Dear parents and families,
Greetings from Oxford, where we have reached the mid-term point of the fall semester. It is an important time for our students and represents an ideal time to check-in with our families. I want to share updates with you on several matters related to the current environment on our campus.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have rethought virtually everything we do on campus. Our singular focus has been to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our university community while, at the same time, enable our students to stay on track toward earning their degrees. We know that, given a choice, the current campus environment is not what you or your students would choose. Given the same choice, we would agree with you. The reality of the moment is that this environment requires constant evaluation and fluid decision-making, which has required us at times to modify elements of our typically vibrant campus experience.
While the current residential, learning and working environment on campus is not the norm, I’m confident that our preventive measures mitigated the spread of the virus without taking a toll on our university and surrounding communities, especially the most vulnerable among us. Please know that we are striving every day to make the most of this environment for your student. As the father of three daughters (all Ole Miss graduates), I know that your concerns are heartfelt and you want the best for your student. I want the very best for them as well. That’s why I want to address any questions and concerns you may have over our current learning and living environment. We will host a virtual Town Hall for parents that I hope you can attend. Details of that event are described below.
The pandemic and the required protocols compelled us to offer classes in a variety of in-person and remote class delivery formats. The reliance on remote delivery is presenting challenges to some of our students, particularly those who perform best in a face-to-face environment. We understand this and have great empathy for our students in navigating this challenge. We’ve asked our faculty to work with students to help them overcome their challenges.
While I hear stories of how our faculty are going to great lengths to adapt to new technologies, engage students, and facilitate learning, I have also heard stories and read parent emails that raised concerns about the delivery of some of our classes. Please know that we are working closely with our deans and department chairs to understand and address those concerns when we hear about them. In addition to looking into those concerns, we are asking all chairs to meet with their faculty members regarding the class formats and assess how things are going, and we are asking faculty to check-in with their students. If your student has concerns about the delivery of a course, I would encourage them to contact the chair of the respective department so that we can address any concerns from all angles.
We are expanding options for your students to engage in campus life. We are optimistic about our ability to do that as we gather more data from our Sentinel Testing Program, which offers free testing for asymptomatic students, faculty and staff in an effort to understand more precisely the prevalence of the virus in our campus community. This data is crucial to allowing us to hold more in-person activities. Any student who gets tested is eligible for weekly drawings that include scholarships and other rewards. Please encourage your student to get tested. They should watch for emails from the Office of the Provost about this testing opportunity.
Late last week, we notified students that on-campus organizational meetings or other structured events can move forward within the COVID prevention protocols so that student organizations can be more engaged. It is a step in the right direction for students to more fully engage in campus life, and we look forward to continuing that trend. We are also encouraging academic departments to offer more co-curricular engagement opportunities for students.
Students’ state of mind
With midterms underway, we are in a time of year when our University Counseling Center (a free resource for students) typically experiences an uptick in calls. In addition, COVID-related issues and the limitations on campus life may contribute to students’ need to speak with a counselor. Our Student Affairs team is keenly attuned to these issues and is working actively to address and alleviate state of mind challenges that we know some of our students are facing.
Families’ Town Hall
I hope you can join me and several senior administrators for a Families’ Town Hall, where we will share additional updates from the campus and take your questions. We want to hear from you and clarify anything you may not understand about the state of affairs on campus. The Town Hall will be hosted on Zoom on Monday, October 12 at 5:30 p.m. Central Time. We will send the link to the town hall in a separate message to follow. Please use this online form to submit questions in advance.
Please know that we hear your concerns about the challenges inherent in our current academic environment, and we are committed to addressing them to the extent possible. We would prefer to do what we do best by teaching all students in-person, inspiring them with hands-on and experiential learning opportunities, and equipping them with the skills they need to change the world. At the same time, this challenging period is trying for each of us, including your student, as we adapt to the circumstances required to respond to the virus. Their ability to navigate these challenges will make them stronger, more adaptable and resilient, and better equipped to take on whatever the world throws at them.
I want to reiterate our thanks and appreciation for entrusting us with the education of your student. This is a huge responsibility and one of the biggest investments that you and your family will make. We are fully committed to delivering an outstanding educational experience that enables your students to start building their personal legacies.
Stay well and Hotty Toddy,
Glenn F. Boyce