Georgia State will refund students 40% of fees, parking, meal and housing associated costs

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated as new information is received.

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Links to reporting by The Signal relating to the impacts of coronavirus on campus will be posted here as they are published.

March 23 at 10:30 a.m

Georgia State will refund students 40% of fees, parking, meal and housing associated costs

Today, students received an email that 40% of some fees that relate to discontinued campus services, mandatory fees, parking, meal plan and housing costs will be refunded.

The services covered by this refund include specific mandatory students fees and, when applicable, semester parking permits, meal plans, and housing fees,” the email stated.

On the Atlanta campus the activity, athletic, recreation, sustainability and transportation fees are included. Law students will receive refunds for the law activity fee as well.

On the Perimeter campus, the activity, athletic, sustainability and transportation fees are included.

Parking permit and meal plan costs will also be refunded if a student stopped using these services.

For fees, parking and meal plan costs, students will see the 40% refund on their accounts by March 27.

Students in University Housing will also be receiving a refund of 40% of their cost if they move out by April 1. If they move out by today, they will see the refund on March 27 but if they move out after today, the refund will be posted to the student’s account five days after they move-out.

The email also provided some notice on how refunds work, prompting students to check their PAWS account for more information.


March 22 at 10:00 a.m

Georgia State provides students with resources for internet, technology and library research as courses move online next Monday

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, courses will move online for the 49,988 students currently registered at Georgia State and the university administration must rise to the challenge of transitioning all course material to an entirely new medium abruptly in the middle of the semester.

On Thursday, students received an email from Georgia State University President Mark Becker that courses would be resuming online on March 30. This comes after spring break was essentially extended a week, after the two weeks of no courses — both in person and online — comes to an end.

The email sent to students was also forwarded to the parents of these students.

To support students, the university has created an online resource, the Keep Learning website. The resource guides students on how to continue their studies, find online course material and review new policies professors may now have in place.

“Your health and safety are our highest priority, and we are truly sorry that your on-campus experiences this semester have been cut short,” Becker said in the email. “One of the greatest strengths of Georgia State is the richness of our campus communities and the incredible opportunities they afford, so the loss is real.”

Although campus is closed and all on-campus activities have been canceled, Becker notes the university is working to continue to provide support through health services, counseling, financial aid, career services and the Panther Involvement Network.

These resources and their accessibility under the recent changes are also provided through the Keep Learning website, with links and updates including for the counseling center, academic advising and the rec center.

To aid in coursework, although the campus libraries are closed for in-person visits, students can still access all databases online at lib.gsu.edu and the library staff will be available to answer research questions through an online chat function.

For students facing challenges with internet access or technology, the online resource Connecting to Online Instruction provides students with free and low-cost internet options. However, there is no direction at this time to provide students with access to the technology or devices necessary for online courses if they don’t already have them.

But if students are still facing challenges, they can fill out an online form on the same page and the university will address the issues from there. The Technology Service Desk is also still fully operational to help with technical issues, like logging in and forgotten passwords, which can be accessed online at help.gsu.edu.

“We understand that this is a stressful time for you and that the move to online learning may pose additional challenges,” Becker said. “Georgia State University is fully committed to supporting you to the greatest extent possible for the remainder of the semester.”


March 20 at 1:00 p.m

Georgia State staff member tests positive for coronavirus

A staff member working in the Robinson College of Business was confirmed yesterday to have tested positive for coronavirus.

They are now being treated in a local hospital and the Robinson College administration has contacted people who may have been in contact with this staff member recently, according to an email from the Office of the President. 

“It is important that each of us pay close attention to our overall health, and to any COVID-19 symptoms that may arise,” Georgia State University President Mark Becker said in an email to students. “COVID-19 symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you have had contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19 and develop those symptoms, stay home and call your health care provider or local health department right away.”


March 18 at 9:30 a.m

Georgia State spring graduation ceremony canceled at this time

This morning, students received an email for Georgia State University President Mark Becker that because of a University System of Georgia decision, all USG institutions will not hold graduation ceremonies, including Georgia State.

