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COVID-19 Updates

Previous Updates from the President

June 26, 2020 Open Close

Southeastern Community,

The COVID-19 Task Force continues to work toward our complete return to campus and has submitted the following recommendations that have received my approval with implementation immediately.

  1. Required Face Covering Policy – Effective Immediately

As we return to campus, the health and safety of students, faculty and staff, especially of vulnerable individuals, is of paramount importance to Southeastern Oklahoma State University. With this in mind, beginning immediately, and through the Fall semester, the university will require that all students, faculty, staff, and visitors wear face coverings when they are in buildings on campus, unless wearing face coverings is contrary to meeting educational or participation objectives as determined by faculty and staff. One cloth face covering will be provided to each employee and student.

Face coverings are defined as material that are worn on the face and covers a person’s mouth and nose. This is consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which makes clear that face coverings, in addition to social distancing, are among the most effective strategies in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

While face coverings are not required in outdoor spaces, they are strongly recommended where 6 feet of physical distancing is difficult to maintain. Individuals are not required to wear face coverings in a campus building if they are alone in a private office or space, or if they are in their assigned residence hall room. Face coverings must be worn by all passengers in university-provided transportation, unless the driver is alone in the vehicle.

Visitors, vendors, and contractors are under the same requirement for face coverings while on campus, and are asked to supply their own face coverings. This policy will be amended as needed in response to conditions on campus.

Students seeking a personal exception to this policy as an accommodation should contact the Disabilities Office, while all other seeking an exception as an accommodation should contact the Human Resources Office.

  1. Syllabi Statement Regarding Face Coverings for Fall 2020

Per the Southeastern Oklahoma State University guidance on face coverings on campus, in the instructional setting, faculty and students must wear face coverings. At the discretion of the instructor, to accomplish an educational objective as long as safety protocols are met (including ample distance, shielding and other measures), faculty and students may be authorized to temporarily remove face coverings.

Students without coverings, or those who do not comply with the rules relating to face coverings, will not be able to participate in on-campus classroom activities. Students seeking a personal exception to this policy as an accommodation should contact the Disabilities Office. Failure to comply with the face coverings requirement may result in the Instructor directing the student to leave the classroom. Any student asked to leave the classroom may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

  1. Phase 3 – Return to Work – July 1

All remaining workers should return to work at their duty post beginning July 1.  Employees must follow the Face Covering Policy, continue practicing social distancing, and complete daily health screenings.  Employees returning to work on July 1 must complete the required training through SafeColleges to be allowed to work on-site.  PPE has been distributed to each department for full-time, part-time and student employees.  Questions regarding health accommodations, leave policies and telework should be asked of Human Resources.

  1. Campus Open to the Public – July 6

Campus buildings and offices will open to visitors and guests on Monday, July 6. Visitors will be required to wear a face-covering inside all campus buildings.  Visitors will also be asked to sign the Movement Log located in each campus office. At this time, the public campus opening does not apply to the McCurtain County Campus. For health and safety reasons, the McCurtain County Campus will remain closed to the public until further notice.

  1. University Sanctioned Event Policy extended through August 17, 2020

Southeastern will continue to allow University Sanctioned/Hosted Events through August 17, 2020. Guidelines include directions for indoor and outdoor venues and will be followed by event coordinators.  It is the responsibility of the event coordinator to seek guidance through Student Health Services and the appropriate County Health Department one week prior to any scheduled event.  Event guidelines will be accessible in the FAQ – University Events.

University facilities will remain unavailable for requests made by outside entities through August 17.

Working groups for Cleaning and Disinfecting, and Air Handling and Ventilation continue to work and brief the Task Force as appropriate. Final recommendations from those groups will be considered on July 8.  Information Technology is continuing to work on baseline assessments and recommendations. Working groups for international student re-entry, and on employee leave and teleworking, continue to meet and plan.

I want to emphasize the importance of reporting COVID – 19 cases, symptoms or exposure to the campus.  On June 23, 2020 an email entitled How to Report COVID Symptoms or Exposure to Campus Officials was disseminated to all faculty, staff, and students.  Please review and become familiar with the process, follow daily guidance for self-screening, and follow the procedures for reporting relevant concerns that will impact our campus. Through surveillance, tracking, and tracing, we can better safeguard our community.

Again, I thank the Task Force, Sub-Committees and everyone who is helping in these efforts, and I continue to encourage each of you to reach out to your respective task force member from your university division or subcommittees, as we welcome and value your comments.

Thomas Newsom
President

June 19, 2020 Open Close

Southeastern Community,

The COVID-19 Task Force met twice this week and has submitted the following recommendations that have received my approval with implementation immediately.

  1. Housing/Meal Plan Refunds

With the ending of face-to-face instruction by Thanksgiving Break, and the subsequent shift to online or remote delivery for the remainder of the semester, Southeastern will provide a pro-rated refund of Room and Board charges to all students who choose to move out of their residence hall by November 20 (last day of face-to-face instruction) for the final two weeks of the semester (November 30 – December 11.) The residence halls will remain open until the end of the semester, but this will give students an option if they choose to move out early. By November 1, students must state their intention and meet the criteria for remaining in the halls after November 20. Details will be provided to residents during move in and through the StarRez Housing Portal.

  1. COVID One-Time Swab Testing for Athletes

The Athletics Department will seek to administer a one-time COVID-19 swab test to returning athletes at the time of pre-participation screening and return to competition due to the unique circumstances of physical proximity in practice and gameplay.

