SSU faculty group says ‘in light of the surging infections’ fall semester should be completely online

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- Savannah State University is planning to bring students back on campus for the fall semester. They say they’ll offer a mix of instruction, both in person and online.

The decision, however is not sitting well with a group of the university’s faculty. The Faculty Senate, group of elected professor and administrators, is calling on the University System of Georgia and the Board of regents to consider virtual learning only, for the fall semester.

“A campus is the ideal location for viral transmissions,” said Dr. Kisha Aites, Vice Chair of the Faculty Senate.

In a letter Monday, she and other board members expressed that, “In light of the surging infections across the entire nation and especially in Georgia and surrounding states, the Faculty Senate of Savannah State University is increasingly concerned by emerging plans for fall semester.”

The letter also went onto express major concerns for the students. Nearly 80% identify as black or African American and the Center of Disease Control and prevention shows those groups suffer worse outcomes from COVID-19.

“As a Historically Black College (HBCU) we are unique,” said Dr. Aites, “we have a large percentage of individuals that represent minority groups and we hope our unique situation is being heard.”

Dr. Aites says many students will be coming from COVID-19 hot spots like Florida and South Carolina.

“Students are living, eating, and studying together and so even with us having the best intentions for keeping everyone safe on this campus it is truly going to be a challenge for even the most consciencious individual,” said Dr. Aites.

Savannah State University sent WSAV News 3 this statement:

“In addition to providing a quality education to our students, our highest priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Over the last several months, Savannah State University team members have developed plans to reopen campus safely, providing a mix of in-person and online instruction. 

We share and understand the concerns of our campus community and are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. New protocols, including social distancing, face coverings, self-monitoring, and other safety protocols, will be required. Additionally, provisions are in place for students, faculty and staff who may fall in an at-risk category.

We ask that our campus community continue checking the university’s COVID-19 website savannahstate.edu/covid-19 for general information, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, and other related updates.”

Dr. Aites did stress that the Faculty Senate represents faculty, not students. She says it is important to get their feedback.

The fall semester is set begin August 17th. Dr. Aites says they hope to hear from USG soon.

“Savannah State is following CDC guidelines, we are preparing our classes for face-to-face hybrid to accommodate social distancing guidelines, but there still may be issues where a faculty member feels uncomfortable in a classroom setting,” said Dr. Aites.

Dr. Aites says there are some faculty members that are in the high risk category for the virus.

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