The undergraduate ceremonies for May 6, 7 and 8, the associate degree ceremony on May 5, master’s ceremonies on various dates in May and the Ph.D. hooding ceremony on May 4 will no longer take place.

Students will still graduate this spring and receive their diploma at the end of the semester if they’ve met all requirements, but there will be no ceremony.

“To our graduating students, the university fully understands how profoundly disappointing this news is for you,” Becker said in the announcement. “I know how meaningful and important a commencement is, and we want to celebrate your achievements in an appropriate fashion.” 

Becker notes the university is “committed to finding ways to honor you at a time when large gatherings are once again safe.”

“At that time, we will turn our attention to identifying where, when and how to do so, and we will communicate directly with graduates when the details become available,” he said.


March 16 at 7:30 p.m

University System of Georgia and Georgia State move courses online for the remainder of the semester

“The University System of Georgia (USG) has decided that all 26 institutions will move to online instruction for all courses for the remainder of the semester with extremely limited exceptions,” an announcement made through the USG website today stated.

After suspending classes for two weeks just a few days ago, the USG has now decided to move all classes online for the remainder of the spring semester.

In the announcement, the USG notes that residence halls will also be closed.

The Signal is currently working to provide further information on how this announcement will reflect at Georgia State, although it is certain classes will also be moved online for this same period.


March 13 at 1:00 p.m

University President Mark Becker responds to students and faculty clarifying concerns following two week campus closure from coronavirus

Georgia State University President Mark Becker has sent an email clarifying multiple student concerns and questions following the announcement that campus would be closing for the next two weeks as coronavirus spreads across the nation. 

“We appreciate your flexibility and patience as we work through the details in the coming days,” Becker said in the announcement. “This is a challenging time for all of us, but by working together, we will be successful.”

Most campus buildings, including the library, recreation center and classroom buildings will be closed until March 29. 

The Student Health Clinic and the Counseling Center on the Atlanta Campus will continue to be open and provide “limited services” for students. 

“You do not need to take your belongings from the residence halls,” Becker said. “Pack whatever equipment and instructional materials you will need to follow your courses remotely.”

For students in University Housing, the email says that the department is “working directly with students who … are unable to relocate during this time.”

The email also notes they are working with students who have no access to technology or internet as classes move online and to expect more details soon. 

The university will remain open to faculty and staff, who will have access to offices and research laboratories. 

All events scheduled until March 29 are canceled and all non-essential travel is canceled. 

“These are unusual times that require each of us to adapt our work and daily living routines. This is a challenging time globally, and for each of us individually,” Becker said. “By working together, we will be successful in limiting the spread of the virus in our community while also continuing to serve our university mission to the greatest extent possible.”


March 12 at 11:45 p.m.

Students in University Housing scramble and SGA contacts administration despite availability of request to stay form 

Georgia State students had 24 hours to find a living situation for the next two weeks if they live in University Housing after the announcement that campus would be closed at 5 p.m. this Friday.

On social media, many students scrambled to find a place for the extended week or wondered if they would be able to get access to their room after the 5 p.m. deadline.

Student Government Association Student Services Chair John Le contacted Shannon Corey, interim director of University Housing, to inquire about an extension for students in housing to be able to stay until Monday, March 16, when the two week campus closure officially begins.

“We here at Student Government fear that this decision puts too much stress on students and their families as this came with less than 24 hours notice,” Le said in the email. “We believe there would be much less anxiety amongst students and their families for this short notice and allow for a much more reasonable departure.”

However, students may put in a request via an online request to stay form if they need to stay over the break or need more time before their departure. The deadline for requests is also Friday at 5 p.m.


March 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Georgia State closes campus for two weeks in wake of coronavirus

Georgia State officially announced classes will be canceled for two weeks, beginning the  Monday of spring break, March 16.

The announcement informed students they are to depart campus by 5 p.m., Friday, March 13, and to plan to stay off campus for two weeks.

