Campus administration supports students as lockdown approaches second month

By: Joel Goode | Contributing writer

Students and faculty are continuing to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as USA approaches its second month of lockdown. On Friday, March 13, USA  President Tony Waldrop and Vice President of Academic Affairs David Johnson sent a campus-wide email announcing the decision to suspend in-person meetings and replace them with online coursework. The decision coincided with universities across the country in following national guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Initially, the possibility was left open that in-person meetings at South could resume on April 20, but as the global health crisis did not improve, the decision was announced on March 19 to extend the online transition for the duration of the spring semester. On April 2, USA announced the administration’s decision to extend the online transition into the summer semester at reduced tuition.

USA has temporarily suspended all holds for students who sign up for the summer and fall semesters, which are now open for enrollment. Students are still encouraged to contact their advisors to resolve the holds. No announcement has been made as to whether the transition may last through the fall semester, or whether the fall will also carry reduced tuition.

Student-workers who were displaced received a layoff date and correspondence from their supervisors. “March 13  – April 20 was the original time we thought we would be down for,” said Elle McCleskey, a Starbucks worker who had to move away for the quarantine. “[Our supervisor] is kind of like a mom. She jumped on it, got us all in a group message and told us to file for unemployment.”

The University of Alabama announced on April 8 that it will pay for student workers’ spring semester salaries following a campaign by UA Students for Fair Labor, according to The Crimson White. Similar decisions have been reached by other campuses, such as Penn State, which is paying non-essential student worker salaries through April 30, according to Penn State News. 

Workers deemed non-essential at South have not been told whether they might receive compensation during the quarantine. Currently, student workers are not paid pending approval from Vice President Johnson to work remotely. The Office of Student Employment encourages student workers to stay updated daily on USA’s COVID-19 Response page.

As far as the transition to online coursework goes, students and faculty are trying to make the best of the developing situation as the administration eases them into a new software program. USA recently announced that students will have the option to take a pass/fail grade for the semester.

“The administration got on it pretty fast,” said Dr. Corina Schulze, a Political Science professor. “In terms of faculty and students, they got it right.” 

For those who have been able to manage the transition, remote synchronized meetings have provided something to look forward to during the pandemic. “My students are wonderful,” said Dr. Schulze. “They keep me sane. Otherwise, I’d be talking to my plants.” 

Schulze gave special mention to adjunct workers and new faculty who are assisting students during the adjustment. “They’re some of the hardest workers I know.” 

Students displaced from housing are encouraged to work one-on-one with the housing office, which can be reached via housing@southalabama.edu.

Students who have questions regarding counseling or academic resources are encouraged to visit OneStop or email onestop@southalabama.edu.

USA has established the South CARES Emergency Fund, which directs critical resources to students who find themselves faced with urgent expenses they are unprepared to meet. Students with urgent financial expenses can apply for the South CARES program online.