  1. Operational Plans for the Glen D. Johnson Student Union

Plans have been submitted and approved.  The Student Union is the heart of student life at Southeastern and special consideration has been given to create usable and safe space for our students while following the best practices recommended by the American College Health Association and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  The plans include CDC recommendations to reduce frequently touched spaces; changes in furniture and equipment to meet social distancing guidelines; limit group gatherings by resetting and taking some spaces off-line; increased cleaning and sanitization; and designating elevators, staircases and building entrances/exits to decrease the number of people in shared spaces.

The Task Force has also forwarded recommendations to my office regarding face mask requirements and food services on campus. These recommendations will require some additional considerations and study before I approve. It is my expectation that decisions on these matters will be forthcoming shortly.

The Task Force continues to receive updates from the working groups on Ventilation, Cleaning and Sanitizing, and Information Technology needs for faculty, staff and students. These working groups are creating baseline assessments, and will seek input from the sub-committees, campus experts, and end users.  Materials from these working groups will be shared across campus as their work becomes finalized.

Over the last week the Task Force met with experts from the Bryan County and Oklahoma State Health Departments to explore specific issues of risk assessment, outbreak, community spread, quarantine and promoting behaviors to maintain healthy environments.  Using this information along with additional guidance for institutions of higher education in Oklahoma, the Task Force will determine additional policies and procedures for the Fall 2020 to be announced in the coming weeks.

Members of the Task Force and University administration meet regularly with Durant and Bryan County officials, Oklahoma higher education professionals, and local school district officials to collaborate and share best practices for our communities/campuses during our continuing response to COVID-19.  The outgrowth of these weekly discussions creates a synergy between institutions, organizations and the health officials who work collaboratively.

Again, I thank the Task Force, Sub-Committees and everyone who is helping in these efforts, and I continue to encourage each of you to reach out to your respective task force member from your university division or subcommittees, as we welcome and value your comments.

Thomas Newsom
President

June 12, 2020 Open Close

Southeastern Community,

Our COVID-19 Recovery Task Force and sub-committees are still hard at work and have submitted the following recommendations this week that I have approved and forwarded for implementation.

  1. Approval of the Summer Volunteer Athletic Workout Plan

The Summer 2020 Athletics Facilities Operation Plan for COVID-19 is an internal Athletics policy and procedure for voluntary summer athlete workouts permitted by the NCAA. Under this policy, student athletes will be permitted to come to campus for voluntary workouts supervised or guided by Southeastern Athletics staff, while maintaining current physical distancing and ACHA Reopening Guidelines for postsecondary athletic programs.

This policy limits the number of persons within specific athletic facilities for these workouts based on the size and nature of the facility, and mandates personal hygiene and sanitation restrictions such as hand washing upon entry and exit. There is a required symptom screening form that will be reviewed by Athletic Trainers, and a standard departmental liability waiver form included as part of this policy. This policy will keep Southeastern in line with other Great American Conference schools which will also have supervised voluntary summer workouts utilizing strict transmission reduction safety requirements. A more detailed document is available for those that need more guidance.

  1. Approval of Guidelines for University Sanctioned/Sponsored Events

Southeastern will allow University Sanctioned/Hosted Events from July 1 – August 1, 2020. Guidelines include directions for indoor and outdoor venues, and will be followed by the event coordinators. Event guidelines will be accessible in the FAQ – University Events.  Special considerations include:

  • When possible, consider virtual events.
  • When in-person events are necessary, limit gatherings to groups of 10 or less and overall attendance to less than 250 people, or what the venue will allow when social distancing of 6 feet per attendee, when less than 250 people.
  • Social Distancing is required and face coverings should be worn as feasible.
  • Provide signage and methods for good hygiene.
  • Registry or Roster of attendees and support staff will be kept.

University facilities will remain unavailable for requests made by outside entities through August 1.  A more detailed document is available for those that need more guidance.

In the coming weeks, the Task Force will be reconsidering the mask requirement for Fall 2020, with new information available regarding OSHA requirements, legal advice, trends in COVID cases, and recommendations from the Bryan County Health Department. The Task Force anticipates clarification on mask requirements by July 1, as they continue to assess the current Return To Work Plan for any necessary modifications.

The Task Force, through the working sub-committees, continues make progress on the following items, and should move forward recommendations as early as next week.

Instruction – Topics under consideration include:  modality of instruction, classroom utilization and sanitation, personal spacing and masks, ventilation requirements, technology needs, on-line fees, required syllabus statements, common testing areas and communication with faculty.

On-Campus Living – Topics under consideration include: contract addendums related to pandemic and implications to student costs, outdoor seating needs, mask requirements in certain areas, touring residential spaces, quarantine, food service, and visitors in halls.

Events – Topics under consideration include: space requirements for social distancing and allowing Instruction to have full access to all University spaces before re-opening the booking process.

Athletics – Topics under consideration include: return to competition COVID testing, locker room usage, transportation, and fans at games.

The Task Force has prioritized these items, and will focus on instruction first to allow for the transitions and work to occur to support instructional efforts. The Task Force will also expand, with the creation of working groups to operationalize needs identified by the committees. These groups will initially focus on identified challenges regarding sanitizing and ventilation; technology resource needs for employees and students; and departmental operational plans.

Again, I thank the Task Force, Sub-Committees and everyone who is helping in these efforts, and I continue to encourage each of you to reach out to your respective task force member from your university division or subcommittees, as we welcome and value your comments.

Together, we continue to make progress toward our shared goal of providing a healthy and safe environment that promotes the success of our faculty, staff and students in the Fall and beyond.

Thomas Newsom
President

June 5, 2020 Open Close

Southeastern Community,

I continue to be impressed with the progress of the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force as we complete the first week of Phase One of our return to campus.  This has truly become a collaborative effort as the task force has received input from various groups on campus and is using that input in order to make critical decisions as we move forward. This week the task force, on the advice of sub-committees, has submitted the following recommendations that I have approved and forwarded for implementation.

