Today we at Oregon State announced revised, and more detailed, plans for Fall, 2020. When I wrote this on May 7th, most of us were fairly optimistic that the waves COVID-19 had sent through higher education would be short-lived. By the end of summer, we thought, this would be behind us.
As you know, it's not.
The title of this blogpost refers to the poem by Robert Burns, To a Mouse.
...The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley
Or, in English, "The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry."
So after talking about fall for literally every day in the last five months, we reached the conclusion that our best option--the less than optimal, less than perfect, but probably best option--was to make most classes remote next fall. What that means is that perhaps 10% of our classes will be face-to-face, and the other 90% will be conducted remotely, via Zoom or OSU's award-winning Ecampus platform, or via a hybrid model, with some combination of face-to-face and remote components.
As a side note, this is a personal blog, and for all official OSU announcements and FAQs for new students, you should go here. There's a video you can watch, and all information is updated regularly (unlike this blog).
As we've done since I arrived here (and thus, I suspect for a long time prior) we did our very best to keep students centered in this discussion:
- We're keeping residence halls and some campus facilities open for those students who want or need to live on-campus
- We're giving students the option of requesting a deposit refund, or of making a deposit, until September 1
- We'll be randomly testing a thousand people a week and monitoring waste water, to track the spread of the virus
- We are holding OSU new student scholarships for up to two years. If a student really wants to graduate from OSU, we want to allow that dream to come to fruition without taking risks they might not feel comfortable taking right now. (The FAQ link explains how this works).
What was most remarkable about this was how none of these ideas met with resistance. We said, "This is what we think we need to do," and people around the table just nodded and knew it was the right thing, and it was done.
As I've written before, in a perfect world, students would be able to see how a university might treat them as students before they ever set foot on campus. So while the world isn't perfect, we hope this says something about what we value, and how we make important decisions affecting students.
I think it matters a lot. It's how we operate, Out Here in Oregon.