New College copes with coronavirus

New College copes with coronavirus

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The coronavirus caught New College off guard; there was no provision in the emergency plan for a pandemic, so the administration had to develop entirely new procedures to continue the college’s operation. At the start of March, the vast majority of Novo Collegians were living on campus and all classes were in-person; now, less than twenty students remain on campus and classes are held online, using disparate software as decided by the instructors. In the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, New College is taking unprecedented action.

As of March 28, there have been 43 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Sarasota county and 29 in Manatee county.

“I don’t think anybody on campus has even had the test for [coronavirus] yet,” David Fuget, General Counsel, said during a telephone interview with the Catalyst. There have been concerns surrounding two significant others of people on campus, though one case was found to simply be the flu after testing, with the remaining case still uncertain. 

Currently, the administration is working to insure that more of the staff can work remotely. Over half of the faculty and staff are now working from home, and that ratio is expected rise over the coming days. As less employees are working on the campus, administration is adopting new procedures for locking unoccupied or barely occupied buildings and managing a smaller housekeeping staff.

“Probably starting Monday,” Fuget said. “The campus will be locked out. So even if I’m coming to work at Cook Hall, I’m locking the door behind me. Everything’s going to be locked out.”

In the effort to prevent the spread of the disease, the New College President Donal O’Shea announced on March 20 that classes would be resuming in an online format. This is something that the other universities in Florida’s State University System (SUS) have done, though in more standardized a fashion than New College. The University of Southern Florida (USF) has all their online courses on Canvas, and the University of Central Florida (UCF) is using their own website to hold classes. Courses at New College are operating more on a case-by-case basis: some are using Zoom, some are using Google meet, some are using other platforms and some are shifting away from their lecture-based structure. 

“From my perspective,” Fuget said. “I have been extremely impressed with our faculty at New College. More than any other school in the SUS, you’d think that New College would be the least prepared to go online. That was not part of our plan, that at any moment we’re going to everything virtual.”

While transitioning to remote instruction, the administration is looking to be mindful of the trouble students may be experiencing in the change. The administration considered extending the spring break to give students and faculty more time to prepare, but ultimately it was decided that the change in the school calendar would lead to more confusion. While the official calendar has remained the same, the administration seeks to be understanding with students who are experiencing issues with their newly remote classes.
“I think generally,” Fuget said. “The feeling among the leadership and the faculty was that students will get the help that they need. So there are some students that probably were ready to go. The don’t want extra time, they want to graduate on time, and they want to be done on time. For those that that need extra time, we’re going to be extremely flexible.”

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