The Gustavian Weekly

Faculty and Staff Cope with COVID-19 Pandemic | The Gustavian Weekly

By Jack Wiessenberger - Staff Writer | March 26, 2020 | News

The rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic has led to Gustavus suspending all in-person instruction as well as on-campus living for the remainder of the semester. The decision has had immediate impacts on the entire Gustavus community, and further effects are still to be seen. Faculty, including professors, coaching staff and other college service workers, are preparing for the next few months of the spring semester. The changes have been drastic for these employees, and coming up with a plan to continue their work has been challenging. The announcement of the campus closure came in an email from President Bergman this last Tuesday, March 17.
“I write today with an updated announcement on Gustavus measures in response to the fast-developing COVID-19 situation. The College has made the difficult decision to extend its period of online learning through the end of the spring semester. It is with a deep sense of sadness that I write this message today. All along, we had hoped to resume normal operations and in-person classes in a few short weeks,” Bergman said.
Gustavus administrators had initially planned to return to in-person instruction on April 14. With the health and safety of everyone in mind, it was decided switching to online learning for the remainder of the semester would be best. The fluid situation has made planning for the future hard for everyone involved.
“At Gustavus, we talk about ‘facing the greatest challenges of our time.’ This pandemic and the response to it, locally and globally, is certainly a great challenge. My job has been changing nearly every day since the first announcement came out that Gustavus would be shifting to online learning, although one thing has remained consistent – our worry for the students,” Associate Professor and First-Term Seminar Director Lauren Hecht said.
Gustavus’ mission statement calls every member of its community to face the important issues we’re living through. For professors right now, the task at hand is to find a way to educate students under unusual circumstances.
“Faculty are worrying about how to deliver a meaningful learning experience for the rest of the semester. Working remotely, navigating unfamiliar territory with online learning, figuring out how to continue committee and program work… all of these things have impacted our jobs as professors,” Hecht said.
Professors have been assisted by Gustavus Technology Services (GTS) in preparing for online learning. However, professors’ worries go beyond questions of preparing classes.
“Faculty are consistently expressing worries about students’ physical and mental health. Many of us were unable to see students one more time before they left campus to say goodbye. There is consistent worry about how students will adapt to this shift. We want to help students learn, but we are attempting to fit a course into a format that was never intended,” Hecht said.
Every faculty member on campus is working through how to proceed as effectively as possible. One area of campus that has already been dramatically affected is the dining services. With little to no students to serve, operational changes were necessary.
“The Dining Service staff will be reduced in number and scheduled fewer hours than they are typically scheduled. That said, the college has committed to paying their regular wages and providing non-wage benefits,” Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Steven Kjellgren said.
Everyone is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 response. Cashiers, cooks and all other dining service workers will be working in limited shifts for the rest of the semester. The few students who will remain on campus must also follow rules set by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
“The MarketPlace will be open for students who remain on campus unless the MDH advises otherwise. Hours of service will be reduced and food offerings will be adjusted as necessary. We ask that students stop in the restroom of the Campus Center to wash their hands for twenty seconds prior to entering the MarketPlace and to observe the required ‘social distance’ requirement of six feet from another person while in the MarketPlace and Evelyn Young Dining Room,” Kjellgren said.
The changes set in place by organizations such as the MDH are impacting everyday functioning at a high level. For athletes across the country, it was the decisions made by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that had the biggest impact. Gustavus teams were among those affected by the NCAA decisions to cancel all remaining winter and spring championships for all sports.
“Even though there have been some difficult decisions to end the spring season, we understand the gravity of this situation and have a duty to our community, region and nation to take action. In difficult situations, Gusties come together to help each other through. We are a strong and united family and it has been apparent that our student-athletes are leaning on each other for comfort and to process this ever changing situation,” Track and Field Head Coach Aaron Lund said.
Coaching staff of spring sports have been tasked with working the remainder of the semester without their athletes. Like other departments of the college, they are dealing with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a sad, difficult circumstance for our student-athletes, especially our seniors and those graduating this spring. It will be possible for our seniors to return next season with eligibility, but in reality, it will be a very difficult decision to make,” Lund said.
The decision to close the Gustavus campus was not taken lightly. By making this decision, administrators are putting the health and safety of every Gustie first. This arrangement is not without consequences, however. Professors and other faculty including dining service workers and coaches are all being heavily impacted by this choice. Every Gustie is working hard to make the best of this unusual and uncertain situation.

1 Comment

Comments are the sole opinion of the visitor who submitted the comment and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author of the article, its editors, or The Gustavian Weekly or Gustavus Adolphus College as a whole.

  1. Riki Fernancrot says:

    this is a world level crisis, and until now, there is no information about when the lockdown must end.

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