“The university will continue to provide housing for residential students who are unable to leave during these two weeks,” Georgia State University President Mark Becker said in the official announcement. “At this time, students in university housing are not being asked to move out for the remainder of the semester.”

Becker notes that this decision has been made “to test [Georgia State’s] online teaching modules and its business continuity plan, as authorized by the University System of Georgia.”


March 11 at 11 a.m.

Students and faculty respond as coronavirus hysteria sweeps across campus — University administration says “no confirmed cases” with no official word on in-person classes being canceled 

Professors across campus are taking action and communicating with students as the fear of coronavirus grows at Georgia State.

“Given the current climate surrounding the coronavirus issue, the University could require courses be delivered in an ‘online-only’ format for a period of time,” Casey Potts, accounting professor, said in an announcement to his class online.

Shelby Frost, professor of economics, shared to her class that they needed to begin testing online software to continue courses such as Respondus LockDown Browser.

“Given the concerns related to corona virus [sic] spreading around the country, I have decided to administer the Test 2 online,” Sumith Doluweera, a physics professor, said in an online announcement.

Ted Friedman asked his class to “screen online videos” on their own and starting this week, he will be teaching his classes online.

“As a member of a high-risk group, I have been advised to avoid large gathering [sic] during the current outbreak,” Friedman said in an email to his class.

After growing concern from students that he’d been exposed to the virus, he later sent another email clarifying that was not the case. He had made the decision out of an abundance of caution for his own health.

Jennifer Jiles, a journalism professor, decided not to hold class today due to what she said her doctor is absolutely certain is a sinus infection, in order to err on the side of caution.

Some professors have canceled classes without specifying coronavirus specifically as the cause, including Timothy Barouch, who said they would not meet for class today, and Amber Monroe.

“As an update, today’s class is canceled. Please be attentive to potential upcoming announcement [sic] about shifting to virtual,” Monroe said in an announcement to her class.

Marcus Simmons, a journalism professor, moved all classes online this week, and told his class they are excused from attending class in person. He encouraged students who feel sick to seek medical attention.

Likely these professors are responding to a request from Wendy Hensel, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, announced on Tuesday.

In an email to faculty, Hensel has urged professors to practice using online forms of communication, testing and publishing course material as well as allowing for a greater number of sick absences to students.

However, canceling class all together at this time without approval is prohibited.

“If you are currently teaching a face-to-face class, you may not cancel all remaining classes or move the class to an entirely online format for the remainder of the semester without first seeking the approval of your department chair and dean,” Hensel said in the email.

Chauncey Walker, constituent relations coordinator for the Alumni Association, made an announcement to the Young Alumni Council that all events from the office now until mid April are canceled.

“Due to the virus that is spreading we are cancelling all events from the alumni office from now until mid April this includes GSU cares, 40 under 40 and the YAC panel event in April,” Walker said.

In various chat groups and on social media platforms, students have been claiming and discussing confirmed cases of the virus on campus, but according to Andrea Jones, Associate Vice President for Public Relations and Marketing at Georgia State, this isn’t the case.

“We have not been informed that any member of the Georgia State community has tested positive,” Jones said.

The university’s website for COVID-19 updates included a new message today, reaffirming to students no cases have been identified.

“To date, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Georgia State. The Georgia Department of Public Health has now confirmed cases in Georgia. Campuses remain open,” the website states. “However, we are prepared to make changes should public health authorities recommend otherwise.”

Although many students are reporting Georgia State’s campus is closing, the university has not yet made an official decision.

Jeffrey Riley, a journalism professor at Georgia Southern University, posted to Twitter today that “faculty and students at Georgia Southern were just notified that the University System of Georgia plans on keeping all public universities in the state open and on the regular operating schedule for the foreseeable future.”

The message from the USG states that they are consulting directly with the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force.

“DPH has advised that the risk of contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Georgia remains low,” the message from the USG stated. “Therefore, all 26 USG institutions will remain open for face-to-face education at this time.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there are now 31 confirmed and presumed cases in Georgia.


March 10 at 9:30 a.m.

