During this time of fear and confusion, students and their families had the opportunity to have their concerns addressed by President Hopey along with eight other staff members during a Virtual Town Hall. This was also the first opportunity for many students to try out the new Zoom software the school is providing to make online classes possible. Zoom pretty much works like Facetime or Skype, but also has features, such as question and answer, and chat. During the town hall meeting, students and parents submit any questions or concerns, and President Hopey and his fellow staff members answered the questions live for everyone to hear.
First, I’d like to address the academic aspect of the meeting and the logistics of online learning. For science labs, it varies by department and you should reach out to your professor or the chair of that department for specific instructions. For example, for athletic training students, professors will be mailing students the materials they need to complete their labs. Nobody will be penalized academically if they do not have access to materials they need to complete coursework. This applies to all departments. If professors still have yet to reach out to you, contact them, and if they do not get back to you in reasonable time, contact the chair of that department or have the Task Force reach out for you.
The Task Force is an excellent resource for any concerns regarding the current situation we are in due to COVID-19. Merrimack is also looking into converting to a pass/fail option in most courses given the circumstances. This will be brought up at the next faculty senate meeting. The date to convert to pass/fail has been extended to the very end of the semester on May 7. It is important to consider future plans when deciding whether to convert to this option, as some graduate and professional schools frown upon this, although most will likely take the current context into consideration. It is also important to note that for some majors this is not possible due to outside accreditation requirements, such as engineering and nursing.
It is also important to talk about the second most popular concern: when students may return or collect essential items. While there is no guarantee that we will come back on April 14, that is the school’s goal. If a decision is made prior to April 14, students and faculty will receive at least a 7 days notice. Hopefully, in person classes will be available by the time summer rolls around and students can in turn live on campus during that time. At the moment, all that can be guaranteed for our students is the online option. Decisions regarding this are being made in 30 day cycles as the future beyond that cannot be predicted by anyone at this time.
The school is allowing students to pick up any essential items they may have left behind with the permission of the Dean of Students. Those who are in driving distance may come and pick up these items while those further away may be given access electronically to books they left at school, or have student life enter their rooms while on a video call with the student to ensure that the correct item(s) are being retrieved. The same rules apply if you are living over at Royal Crest, unless you have a private lease. There have also been many people asking about reimbursement of room and board, and there is no short answer to this question, unfortunately, any decisions about this will not be made until April 14 at the earliest, and the methods of payment vary for each student, so this will take some time to be decided on.
SENIORS: good news! We WILL be having a live, in-person graduation on campus. While the existing date cannot be a guarantee, a graduation and a senior week can be. Even if senior week is abbreviated, seniors will still be honored and get to celebrate with their classmates as if this were a typical school year. If we return as scheduled, we will also be having Spring Weekend. No matter what the outcome is, Hopey has assured us that we will all get to celebrate the end of the year, it’s just a matter of when.
Lastly, Hopey wanted students to be aware that Hamel Health will be going virtual for the time being to provide support for students during this time of worry and panic. The Academic Deans of schools will also be hosting town halls as well as clubs and athletics. The goal is to keep everybody connected the best we can despite the circumstances. Remember, resources are still available to you at Merrimack as if we were still on campus. Stay safe and healthy, Warriors!