What’s Next? Fall Classes and Administration On Campus

Georgia is reopening—or is it?

On May 18, there were over 38,000 cases of COVID-19 reported and over 1,600 deaths in the state of Georgia. 

Gov. Brian Kemp has recently enacted plans to reopen the state. 

“I don’t give a damn about politics right now,” Kemp said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re talking about somebody who has put their whole life into building a business, that has people that they love and work with every single day — working in many of these places.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms talked about the decision on NBC, saying that she disagreed with the governor, asking people to continue staying at home.

“I am using my voice to encourage people [to] follow the data, look at the science, listen to the healthcare professionals and use your common sense,” Bottoms said. “This virus has not gone away … I am asking people to please stay home … There is nothing essential about going to a bowling alley in the middle of a pandemic.”

Other Georgia mayors held the same sentiment, voicing their concern about Kemp’s decision. 

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Van Johnson, the mayor of Savannah, said that he was “beyond disturbed” by the governor’s decision, calling the move “reckless,” “premature” and “dangerous.” Bo Dorough, the mayor of Albany, whose city is at the epicenter of one of Georgia’s worst outbreaks, also considered the rollback dangerous.

One question remains: Will Georgia State follow the governor’s hopes?

Georgia State has already prepared for the summer.

Georgia State, along with the rest of the universities in Georgia, has already begun summer classes, deciding to host them online. Georgia State University President Mark Becker discussed the decision in a message to the university community on April 3, when the state was still closed. 

“Georgia State is a part of Georgia’s critical infrastructure and must continue to educate students and perform research functions supporting the battle against COVID-19,” Becker’s message stated. “We are using teleworking to perform the vast majority of university functions, and individuals working on our campuses are following protective measures, such as social distancing, to perform essential jobs that cannot be performed through telework.”

Becker closed his message with gratitude. 

“I deeply appreciate the flexibility and dedication being demonstrated by Georgia State faculty, staff and students as you adapt and respond to the challenges arising daily during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “We are living and working through a historic time, a time that none of us will ever forget.”

Georgia State is preparing for the fall.

During the Student Government Association inauguration on May 9, Georgia State President Mark Becker spoke about the epidemic.

“[The] pandemic will not end soon, so we must continue to … adapt and find new ways to continue to live and thrive,” he said. “Your university is actively working on plans to return to [in-person] learning with appropriate social distancing [in the] fall semester.”

On April 16, regarding in-person learning, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Wendy Hensel sent an email to faculty and staff.

“It … is possible a substantial portion of fall semester courses will be offered only online,” the email stated. “From this point forward, faculty need to be trained for and skilled in online pedagogy in order to meet their professional obligations.”

The email added that i is “no longer possible” to be exclusively an “in-person” or “online” instructor.

“All teaching faculty should be able to deliver content in a highly effective manner in both modalities,” the email stated.

Meanwhile, health experts are expecting a new wave of COVID-19 in the fall. This prediction is based on similar trends of other coronaviruses, which tend to peak in winter months, CNN reported.

“Whether or not it’s gonna be big or small is gonna depend on our response,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a press conference.

It is presently unknown how this report has factored into Georgia State’s fall semester planning. Georgia State is still discussing how to conduct the fall semester classes. They plan to update students on the university’s COVID-19 website following the decision. 

“This is being done right now, but we do not yet have final answers about which methods will be used to teach specific classes,” Jeremy Craig, communications manager of the Office of Provost, said. “We will inform students, faculty and staff via campus email. Updates will also be posted [on Georgia State’s COVID-19 website].”

Hensel also provided faculty with resources to help them perfect their online courses.

“CETL has developed a series of professional development opportunities for faculty to continue online skill acquisition,” she said. “All faculty, especially those planning to teach in the fall, are strongly encouraged to take one of these courses. Even if you have taught online prior to spring semester, this training will help you meet the highest quality standards and learn the most effective pedagogies.”

Some staff are still working on campus.

“Top-level administrators have been working throughout this emergency,” Andrea Jones, associate vice president for Public Relations and Marketing, said. “Just as the university has encouraged its faculty and staff to work remotely wherever feasible, administrators have performed as much work as possible remotely.”

Despite Kemp’s plan to reopen the state, Georgia State will remain closed for the summer, but the faculty and administrators hope to find solutions that will overcome the obstacles of learning. Georgia State’s administrators are actively working to navigate the pandemic.

“We’re learning and creating as we go,” Becker said about Georgia State’s response. “This has never been done before. You can’t look it up online; you can’t find it in books. However, we will figure it out. That’s the State Way.”