1. Move to Remote/Online Delivery University-Wide for the Last Week of Instruction and Finals

Both the anticipated surge of COVID-19 in November, coupled with the arrival of the flu displaying similar symptoms have the potential to create challenges to the health of the communities on college campuses at the end of the Fall semester. Due to the likelihood of student/faculty travel during the Thanksgiving holidays (potentially increasing the risk for COVID 19 exposure) Southeastern will end face-to-face instruction on November 23 and then shift to online or remote delivery. This online or remote delivery will include the last full week of classes and be followed by a Finals Week conducted virtually with either online exams or alternative projects/presentations. This is being implemented in the spirit of preventing high stakes, compulsory face-to-face attendance following the Thanksgiving break. This mode of delivery shift will not change the Fall academic calendar.

Students who needed to stay/return to campus would be allowed to remain in the residence halls for the normal length of the semester for any remaining housing needs including for those more voluntary activities like athletics, aviation training, and commencement ceremonies. Residents will be required to abide by any additional safety measures imposed upon their return from the break.

This recommendation was put forward by the Sub-Committee on Instruction made up of faculty and department chairs. Additional decisions regarding instruction, mode of delivery and the course schedule are being considered by this group, with input from faculty and the organizations that represent them. 


2. Single Resident Per Room in Residence Halls

Housing and Residence Life will assign one resident per room and no more than two students per bathroom in each of the residence halls.  This action is intended to minimize risk of exposure within the living environment.

3. SOSU Travel Guidelines

On May 30th, Gov. Stitt published Executive Order 2020-20. The following reflects his order and the University Return to Work guidelines.

In-state travel is allowed, but restricted.

While the Governor has lifted the moratorium, in-state travel is still highly discouraged.  In-state

travel should only happen when there is a clear directive from the Regents (ex. President is required to attend RUSO meeting) or essential duties that are approved by the Division’s Senior Officer and the President.  In-state travel restrictions do not include traveling to locations to work at University-sponsored events.  There is no traveling for recruitment purposes.

No University approved or sponsored out-of-state or international business travel.  

This includes Grayson County.  Those stationed at Grayson College (GC) will not come to campus and will hold all meetings virtually.  The President and supervisors will only go to the GC campus if there is an emergency. No out of state business travel requests will be accepted until the Governor has lifted the moratorium.

Guidance for Personal Travel

If you are traveling outside of Oklahoma and within the United States for personal reasons, please review the following guidelines before and after your trip.   https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/sites/g/files/gmc786/f/031620_travel_within_us_guidance_eng.pdf

Consistent with CDC guidelines, if you travel outside of the country for any reason (personal or professional), you must quarantine for 14 days before returning to work.  Please work with your supervisor and HR on how to document your quarantine time. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html

4. Invited Guests on Campus

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the University is continuing to promote social distancing and limiting invited visitors to campus.

Restricted Access to Campus:
Access to campus is restricted to faculty, staff, essential student workers, designated vendors, and essential invited guests. Non-essential visitors to campus will not be admitted until further notice.

Essential Invited Guests:

  • Designated vendors and service operators with essential campus business.
  • Prospective students and their families with campus visitation scheduled.

All guests not listed in the above categories are non-essential visitors and will not be allowed on campus.

Registration of Guests:
All campus hosts should complete a guest registration form prior to the guest’s arrival.  A link to this form will provided to supervisors.

In my previous communication I noted that we were moving to name a Sub-Committee on Athletics. That sub-committee has been named and consists of the following individuals. We have also added Mike Davis to the task force, and he will chair this sub-committee.

Sub-Committee on Athletics

Dr. Mike Davis, Chair
Mr. Curtis Armor
Chief Durward Cook
Dr. Kelly D’Arcy
Mr. Tyler Fenwick
Dr. Joe Harrison
Dr. Brad Ludrick
Ms. April Lehrling
Mr. Jeremy Rowland
Mr. Scott Willman
Ms. Cherrie Wilmoth

The sub-committee will use the national, regional, state, NCAA, and the American College Health Association Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era, to prepare a recommendation for a partial or full resumption of intercollegiate athletics, including practice, competition, and sports medicine.

There is still much work being done by the sub-committees, the Task Force, and everyone involved in moving the university forward. Over the next few weeks we will target July 1, as the date to have our campuses fully open. Critical decisions regarding instruction are being worked on by department chairs and the Sub-Committee on Instruction.  We are well on our way to having a very active campus for Fall 2020.

I continue to encourage each of you to reach out to your respective task force member from your university division or subcommittees, as we welcome and value your comments. Your individual input is being shared with me through the committee chairs, and I am taking those comments into consideration as I review and accept recommendations from these groups.

Thank you all for your understanding during this challenging time. I am confident that we are working to be able to return in the Fall to a campus that is a safe environment for our faculty, staff and students.

Thomas Newsom
President

May 29, 2020 Open Close

Southeastern Community,

The COVID-19 Recovery Task Force continues to work toward developing guidelines for the safe repopulation of our campus and has provided three additional recommendations and a Return to Work On-Site Plan. I have accepted the recommendations and approved the plan, and forwarded those to the Executive Team and division directors for implementation. The most recent recommendations from the task force are as follows:

  1. Return to Flight Operations

Southeastern will resume flight operations for the Aviation Sciences Institute (ASI) as early as the week of June 1, 2020. The Task Force reviewed the Reopening Plan post COVID-19 Shutdown submitted by the Aviation Sciences Institute and considered counsel from Chief Flight Instructor, Kyle Thomas, and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Teresa Golden. The plan relies heavily on CDC guidelines and the AeroGuard Flight Training Center’s “Guide for COVID-19 Response.”  The practices, protocols, and procedures provide mitigation strategies to minimize the risk of infection.  The Task Force will continue to work with ASI and Academic Affairs to align the protocols for reporting to work or a flight training activity with University processes.

