YSU Board of Trustees Summary, Aug. 10, 2020

YSU sealThe YSU Board of Trustees met in special session Monday afternoon to hear reports on the university’s preparation for the start of the Fall semester on Aug. 17. Here is a summary of the meeting:

President’s Report
President Jim Tressel said there has been an “amazing amount of work” going on across campus to prepare for the Fall semester in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “Our people have stepped up,” he said. While the semester will be an “immense transition,” he said he’s confident in the plans in place at YSU for the safe delivery of instruction.

Reports of the Take Charge of Our Future Focus Groups and Athletics

Calendar Scenarios for a Safe YSU
Eddie Howard, vice president for Student Affairs, and Julie Gentile, director of Environmental Health and Occupational Safety, co-chair the group.

Howard reported that students started moving into campus residence halls on Monday, by appointment, and that about 500 will have moved in by Friday. He said many other activities are continuing related to Covid-19 and the start of the Fall semester: the City-University Compact, a group of officials across the city and county, met again last week to continue discussions about common issues related to the pandemic; more than 130 faculty and staff participated in a webinar to learn and ask questions about the university’s return-to-classes plan and protocols; coordination continues with Mercy Health to provide the latest information to students and parents; and four videos have been distributed to students outlining campus safety procedures. He also reported that students are being asked to sign the Penguin Protection Pledge to assure a safe and healthy Fall semester on campus.

Gentile reported on three student groups that have been formed to help in the university’s response to the pandemic: a Covid 19 case support group; the Penguin Patrol, students throughout campus positively reinforcing social distancing, face coverings and washing hands; and Pete’s Clean Team, helping to make sure all common areas are appropriately sanitized. She also said that the Youngstown Health Department has hired an employee to work specifically with YSU on contact tracing.

Creative Course Delivery
Brien Smith, provost, reported on efforts to provide a variety of instructional delivery modalities in the Fall semester in order to limit the number of students coming to campus during the pandemic. The five modalities are: traditional, agile hybrid, virtual, online live, web-based. He said the university’s Academic Continuity Team, formed in the Spring semester to help transition to on-line instruction, has provided numerous faculty trainings, guides and other resources for all modalities, as well as information on classroom safety, face coverings, disinfecting, etc.

Ron Strollo, executive director of Intercollegiate Athletics, said that student athletes have been back on campus since June 1 and that more than 200 are now at the university, following all safety and health protocols. He also said that any student athlete concerned about her/his safety has the ability to opt out without retaliation or loss of scholarship, although he said very few have. In addition, he reported that the Horizon League has delayed all Fall sports to Oct. 1, although he said that can change, and the Missouri Valley Football Conference is moving conference games to the Spring.

Howard reported that 11,252 students are registered for Fall classes. While that is 622 students less than the same time last year, Howard said he is pleased given the impact of the coronavirus. He credited the hard work of people across campus and successful enrollment campaigns that targeted certain student populations. “Those efforts…have really helped us to get to where we are today,” he said.

Claire Berardini, assistant provost for Student Success, agreed: “We’re in a much better place than we thought we would be.” She noted new student orientations were successfully transitioned this Spring and Summer from face-to-face to all online. IGNITE, the university’s annual welcome-to-campus event for new students, has been changed to include individual student sessions on campus; more than 700 new students have made appointments. She also reported on the new 10-week YSU 1500 course for incoming students, intended to help students new to campus to more successfully manage the transition to college, especially needed in the pandemic environment.

And Mike Sherman, vice president for Institutional Effectiveness and Board Professional, reported on a variety of other activities related to enrollment and student success, including the work of the Academic Senate, a new degree audit system and better use of data in university decision making.

Trustee Molly Seals asked what role testing will play in the university’s pandemic response. Howard and Gentile said there will be no regular testing at YSU. They said there has been much discussion at universities across the state about testing programs. Gentile said health departments in Youngstown and Mahoning County recommend testing only when someone is showing symptoms. She said YSU will support anyone who wants tested, adding that Mercy Health on Wick Avenue has voluntary testing with results returned within 24 to 48 hours. Tressel said the approach to testing seems to change every day and that he is comfortable following the city health department’s recommendation on symptomatic and voluntary testing.

State of the University: Tressel announced that he will present the annual State of the University address 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12. For health and safety reasons, the address will be taped and streamed. He said the presentation will reassure the university community that YSU has taken the steps to make campus safe, will discuss the opportunities that this moment provides, and will emphasize that the return-to-classes plans will be successful only if everyone works together.

Executive session: The board entered executive session to discuss personnel and collective bargaining. No actions were taken.

Chair comments: Board Chair Anita Hackstedde noted that the university’s significant budget challenges prior to the pandemic have only intensified as the pandemic has spread. She also said she is impressed and proud by the hard work and dedication that so many across campus has shown during this challenging time. “It’s been outstanding,” she said. “You’re the reason why we are Y and Proud and why we will stay Y and Strong.”