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SGA hosts COVID town hall with President Conboy, other administrators

| Thursday, August 27, 2020

Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a COVID-19 town hall Wednesday evening with College President Katie Conboy and other administrators, who shared relevant information regarding the current state of campus. 

The conversation began with a question regarding the continuation of admissions tours despite the college-wide lockdown. Vice president for enrollment management Mona Bowe cited the decision being a business decision. “

We are taking the necessary precautions on these tours as the majority of the tour is held outside, there are a maximum of 10 – 12 people — including the tour guide — on the tours and masks are required to be worn at all times.”

The town hall was dominated by Conboy fielding questions and concerns regarding the closure of the College. 

“Let me begin by saying we are not intending to send students home at this point,” she said. “We are closely monitoring what’s going on on our campus, the tri-campus and greater St. Joseph community. We don’t want to overwhelm the local public health system at any point.’

She said that this kind of strain has not been seen yet. 

Conboy continued to say that any drastic decision — whether that be online classes or a campus closure — will not be made based on any single statistic. She continued to contain the possibility of classes moving entirely online, with residence halls remaining open for students for whom it would be more advantageous for them to live on campus rather than move home. 

“If we all make good choices, I believe we will have a safer environment [at Saint Mary’s] than people would have most other places,” Conboy said. 

Cyndie Horton-Cavanaugh, a registered nurse, clarified the process for coronavirus testing on campus, saying “the current CDC recommendations are to administer a PCR test to all symptomatic persons.”  

Students who are symptomatic or may have been in close contact with a COVID positive person are expected to call the Health and Counseling Center (HCC), the HCC will then bring students in throughout the day in small groups to get tested. 

Horton-Cavanaugh addressed concerns that the HCC has been denying students tests.

“Many students come to us asking for a test for [their] peace of mind,” she said. “Peace of mind is not a good reason to get a PCR test –– there are shortages in resources, and when we do unnecessary testing we put a burden on testing laboratories and turnaround times which impacts our ability to contact trace in a timely manner.”

A plan will be presented to the board of trustees Thursday that outlines the need and execution of surveillance testing on campus.

“We’ve decided that we need to test more people, and random testing is the way to do this,” Conboy said. “While we can’t release too much [information] at this point, it could be a certain percentage of the student body every week.”

The College’s general counsel Marty McCampbell added that once surveillance testing begins, Saint Mary’s will begin reporting the number of tests being conducted on the COVID-19 dashboard. 

Vice president for strategy and finance Dana Strait answered concerns regarding student safety and financial reimbursement.

“If students are afraid, are they allowed to go home? Of course they are able to go home,” she said. “We are here to uphold our mission to support you and educate you the best way we know how.”

Strait said drastic measures have been put in place to keep students safe, and that the College is confident they have provided the safest possible environment. 

In regards to financials, Strait said all of the College’s refund policies are available in the college bulletin. 

“We’re happy to initiate the refund process — depending on the point in the semester,” Strait said. “But, refunds for tuition, should classes go online, are not something we are able to do because we need to be able to pay our faculty.” 

Interim vice president for student affairs, Gloria Roldán Jenkins fielded questions regarding student behavior.

“We have students that are nervous because there are certain students who are not making the right choices,” she said. 

Roldán Jenkins said there are protocols in place for addressing students who violate social distancing or masking requirements. 

“It can start with an email warning, and further action will vary on a case by case basis — we will not take chances if people are making bad choices that are affecting the entire community.” 

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About Mia Marroquin

Mia Marroquin is a rising senior Communication Studies major at Saint Mary’s. Currently serving as Saint Mary’s News Editor, she hails from Holland, Michigan and is an 80’s movie fanatic. Follow Mia on Twitter @_miamarroquin

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