  1. Creation of an Additional Subcommittee on Events

Southeastern will commission a Subcommittee on Events to begin working on the framework for events to be held by Southeastern on and off campus after July 1.  This committee will have representation from across campus with the goal of providing safe events that meet state, regional and national guidelines.  Details of their work will be available when they are ready.

  1. Ongoing Review Monitoring of Environment

Southeastern leadership will monitor the ever-changing COVID-19 environment to make informed adjustments to its plans and practices.  Consideration will be given to 1) city/county/state and regional peaks along with plateau requirements, 2) consultation with city and state health officials, 3) guidance from the Regional University System of Oklahoma Board of Regents, and 4) Southeastern’s Pandemic Plan.

Return to Work On-Site Plan

With the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff as well as our community paramount, the task force has developed a written plan aimed at reducing the risk of transmitting COVID-19. This plan is a working document that serves as a framework for supervisors and employees. The plan, that will be distributed to all faculty and staff, as well as student workers prior to their return to campus, contains guidelines, procedures and training requirements. The plan will be a living document that may be modified based ongoing situational analysis.

Many of you have also asked about the membership of the task force as well as the current subcommittees. It was my intention that the task force provide overarching guidelines for the return to campus and then each subcommittee would use those guidelines to develop recommendations for operationalizing those guidelines within specific functions.

COVID-19 Recovery Task Force

Ms. Liz McCraw, Chair
Ms. Anna Antuono
Mr. Keith Baxter
Dr. Tim Boatmun
Mr. Alan Burton
Mr. John Carey
Dr. Randy Clark
Mr. Durwood Cook
Dr. Teresa Golden
Ms. Paula Harp
Mr. Chris Kates
Ms. April Lehrling
Ms. Alisha Ridenour
Mr. Dennis Westman
Regent Amy Anne Ford, Ex Officio
Dr. Thomas Newsom, Ex Officio

Sub-Committee on Instruction

Dr. Teresa Golden, Chair
Dr. Jeremy Blackwood
Dr. Randy Clark
Mr. Mike Gaffney
Dr. Stewart Mayers
Dr. Shannon McCraw
Dr. Randy Prus
Dr. Rhonda Richards
Dr. Tim Smith

Sub-Committee for On-Campus Living

Ms. April Lehrling, Chair
Mr. Howard Bridges
Dr. Kelly D’Arcy
Mr. Mitchell Emberson
Dr. Charla Hall
Mr. James Reed
Mr. Ken Schultz
Ms. Cherrie Wilmoth

Sub-Committee for Campus Hosted Events (On and Off Campus)

Chief Durward Cook, Chair
Dr. Tim Boatmun
Mr. Mitchell Emberson
Mr. Seth Dutton
Dr. Brad Ludrick
Ms. Terri Rogers
Mr. Mark Webb

Sub-Committee on Athletics

TBA

I would like to thank the members of the Task Force. They are a committed group of individuals who take their work seriously, and are committed to the safety and health of our campus community.

The task force will continue to meet on a bi-weekly schedule and will focus next week on developing recommendations for invited visitors to campus prior to public opening in July, student athlete return for voluntary workouts, travel guidelines and subcommittee recommendations.

I am pleased with the intentionality of the task force and the ongoing work of the sub-committees in order to ensure, to the best of our ability, the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and community. It is obvious in their work that these groups are committed and take their charge seriously in ensuring a safe and healthy return to campus. I continue to encourage each of you to reach out to your respective task force member from your university division or subcommittees, as we welcome and value your comments. Your individual input is being shared with me through the committee chairs, and I am taking those comments into consideration as I review and accept recommendations from these groups.

The work that each of you are doing to ensure the success of our students and our university does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. We will continue to work through this challenge together and collectively find new opportunities for Southeastern and our community.

Dr. Thomas Newsom
President

May 22, 2020 Open Close

Southeastern Community,

I am pleased to report that the Southeastern COVID-19 Recovery Task Force has met on three occasions during the past week and on Wednesday submitted its initial recommendations. I have accepted the six recommendations and sent to the Executive Team and division directors for implementation. The recommendations from the task force, in italics, are as follows:

1. GUIDING DOCUMENTS 

Southeastern will adopt the American College Health Association: Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era as the guideline for the repopulation of our campus community. This document provides considerations to minimize the risk of COVID- 19 infection and a recurrent surge of infections as we plan for the physical return of large numbers of students, faculty and staff.  We will evaluate the feasibility of these recommendations in the light of our campus environment, internal resources, community resources, and Oklahoma’s Open Up and Recover Plan.

The university will use the ACHA documents as guidelines, with the understanding that the university may have to make modifications in regards to implementation based on directives from national, regional, state and local governing entities. It is important to understand that as we repopulate the campus, our situation will remain fluid. This will require a general understanding of the intent of the ACHA guidelines, while allowing for the university to exercise judgement given our uniqueness in both personnel and facilities.

2. FALL 2020 RETURN TO CAMPUS

Southeastern plans to open the campus in Fall 2020 (August) with face-to-face instruction and the opportunity for students to live in our residence halls and participate in campus life unless evidence or directives dictate otherwise.

As we plan for the Fall (August) semester and our return to campus operations, both inside and outside the classroom, we will ensure that we proceed with an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff as well as our dedication to providing academic quality in teaching and service.

3. PHASED RETURN TO WORK

The repopulation of University offices on all campuses will begin with a phased in return of employees. Thirty percent of the workforce will return to their duty stations every two weeks beginning June 1, 2020.  Employees will be notified by their supervisors of the date of their return and the procedures for return to work.  Employees will be required to complete personal health screenings and formal training regarding COVID-19.  Employees will be provided with PPE (including masks) and will adhere to social distancing.

