By Kathryn Cambrea, Editor in chief
*UPDATE as of March 16, 2020: Classes at St. Thomas Aquinas College will be online for the rest of the semester, confirmed by an email sent by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Murray on March 16. The following article was published on March 15 prior to this update.
With the wrap of spring break, students at St. Thomas Aquinas College are not walking into class just yet or the way they expected. Effective as of Monday, March 16, 2020, students will have class and complete coursework online as opposed to within a physical classroom setting on campus.
This news was confirmed via a letter written by President Margaret Mary Fitzpatrick emailed to STAC students and staff on March 10.
Prior to this email, information sent to STAC students regarding COVID-19 was tentative, but aimed to nevertheless insure that the College was considering its implications.
An email sent by Vice President and Dean for Student Development Kirk Manning is an example of one of the emails sent prior to Dr. Fitzpatrick’s letter.
“Please be assured that St. Thomas Aquinas College has plans in place should the situation with COVID-19 change and warrant extra precautions to safeguard health,” Dr. Manning wrote in an email sent to STAC students and staff on March 4.
Director of Campus Safety and Security James Nawoichyk alongside Dr. Fitzpatrick echoed Dr. Manning’s reassurance of preparation in an email sent on March 6, writing, “Our responsibility is to continue providing a quality education for our students in a safe environment.”
So, what does this preparation entail? Students will return to class on March 16, but remotely, not physically. Professors have already begun communicating with students regarding details of instruction and work for the week. For example, some methods that professors will be implementing include having students submit work via Moodlerooms and log in to applications like Google Meet to listen to and watch lectures as well as participate in class discussions.
STAC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Murray has provided students with a series of information following Fitzpatrick’s email confirming that the school will not hold in-person classes the week of March 16. Dr. Murray stressed that classes are continuing and for students to consistently check their school emails to not only be aware of how each professor will teach, but what responsibilities they will have.
Not having classes at the College is just one of the ways people can minimize contracting and/or spreading COVID-19. According to NBC News, President Donald Trump has issued a national emergency as of March 13 to address the need for safety and the severity of the Coronavirus. Trump aims to utilize the Stafford Act to fund tests and development of potential cures for COVID-19, according to Fox Business. With this national emergency comes the closing of multiple businesses, schools, and places of worship, which encourages people to stay home.
In addition to not having classes at the College’s campus and practicing the concept of “social distancing” rather than congregating, there are more ways to reduce the likelihood of obtaining COVID-19 and/or becoming a transfer of it. STAC Director of Health Services Eileen Mastrovito listed several ways in emails addressed to the College’s student body to maintain health and act should health be jeopardized. In essence, she encouraged practicing good hygiene through washing hands and not dismissing any sign of deteriorated health as meaningless. In other words, Mastrovito wants students to consult a doctor and remain at home if they are sick.
At this point, students have been told that in-person classes will resume on Monday, March 23, according to an email sent by Dr. Murray as of March 11. However, with the impact of COVID-19 and the number of cases steadily growing as well as Trump’s issued national emergency, this is unknown. What is known is that the style of classes for the week of March 16 will be atypical, yet a structure will be provided.
Visit stac.edu/most-recent-coronavirus-updates to access more information regarding COVID-19 and its effect on classes at the College.