Formal decision on fall semester learning to be announced by the middle of summer

While University President Sue Thomas has not made a formal decision regarding Truman State University’s plan for the fall semester, she said the goal is to have students back on campus.

While some universities around the country have committed to remote or in-person learning for the fall semester, Thomas said Truman will wait to make a decision until more is known about the COVID-19 pandemic. Thomas said she hopes to have a formal decision by the middle of summer.

Thomas said she doesn’t think the University can wait much past June to make a decision to allow adequate time for faculty, staff and students to prepare for whatever outcome is chosen.

“Since things rapidly evolve, it’s hard to be predictive,” Thomas said. “We don’t feel comfortable saying we’re absolutely going to do one thing or another because it’s not known yet whether we can land that strongly.”

Janet Gooch, vice president for academic affairs and provost, said with Gov. Mike Parson lifting the stay at home order Monday, the Executive Leadership Team and Truman’s COVID-19 task force will continue monitoring the situation. Gooch said the University will also look for guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government and the state, as well as consult with other universities. She said the governor has suggested guidelines for reopening, but no advice regarding the fall semester in particular.

Gooch said Truman will consider any risks and the status of the pandemic as part of the decision making process. She also said the University doesn’t just have to consider in-person and online courses as it could also find some sort of hybrid. 

“I think there are ways that you can approach the fall semester that may be safer, whether that’s you have some classes online and some on ground or you can have some hybrid courses,” Gooch said. “There are lots of possibilities to increase the safety of everyone on campus without it being an all or nothing, business as usual or all online. Those don’t necessarily have to be the only options.”

Gooch said the University is planning for multiple scenarios. While faculty hasn’t been instructed to transfer courses to online formats, she said it might be beneficial to prepare for that outcome in the event that’s the decision made.

Thomas said over 130 faculty have completed certifications for remote teaching, assisting faculty in preparing for the possibility of online courses. 

“I have really appreciated the flexibility and thinking of all the faculty, staff and students,” Gooch said. “Such ambiguous circumstances are hard. I think people in academics are particular planners — we like things to be planned and scheduled — and because they’re not I know it makes it very difficult on people and so I have been very appreciative of people’s understanding of that, particularly in the major decision making.”

Gooch said some modifications to learning and campus life could be in store for the fall if students were to return to campus. Thomas said the Executive Leadership Team and COVID-19 task force would convene to determine what those modifications would look like.

Thomas said for campus-wide communication and updates, emails will be sent. Otherwise, updates will continue to be provided through TruAlert and Truman Today.

“We really are trying to balance the total uncertainty of this with people’s need to have information as soon as possible,” Thomas said. “And, trust me, there’s no perfect way to balance that.”