Working together, the Task Force and Executive Team are determining how we will phase in the return of our faculty and staff, including student workers, back to campus. We will focus on essential staff and those needed to make progress towards the plan in the first phase. Your supervisor will notify you as to your schedule to return. These decisions will also be mindful of those members of our campus faculty and staff who are at a higher risk from COVID-19, and working with those individuals to determine when they can safely return.

4. CAMPUS CLOSED TO VISITORS

The University will remain closed to the public during the month of June as we prepare our facilities for a full return to campus.

It is important that we limit public visitation to campus prior to July 1, at which time we will issue additional guidance. This does not include guests who are invited and approved to be on campus, as the university is currently making decisions on resumption of recruiting activities and understands the need for contractors and other non-university personnel to be on campus in preparation for our return. Visitors will be expected to comply with guidance in regards to social distancing, meeting interactions, and other safety considerations, including place and time of visit.

5. CREATION OF SUBCOMMITTEES

Southeastern will commission three sub-committees to begin working on the details of our return to campus for Fall 2020. These sub-committees will have representation from faculty, staff and students, with the goal of operationalizing the return to campus. Details of their work will be available when they are ready.

– Sub-Committee on Instruction

– Sub-Committee on Campus Living

– Sub- Committee on Athletics

These subcommittees will be formed in order to increase the number of decision-makers in regard to operationalization of the plan to specific divisions of the university. They will also be tasked with providing an additional line of communication in order to offer input from our different constituencies on campus. We are mindful that we may have unique circumstances that require additional detail in order to make informed decisions on instruction, residential living, and campus activities. The task force understands that the creation of additional subcommittees may be necessary in the future.

6. GRADUATE INTERNS

Counseling graduate students may return to their internship sites beginning June 1 and will be contacted by their advisors for specific guidelines next week.

The task force is aware of the need to return some student cohorts to practical training as soon as possible, with an understanding that this may be contingent on the guidelines of an entity outside of the control of the university. The task force will provide guidance to the Aviation Sciences Institute concerning the resumption of flight operations at its meeting the week of May 25, with the intention to move forward as soon a safely possible. Aviation faculty have already met with the task force and presented a comprehensive plan for COVID-19 safe operations going forward.

I am truly grateful for the ongoing work of the task force and pleased that they have already made significant progress towards our safe and responsible return to campus. Under the direction of Liz McCraw, Vice President of Student Affairs, who is serving as Chair, the task force has developed an aggressive meeting schedule in the coming weeks in order to continue to develop further guidelines. We recognize that this is an ongoing process and ask for patience and understanding as we work through this together.

Each Wednesday, the task force will submit recommendations for my approval. I will then communicate the approved recommendations through a weekly report to the campus. We will also communicate to external constituents.

The university is taking these steps in order to ensure, to the best of our ability, the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and community. Please know that I encourage each of you to reach out to your respective task force member from your university division or subcommittee as we welcome comments. These are challenging times for all of us, both professionally and personally, but I am confident that the Southeastern Family will unite, as together we will discover opportunities in these challenges to find innovative ways to better serve our students and each other.

Dr. Thomas Newsom
President

April 29, 2020 Open Close

Once again, I want to acknowledge our students, staff, and faculty for their continued hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Overall, University operations are ongoing with a minimum of disruption.

The pandemic situation can change rapidly, prompting new or revised directives issued by governmental and health officials. We are constantly monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will modify our policies and processes as directed and needed.

I want to update you on a few items of interest: 

CONGRATULATIONS

Usually, a semester concludes with commencement exercises, but not much about the past few months has been typical because of COVID-19.  It is important to remember graduation is an important milestone in the lives of our graduates, as well as their family and friends.  I encourage everyone to visit SOSU 2020 Commencement Reimagined and offer congratulations to our graduates by May 6.

ACADEMIC PROGRAMMING 

  • Summer 2020—As previously announced, summer classes will be offered online. We are continuing to monitor conditions created by COVID-19 and by no later than mid-May, will decide if a limited number of face-to-face and/or blended courses can be safely offered.  If so, they will be added to the summer schedule; please regularly check your email and SE Coronavirus Updates.
  • Fall 2020—The safety of our students, staff, faculty, and campus visitors is Southeastern’s utmost concern. After careful deliberation, it is our intention to allow students to return to campus for face-to-face classes, on-campus functions, research, and other such activities this fall.  This intended return to campus will be predicated on the achievement of conditions established by local, state, and federal entities. During the intervening months, we will work proactively to identify protocols and processes to feasibly mitigate risk.

TELEWORKING

On April 22, Governor Stitt announced “Open Up and Recover Safely: A Three-phase Approach to Open Oklahoma’s Economy.” Consistent with the announcement, Southeastern is working on a back-to-campus work plan for employees. Southeastern will continue teleworking as previously announced and implement the back-to-campus work plan during the next two months. Be sure to regularly contact your immediate supervisor regarding your work schedule and other questions. If primary concern is the health and safety our staff and faculty and the plan will mitigate risk to the greatest extent possible.   

EVENTS

Out of the interest of safety and health for all involved and in accordance with government guidelines, University buildings and facilities will remain closed for all events through June 30, 2020. This includes such on-campus activities the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, Upward Bound, and summer camps, as well as University-affiliated off-campus activities such as the Presidential Golf Classic.  If possible, we encourage organizers to postpone or re-schedule activities for a later date.