Student sends resolution to SGA president Mejia for closure of Georgia State’s Downtown campus because of the risk coronavirus’ spread poses

Today, Danny Mai, a student and former senator for the Student Government Association, submitted a draft of a University-Wide Opinion Resolution to SGA President Jazmin Mejia.

The resolution advocates for the closure of Georgia State’s Downtown campus and a switch to online classes until further notice.

“In light of the COVID-19 epidemic, it has come to my attention that the student populace has grown cautious and uneasy,” Mai wrote in an email to Mejia. “As such, I am writing to you today to propose a resolution that will affect the student body.”

If passed, the resolution will be sent to Mark Becker, Georgia State University President; Allison Calhoun-Brown, Vice President for Student Affairs; Dr. Jill Lee-Barber Associate Vice President for Student Health and Wellness; and the Georgia State University Office of Emergency Management.

“SGA is in contact with upper administration trying our best to stay updated,” President Mejia said in an interview with The Signal. “We don’t want to cause any more fear or panic, so the resolution is tentative as of today.”

Mejia notes that because Mai is no longer a senator, the resolution can be submit by him but must be introduced by a current senator.

Within SGA, a large portion of the most recent Atlanta Senate meeting last Thursday was spent discussing the coronavirus, as seen in recent reporting by The Signal.


March 10 at 9:00 a.m.

Petition signatures grow rapidly as students respond

Overnight, the petition to close Georgia State campus and move to online classes because of the risk of coronavirus surpassed its original goal of 7,500 signatures and its second goal of 10,000 signatures. The number of signatures continues to climb.

Jason Kusmierz, the student who started the poll, has provided The Signal with some additional clarity on where his concerns stems from. 

Included in these concerns are the large number of commuters driving into the Downtown campus, the number of students who share his concerns, the risk of the virus spreading across Georgia and “safety — for our students, our professors and our families.”

“The rapid rise in the number of signatures goes to show that many students are thinking about this and prefer to lower their exposure to society as the number of cases continues to rise,” Kusmierz said.

On the petition, respondents can provide their reasons for signing.

“As SOON as a [GSU] student gets it, school is going to get canceled. It makes more sense to be PROACTIVE and cancel now,” Shann Mack writes.

Several responses take a more witty tone, as student Jayden Parrish’s comment does.

“When I said this semester would be the death of me this isn’t what I meant GSU,” Parrish writes.

Anup Patel, a student in the Robinson College of Business, writes, “If I get sick, I’m taking legal action.”


March 9 at 9:00 p.m.

6,300 signatures in 6 hours: Petition to close GSU campus because of coronavirus

A petition through Change.org to close Georgia State’s campus and move to online classes was created six hours ago and has already received more then 6,300 signatures, nearly meeting its goal of 7,500 signatures.

The petition was written by student Jason Kusmierz and is directed toward both Georgia State University President Mark Becker and the Georgia State Office of Emergency Management.

“Keeping the school open is reckless and is bound to spread the virus unnecessarily,” the petition states. “It is time to be proactive and assume that the lack of testing does not mean a lack of cases. They are out there around us, and they are spreading the virus.”

This article will be updated with the university and Kusmierz’s responses when they are received.


March 4 at 4:00 p.m.

Public Health Preparedness Task Force established to discuss moving classes online as University President Becker responds to Coronavirus: Now is a “time of heightened concern”

Students, faculty and even university administration are all increasingly concerned over the spread of the strain of novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, especially after Gov. Brian Kemp confirmed the first two cases in the state on Monday night. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the cases are in Fulton County, from a man who returned from Milan, Italy on Feb. 22 and infected his son.

According to Wendy Hensel, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Georgia State, Georgia State University President Mark Becker has “appointed a task force of experts from around the university to provide guidance to the university as this situation evolves.”

This Public Health Preparedness Task Force includes Leslie Wolf, interim dean of the College of Law; Rodney Lyn, interim dean of the School of Public Health; Michael Sanseviro, associate vice president for student engagement and dean of students; Wolfgang Schloer, associate provost for international initiatives; Georgia State University Police Department Chief of Police Joseph Spillane; and Don Hale, vice president for public relations and marketing communications.

