Members of the Kent State community joined Kent State President Todd Diacon on a Facebook live Q&A session on Thursday morning. Over eight thousand people tuned in to voice their concerns about how the university is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic — some of which went unanswered.
Executive Director of University Media Relations Eric Mansfield moderated the live stream. He asked Diacon a series of questions about how the spread of COVID-19 is impacting university operations and how the administration plans to deal with the plethora of issues that come with the transition to remote instruction.
Diacon said Federal Work Study students will be paid up to the cap of the Federal Work Study program through the remainder of the semester, but other student employees are encouraged to reach out to their supervisors or visit the university’s COVID-19 website.
One of the main concerns among commenters was whether or not students would see refunds for anything from housing to tuition to caps and gowns. Diacon said information about prorated room and board refunds is “coming soon.” He also said details about the potential rescheduling of a spring commencement ceremony can be expected by the beginning of next week.
“I don't even care about the refunds anymore, I’m scared for my grades,” said commenter Emma Vessels. “Online learning is going to make my grades plummet, and not from me avoiding homework. I can't learn from a lecture via email as well as I can in an actual hall.”
Concerns that went somewhat unanswered by Diacon revolved around the “remote learning” format. Students in programs from American Sign Language to computer science to dance cited struggles with the transition to remote learning.
“By and large, what I’m hearing is that our move to remote learning has been very successful and that we continue to provide very meaningful teaching and learning opportunities for our students, and because of that I don’t envision making big changes to how we provide those courses and how we grade those courses and the academic calendar,” Diacon said.
Commenter Rachel Grabisna said, “How are the students in ASL and in the ASEI program supposed to succeed with online classes? It’s almost impossible to learn.”
Deaf students in the comments asked for Diacon to add closed captioning or use an interpreter during future livestreams so they could be a part of the conversation. Neither Diacon nor Mansfield addressed those requests.
Many commenters made reference to a petition signed by thousands of students to allow those who are in “good standing academically” to be done for the semester or to move to a pass/fail system.
Even some instructors are pushing to change the grading system — said commenter Jennifer Marie, “Can we finish the semester pass/fail? My students need to be taking care of their health (physical and mental) first right now. As well as their families.”
Diacon said questions about the grades will be welcomed when Provost Melody Tankersley holds a livestream sometime after spring break.
By the end of Diacon’s near 45-minute broadcast, many questions including those about ASL and other language students’ curriculums and summer classes were left unanswered. Mixed with the criticisms, though, were words of praise for Diacon and the university offered by students, faculty, and family members.
Contact Maddy Haberberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.