TRANSITION

On April 30, 2020, Dr. Thomas Newsom officially starts as Southeastern’s next President. He has been hard at work getting prepared for this new role and we have discussed and concurred regarding the actions listed above, as well as other topics, regarding the future of Southeastern. I wish President Newsom and Southeastern Oklahoma State University much success—I am confident that our institution will use the current challenge as an opportunity to become more resilient and serve students in new and meaningful ways.

Bryon Clark
Interim President

April 14, 2020 Open Close

To the Campus Community: 

I would like to extend my gratitude to all the students, staff, faculty, and other constituencies served by Southeastern.  The transition to distance education and telework were not comfortable or easy; however, I believe it has gone somewhat smoothly because of your collective effort, patience, and understanding.

Please find below several updates and announcements as we continue our work this semester:

Online Commencement Celebration

Southeastern previously announced that the Spring Semester 2020 graduation ceremonies will not take place as regularly scheduled in order to adhere to health guidelines implemented to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are now working with an external vendor to provide each student with personalized graduation recognition that will launch on May 9, 2020.  Each student will have a personalized web page with social media tie-ins provided by Southeastern. We are also inviting spring graduates to participate in formal ceremonies by walking across the stage at the Fall Commencement in December 2020.

Room and Board Considerations

The COVID-19 Health Emergency necessitated significant changes to operations in Housing and Residence Life so that Southeastern could provide as safe as an environment as possible to the campus community. As a result, many students either returned home or to an alternate off-campus location. It is important to note that a limited number of students still live in the residence halls because they do not have other options that would allow them to safely pursue their academic goals.

Southeastern Housing & Residence Life and Sodexo Food Services remain committed to providing services in a manner that supports our resident students. I am pleased to announce that Southeastern will be able to offer a partial refund to students who moved out of the Residence Halls and stopped using their meal plan prior to April 1, 2020.  With limited exceptions, students who moved out by this date will receive a 25% room and board refund.  It is important to note that some students may not be eligible for this refund, especially if the costs of room and/or board were defrayed by scholarships or paid for by the University (see Housing & Residence Life FAQ for additional details). For these situations, refunds will be credited back to the awarding department and not to the student’s account.   

Adjustments to Student Fees

Southeastern realizes COVID-19 has impacted the financial security of numerous individuals, including our students. In an attempt to lessen some of these concerns, Southeastern has implemented the following:

  • Student Account Late Fees
    • Starting on April 1, 2020 and for the remainder of Spring Semester 2020, Southeastern will waive the Student Account Late Fees.
  • Payment Plan Setup Fee
    • Starting on April 1, 2020 and for the remainder of Spring Semester 2020, Southeastern will waive the Payment Plan Setup Fee.
  • Current Balance Enrollment Override
    • During the pre-enrollment period for Summer Semester 2020 and Fall Semester 2020, Southeastern will raise the Current Balance Enrollment Override from $500 to $2,000 

Pre-Enrollment underway

Pre-enrollment for both Summer Semester 2020 and Fall Semester 2020 is ongoing.  Please note that all aspects the admission of new students (undergraduate and graduate) as well as the advising and enrollment processes of current students can be accomplished online.  Visit Southeastern’s website for additional information.

Change in Out-of-State Tuition Policy

Southeastern made a recent change in the out-of-state tuition policy. Under this new policy, all out-of-state students, both undergraduate and graduate, will receive a 100% out-of-state non-resident tuition waiver automatically (no application is required) each semester (Fall, Spring, or Summer) while eligible to enroll at Southeastern.  Please remember that the In-State/Resident tuition and fees still apply.

The previous policy granted an out-of-state tuition waiver for one year, with additional waivers based on a student’s grade point average.

We believe this new policy will be of particular benefit in our recruiting efforts in north Texas. Over the past two months, we have been actively recruiting via advertising on social media in the north Texas region, ranging from Sherman-Denison to throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The response has been very positive to date.

Campus providing important services

Although our campus buildings are closed to help limit the spread of the COVID-19, faculty and staff at Southeastern continue to provide critical services to students and other constituents using email, text, telephone, social media, and the SE website.  During these challenging times, our faculty and staff have gone the “extra mile” to ensure our students are being served.  This dedication is greatly appreciated and truly is another reason why students choose to attend Southeastern.

Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to continue to use the link on the SE website (SE Coronavirus Updates), for the most recent updates in all areas.

Again, we urge everyone to follow the guidelines outline by health officials and stay healthy!

Bryon Clark
Interim President

April 7, 2020 Open Close

Last week, we completed our first full week of all online classes and telework in order to comply with the directives of local, state, and federal entities to promote social distancing. I realize in some cases, these transitions were not comfortable or easy; they had the potential to pose some challenges to our students, staff, and faculty. However, things appear to be running smoothly and I would like to commend everyone for their effort, patience, and understanding during this challenging time.  Again, let us know of any issues so that they can be addressed and we will keep everyone informed.

Now that we have implemented these strategies to better protect everyone’s health, we must plan for the future. We have received inquiries regarding an array of topics such commencement, housing and meal plan reimbursements, and whether programs, activities, and camps will be held on Southeastern’s campus this summer. We are working on plans for each and announcements will be forthcoming as soon as they are finalized.

With regard to the Summer Semester 2020, we plan to offer all courses online and by other types of distance education. Please note that by no later than mid-May, we will decide if face-to-face and/or blended courses can be offered safely and added to the summer schedule; again, we will keep you informed.

It is important to note that our campus buildings are still not open to the public to help limit the spread of the COVID-19; however, University personnel are diligently working via email, text, internet, social media, and telephone.

Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to continue to use the link on the SE website (SE Coronavirus Updates), for the most recent updates in all areas. We will add information as needed.

Finally, we urge everyone to follow the guidelines outline by health officials and stay healthy!

