File | THE CHIMES
The university’s campus will open for the Fall 2020 semester, as long as there are no government restrictions, President Barry Corey announced today during a virtual town hall livestream.
Just a few days ago, Corey commissioned a “re-entry team” to work toward reopening the campus. Corey said the team is composed of qualified scholars, safety and communications workers—many of whom are experienced in dealing with infectious diseases.
“We look forward to experiencing again this life-giving dimension of our campus community,” Corey said.
Prior to the meeting, students and families sent more than 100 questions. Senior Director of University Communications Brenda Velasco administered as many questions as time would allow. Corey reminded listeners that they are answering questions with information they currently know, however, the university does not have all the answers.
Corey said commencement may take place during Labor Day weekend, but noted that it’s more likely the ceremony will take place in December or the spring. Biola’s plans are dependent on the California state government lifting the stay-at-home order.
“Our university teams have really been working hard in cooperation with several university departments to think creatively about honoring our Spring 2020 graduating class, until we have the party of all parties, when they finally get together,” Corey said.
HEALTH AND SAFETY POLICIES
In preparation for the campus’s reopening in the fall, Biola Health Center Director Sarah Templeton said Biola is piloting a program for temperature monitoring with essential health center and campus safety employees. Templeton confirmed there is a possibility this testing will extend campus-wide.
She also said Biola is following Los Angeles County guidelines and essential personnel on campus are wearing cloth face coverings. Templeton said Biola will continue to follow these instructions in the fall if they are still in place.
Chief of Campus Safety John Ojeisekhoba announced that hand sanitizer stations have been installed in the lobbies of all residence buildings on campus. The university is purchasing additional stations and plans to install them in all campus buildings.
Alongside Facilities Management and other teams, Campus Safety is developing options for classroom seating arrangements, in the event that LA County requires social distancing in the fall.
Ojeisekhoba and the re-entry team are also in the process of drafting guidelines for social distancing in dorms and communicating with LA County to approve these guidelines for the fall semester.
CARES ACT STUDENT FUNDING
Corey confirmed that Biola has applied for funds that the federal government is supplying to higher education institutions via the CARES Act, which was passed at the end of March. The university expects to receive just under $4 million. Corey said half of the money will be allocated directly to students to cover unexpected expenses caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
“About $1.9 million will be allocated to cover student expenses. This money has to go to students,” Corey said. “It’s not going to Biola in lieu of students, it’s not going to be credited to your account. It’s going to be a cash payment to students.”
Corey said information regarding the issuance of funds would be posted on Biola’s coronavirus webpage and students would be notified via email. He encouraged students to stay up to date on this issue by contacting their financial aid advisors.
COVID-19 RESURGENCE PLAN
If the virus resurged in the fall semester, Corey said the university will be prepared to transition into remote formats again.
“I do assure you this for Biola, as good as our courses were in the spring, they will be better in the fall,” Corey said.
This summer, the Digital Learning and Program Development teams are designing new delivery platforms to prepare for the fall semester, according to Provost and Senior Vice President Deborah Taylor.
“We will learn from the experiences we have had this spring,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the university has gathered survey feedback from students about the spring semester. Feedback has been sent to deans and department chairs for review, and they will use this data to help improve online education.
Corey said the university will be “very fair” in crediting back to students’ room and board refunds for the fall semester, if the virus resurges.
The university is also working on designated housing for students who need to be quarantined, instead of sending them home if they contract the virus.
The re-entry team is establishing ways students can receive meals, basic necessities and complete classwork at a high level all while quarantined, Corey said.
“They can actually be here if the circumstances are right,” said Corey. “With these plans in place, it will require our courses to be able to adapt if a student’s not able to be in class for a time.”
If classes transfer to remote delivery again, Corey said the university will preserve a student’s financial aid package if they take a gap year.
He also said if students are sent home in the fall, courses will be offered at a reduced price.
SAT AND ACT SCORES WAIVED
Biola is waiving SAT requirements for Fall 2020 applicants. Corey mentioned this is consistent with schools across the nation, including the University of California system and others like Cornell University. This is due to the cancelation of administered tests through the College Board and ACT Inc.
Corey did say international students are still expected to pass their English proficiency tests. However, he noted that there are some exceptions and to learn more students should contact their advisors.
SUMMER COURSES AND EVENTS
Vice President of Student Development Andre Stephens confirmed that housing will be closed for the summer semester. Money paid for room and board from the Spring 2020 semester can be applied to fees during the Fall 2020 semester.
All summer activities are officially canceled through the month of June, including campus tours.
On May 19, the NCAA Presidents Council will meet to go through recommendations and proposals for the 2020-2021 season.
One proposal, Stephens explained, is to reduce the number of competitions during the season. The percentage by which the competition season would be reduced is undecided. Another proposal is a mandatory training period to help prevent student-athlete injuries, as many have not been able to partake in usual team training during this time. This may result in delayed competition.
The NCAA is also delaying the implementation of other legislative changes, including the change in the 3-point line in basketball to international distance, bat testing in baseball and others that will require funding. By putting off these changes, it hopes to ease the burden of transition.
NEW GRADING OPTIONS
The university reviewed around 190 grading policies implemented by other institutions because of the pandemic before implementing its own temporary grading policy, Taylor said. After students receive their grades for the spring semester, they have the choice to convert their grades into Credit or No Credit, rather than typical letter grades. May 30 is the deadline to submit requests for CR/NC grading.
Biola’s academic scholarships have a minimum cumulative GPA requirement, so the CR/NC option will not affect their scholarship, as the new grading system does not affect a student’s GPA.