Shippensburg University President Laurie Carter and other officials answered student questions at a virtual President’s Hour Oct. 7.
Students submitted their questions anonymously into a Zoom chat, and moderators read the questions to the president and her colleagues.
The first question of the evening was if the university would remove all attendance penalties for students on Election Day. Students said canceling attendance penalties would give student workers more time to get to the polls. Members of ShipVotes brought up a similar request during a recent Student Government Association meeting.
SU Chief Diversity Officer Stephanie Jirard responded and said the university will not instruct professors to remove their attendance policies on Nov. 3.
“The university is not in a position to cancel classes even though we support ShipVotes,” Jirard said.
Jirard added that the university believes in academic freedom, so the decision is not up to the administration.“So those of us in the executive administration are in no position to tell professors whether or not to excuse students,” Jirard said.
“That academic area is completely in the purview of instructors.”
Although the university will not cancel classes or attendance penalties, Jirard encouraged students to vote. The university will also run a shuttle service for students to attend polling stations in Shippensburg all day on Nov. 3, according to Jirard.
The discussion then moved to the topic of mental health.
An anonymous resident assistant (RA) said a student recently came to them struggling with depression. The student was struggling because they could only schedule a counseling appointment every two weeks. The RA wanted to know what could be done to increase counselors’ availability so students with mental health issues could seek help.
Carter addressed the question.
“This has been brought up at President’s Hours before, and we added two counselors last year in response,” Carter said. “But today was the first time I heard from students that there were long waits for counseling.”
Carter said that the issue would be investigated, and she encouraged students to seek mental health assistance from other places on campus if needed.
“There are trained professionals all over campus,” Carter said. “So, if students are experiencing mental health issues, there are many other resources like the Women’s Center, the Pride Center or MSA [Office of Multicultural Student Affairs].”
Carter then encouraged students to seek out ways to combat isolation during the pandemic.
“Human interaction is important for one’s mental health,” Carter said. “I encourage students to turn their cameras on during virtual classes and to engage with each other.”
Although Carter encouraged human interaction, too much, or too close, of human interaction is still not advised. One student asked how the university would handle off-campus parties where students do not wear masks or practice social distancing.
Barry McClanahan, SU associate student affairs vice president, responded.
“Students have been held accountable both on and off campus for violating COVID-19 policies, and they’ll continue to be,” McClanahan said.
Carter also spoke to the issue, saying the university is monitoring off-campus locations where students party and gather more than ever.
University Police Chief Michael Lee spoke about what his department is doing to monitor off-campus gatherings.
“We have been out on the weekends and identified a large number of locations that have significant gatherings,” Lee said. “We have taken action against those we can identify, but we have to verify who is involved before we can take action.”
Anyone with questions that were not addressed at President’s Hour should send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.