Bryon Clark
Interim President

March 25, 2020 Open Close

I wanted to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to everyone as we work together to meet the needs of our students and campus community as a result of the challenges presented by the COVID-19.

Your patience, understanding, and cooperation is very important as we continue to operate during unprecedented times.

The situation continues to evolve, as over the past 24 hours, we have seen the first confirmed case of the Coronavirus in Bryan County, while Governor Stitt has issued additions to his previous executive order.

The Southeastern Executive Team met early this morning and again this afternoon to discuss the impact on the University, and we will be taking the following action at both the Durant campus and McCurtain County campus that is consistent with our Pandemic Plan: 

PERSONNEL

  • Beginning on Thursday, March 26, and until further notice, only essential personnel as previously identified by supervisors in the unit’s Pandemic Response Plan will be working on campus. Others will be teleworking, while other employees will be on call. All full-time benefits eligible employees will continue to receive normal pay during this time.
  • There are different employment policies regarding hourly, part-time employees; we are working through all our options regarding your continued employment.
  • Human Resources is currently preparing FAQ for distribution.  Please contact your immediate supervisor regarding your work schedule and other questions.

CAMPUS ACCESS

  • The Student Union will close tonight (March 25) at 7 p.m. and remain closed until further notice.
  • To comply with the Governor’s directive, campus buildings will remain locked and access is limited to individuals who perform essential duties as identified by the immediate supervisor.

STUDENTS

  • We have a limited number of students still in the residence halls, and they will continue to receive meals and other essential services.
  • We are assessing ways to help students who may need technology assistance as we transition to all on-line classes beginning Monday, March 30.
  • Southeastern has developed a revised grading policy, using guidance provided by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, that takes into consideration the challenges posed by transitioning to online teaching and learning.  This policy will be distributed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs via email and posted as a separate link on the FAQ website.

Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to continue to use the link on the SE website (SE Coronavirus Updates), for the most recent updates in all areas. We are adding information daily as needed.

Our faculty and staff have worked diligently this week as we prepare to transition to all online classes beginning next week. We know there will be continue to be some issues and questions from time to time, and we will do our best to address those on a timely basis.

We maintain regular communication with health officials and higher education entities, and will advise you of any changes that could impact Southeastern and the area.

The safety, health, and welfare of our campus community remains our top priority.

Bryon Clark
Interim President

March 19, 2020 Open Close

We are nearing the end of spring break and I would like to update the campus community regarding Southeastern’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

Southeastern Oklahoma State University is moving to FULLY ONLINE COURSE DELIVERY FOR THE REMAINDER OF SPRING SEMESTER 2020This was a difficult decision, but it was made to further University efforts to reduce the number of individuals on campus.  At the time of this communication, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported for Bryan County, Oklahoma.  Please remember that:

  • as previously announced, spring break for students will be extended a week (March 23-27) to allow faculty and staff to prepare
  • current online courses will resume on March 23 as originally scheduled
  • courses previously offered using face-to-face and hybrid delivery will be transitioned to an online format; instruction for these courses will begin on March 30 as previously announced
  • students, if you have questions about learning in an online environment or about your courses, please visit the GOLD Course under My Courses in your Blackboard account and/or immediately email your instructor.

It is important to note that during this uncertain time, Southeastern still has a plan to serve our students.

FROM MARCH 19, 2020, UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE 

Due to the rapidly changing public health challenges posed by COVID-19 and the guidelines/directives provided by state and federal health and government officials, Southeastern is implementing the following changes to University operations to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by restricting the number of people on campus.  Please check your University email on a regular basis and visit SE Coronavirus Updates for updates and FAQs:

RESIDENTIAL HOUSING

  • We strongly encourage all students who live in residential housing to vacate campus at this time.  This is a difficult decision, but necessary to protect the health of our campus community. Specific information for on-campus housing residents is being emailed directly to the student.  We understand some students must maintain a physical presence on campus and we are committed to assisting them. Housing FAQ will provide more specific information.

TEMPORARY TELEWORK PLAN

  • Southeastern will implement a Temporary Telework Plan (SE Telework Policy). This plan will be in effect only as long as necessary to respond to the challenges caused by COVID-19.  The University will continue to monitor the situation, and by no later than April 3, make a determination about the continuation of teleworking.
  • Teleworking cannot be applied to certain necessary operations of the University, nor is it ideal for many other job functions.  However, unit managers, in consultation with their respective Vice President or other member of the Executive Team, will make arrangements so that those employees who can perform their work at home can do so as long as it such action is consistent with the Temporary Telework Plan and does not compromise the operations of the University.
  • For those employees who have job functions that cannot be performed at home, supervisors will develop individualized plans that adhere to the following guidelines:
    • create flexible and asynchronous (rotating) work schedules designed to minimize direct inter-employee contact;
    • practice social distancing in the workspace by maintaining a 6-foot inter-workstation spacing where possible; and
    • minimize multi-person meetings and transition all possible meetings to phone or virtual formats.
  • Supervisors should contact you by March 24 to develop your individual work plan, assess your needs, and arrange for the additional training and equipment as needed. If you have not been contacted by that date, please follow up with your supervisor.
  • Please note that in general, individuals are expected to work normal hours, regardless of location.

PUBLIC ACCESS TO CAMPUS

  • Effective immediately, Southeastern is temporarily restricting access of the general public to all University buildings on the main campus in Durant and the McCurtain County Campus.  Please note that other services typically provided to the public will still be available through electronic communication. All events on campus, either University-related or held by external groups, are suspended.  

SPRING COMMENCEMENT 2020

  • Spring graduation ceremonies will not take place in May. This decision was based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to cancel/postpone large group events. We are discussing possible modifications and options that will allow us to honor our graduates and celebrate their achievements at an appropriate time. We will engage with spring graduates and current students to develop these alternative plans.

