies, barriers and efforts have all paid off. With over 6,000 faculty, students and staff and the coronavirus having a natural reproductive value of 1.01, this data is surprisingly supportive of how well our university has done to mitigate the coronavirus while providing a decent array of in-person classes and extra-curricular activities when compared with other schools. The students are the reason for coming back, according to university officials.
“We worked to bring students back because we overwhelmingly heard from students that they wanted to be here,” said Chief External Relations Officer Kim Garris.
The policies, protocols, contact tracing and barriers (although not perfect) are paying off; and we are still here despite many people’s bets. This is thanks to the hard work of our university administration, faculty and staff.
Student affairs has tried their absolute best to ensure that life is as close to “normal” as possible.
The university decreased housing density, created new classrooms, moved thousands of tables and other furniture, completely revised the academic schedule, hired dozens of extra cleaning personnel and purchased tons of personal protective equipment.
They rented tents and handwashing stations, put up thousands of stickers and signage, added an entire office and completed so many other action items to address the coronavirus.
SU did not “cop out,” they went all out for their students. How could they afford all of these changes, especially with patterns of low enrollment, fewer people living on campus and more students taking classes remotely and not paying fees?
Much of the funding to bring us back came from state funding. SU received $1,908,937 in state-appropriated Title V coronavirus relief funds, according to Garris. Those funds were used to directly cover the costs associated with the items mentioned above. Of the $1,908,937 SU received, Garris said the university has spent approximately $1.7 million to date.
Next time you think about why we are here, look at the facts. You will see that it is for us, and I applaud them in that decision.