“The COVID-19 virus has impacted the operations of some universities abroad,” Hensel said. “While there is no immediate threat to Georgia, we are proactively evaluating and revising our preparedness plans to minimize the disruption to students, faculty and staff in the event Georgia State is affected.”

Additionally, the administration is beginning plans for a transition to online courses if in-person classes need to be canceled, which provides its own complications for students without access to an at-home computer.

“In particular, we have asked faculty to identify the equipment they would need to deliver remote instruction from home so we could continue classes should it become necessary to implement social distancing measures,” she said.

Professors have begun taking their own actions as well.

John Frazier, a professor in the School of Film, Media & Theatre, posted an announcement to his students via iCollege on Tuesday that he was canceling classes that day until he had “received a clear protocol for dealing with COVID 19 (Coronavirus).”

“Though I haven’t heard directly from the university on protocol, I’m making the call to cancel classes today,” he said in the post.

Students in Frazier’s class received an email from Gregory Smith, director of the School of Film, Media and Theatre, later that night.

“Please disregard the email you received earlier today from John Frazier regarding cancellation of his classes,” the email from Smith read. “He was not speaking on behalf of the College of Arts or Georgia State University.”

Frazier later responded to The Signal in an email that he has now changed his statement.

“What I did in the situation was incorrect,” Frazier said. “I have sense amended my statement and I am in line with the universities polices on the matter.”

Another faculty member, Ellen Ballard, a professor from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, made an announcement at the start of class Monday about the virus. 

Ballard said that she would be suspending her attendance policy for the remainder of the semester, and if any students were sick, they should just stay home instead of worrying if it would affect their grades.

“Suspending the attendance policy was not a university decision. It was a personal one,” Ballard said.

She explained that she had received several emails and after class discussions from concerned students about what would happen if there was a Coronavirus case on campus.

“Suspending the attendance policy is really just an abundance of caution so that students feel comfortable attending class,” she said. “Our university is very prepared to respond if we were to experience community spread. It’s a bonus that we have one of the best public health departments. We have in-house experts on the case.”

Today at 3 p.m., the university sent out an email from President Becker that they continue to “closely monitor the situation with coronavirus COVID-19 and want to keep the university well informed with resources related to the illness and its spread.”

They have since created a website, www.gsu.edu/coronavirus, that will include all updates from the university on any decisions they make and important information for students on preventative care.

“Members of our university community are working closely together to ensure we are prepared for future developments,” Becker said in the email. “Your understanding, knowledge and cooperation are critical to achieving our goals in addressing the public health challenge.”

Becker even notes that we are in a “time of heightened concern.”

“The health and welfare of our Georgia State community is a top priority at all times, and at this time of heightened concern it is critical each of us does our part to limit and prevent the spread of communicable diseases such as flu and COVID-19,” Becker said. 

This is a change in tone from the discussion the Georgia State Senate had on coronavirus at the Feb. 13 meeting, according to previous Signal reporting.

“Even though there is not an epidemic in this country, it does affect the university system, certainly Georgia State University,” Becker said at the time. “I think it would be accurate to say, even though I’m not an expert on diseases, [that] we know less about this virus than we know about it.” 

The University System of Georgia has received guidance from both the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health about the spread of the virus.

The CDC has advised that the USG consider postponing or canceling study abroad and for students to self-monitor, especially after travel to a country at a risk Level 3 or higher, as assigned by the CDC.

The CDC has provided a webpage with updates and resources as they monitor the disease.

Currently, the CDC has designated China and Iran at Level 3 with restrictions placed on entry into the U.S., South Korea and Italy at Level 3 without restrictions on travel and Japan at Level 2.

Below is a guide provided by the CDC on the most essential facts on Coronavirus.

 

Editor’s Note:

This article was updated at 11:00 p.m. on March 4 to include a comment from Ellen Ballard and the response John Frazier’s students received from Gregory Smith.

This article was updated at 10:30 a.m. on March 5 to include a comment from John Frazier.