 UNIVERSITY-RELATED TRAVEL

  • Don’t forget that travel for all University-related business or academic purposes is suspended unless such travel is deemed absolutely critical to the University and pre-approved by the pertinent Vice President or other Executive Officer, and the President.

Southeastern will continue to monitor and revise its plan based on the changing environment caused by COVID-19, or as required by external entities.  The Office of the President will continue to provide periodic email updates; please visit SE Coronavirus Updates for additional information and FAQs by topic.

While I realize that the actions listed above will cause some inconvenience, they are needed to help protect the safety and wellness of our campus community and are consistent with the guidelines/directives of state and federal officials.  I strongly encourage all of you to do your part in reducing the spread of COVID-19 (CDC-Steps to Protect Yourself).  If you are sick, do not report to work but contact your supervisor as soon as possible.

Bryon Clark
Interim President

March 13, 2020 Open Close

As I mentioned in my email to you on Wednesday (March 11) concerning the coronavirus (COVID-19), things can change quickly. Updated information and frequently asked questions will be available at SE Coronavirus Updates.  There are still very few confirmed cases in Oklahoma, but as we begin spring break next week, we want to continue to do everything possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  Please remember that you can take the personal actions recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to protect yourself and help slow the spread of the coronavirus (CDC-Steps to Protect Yourself).

After discussions with other Oklahoma colleges and universities, including our five sister institutions in the Regional University System of Oklahoma, and local health officials, Southeastern is taking the following steps as precautionary measures as applicable on its main campus in Durant, the McCurtain County Campus, and all other locations of program delivery.  You should contact the appropriate Vice President, or other Executive Officer, immediately if you have questions.

ACADEMIC PROGRAMMING

  • March 16-20
    • Spring Break—University closed as scheduled
  • March 23
    • Healthy faculty, staff, and administrators report to campus and university operations will resume.  Student employees have the option of reporting to work, but are not required to do so (please contact your immediate supervisor regarding your plans).
    • Online courses will continue as previously scheduled.
    • Even though the campus will be open, we are prohibiting large gatherings and cancelling internal and external campus events until further notice.
  • March 23-27
    • Students will have an extended break and not return to campus unless absolutely necessary.
    • Housing, meals, and other routine services will be available for those students that are not able to leave campus.
    • As stated above, students enrolled in previously scheduled online courses are expected to complete course requirements during this time.
    • Faculty and staff will use this week to transition face-to-face (f-2-f) and hybrid (courses with both online and f-2-f components) courses to an online delivery format (no assignments for these courses will be due during this time).
  • March 30
    • Online instruction for previously scheduled f-2-f and hybrid courses will commence and continue until at least April 10.  The mode of delivery for these courses will be reassessed and a decision will be made on April 3 regarding mode of delivery for the remainder of the semester.

ATHLETICS

  • March 12
    • The NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships. This obviously affected our men’s and women’s basketball teams, which had qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
    • The Great American Conference Council of Presidents announced an indefinite suspension of the conference’s sports activities – practices and competitions – for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, effective immediately.

TRAVEL

Southeastern strongly discourages University-related travel for business, academic, and other purposes, but realizes some travel is essential to continued operation. Such travel will require approval by the Vice President, or other Executive Officer, of the unit and the President.

  • All University-sponsored international travel is suspended until further notice.
  • All non-essential University-sponsored domestic air travel is suspended until further notice.
  • All travel for University-related business or academic purposes is suspended until further notice, unless such travel is deemed critical to the University.  Prior approval is required from the appropriate Vice President, or other Executive Officer, of the unit and the President.
  • International travel for personal reasons is highly discouraged.
  • All new registrations for events such as conferences/workshops will be suspended until further notice.

COMMUNICATION

We realize there will be many questions regarding these actions, but ask for your patience and cooperation as we work through various situations that might arise.  Please remember that our top priority is the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff, and everything we do is with that in mind.  We will continue our effort to monitor the situation and provide information as quickly as possible.

  • University-assigned email will be used as the primary form of communication.  Be sure to regularly check your Southeastern email for updates.
  • Additional information and University communications are available at SE Coronavirus Updates
  • The University’s website, learning management system (Blackboard) and social media accounts will also be used as other forms of communication.
  • For updated information on travel and other issues relating to coronavirus on the CDC website (CDC-Coronavirus Disease 2019)

Southeastern has an action plan for public health emergencies such as the situation caused by the coronavirus.  Some of the steps we have taken, or will take in the future, may cause disruption, but these actions are guided by our upmost priority of protecting students, faculty, and staff.

Bryon Clark
Interim President

 

March 11, 2020 Open Close

I know our students, faculty, and staff are looking forward to spring break next week (March 16-20).  Whether you have travel plans or are just planning to relax, please enjoy your time off.

With the recent outbreak of the coronavirus and the flu, please be careful in your travels and remember to take the personal actions recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to protect yourself (CDC-Steps to Protect Yourself).

As an extra precaution, if your personal travel plans include destinations identified by the CDC, or elsewhere overseas, I request that you notify my office this week using the following email:  travel@se.edu.  The goal of this request is not to encroach on your privacy, but to proactively address your safety as well as the safety of our students, staff, and faculty.  Southeastern will follow CDC recommendations related to such travel upon your return (CDC-Travel Information).

We have already addressed known University-related international travel in March and April; however, if you have not been contacted about such travel, or have University-related international travel scheduled for later in the year, please notify me this week, using travel@se.edu.

Currently, the CDC has identified China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Hong Kong as locations with increased levels of travel-related risk (CDC-Travel Information).  Please note that this could change at any time and you need to check for updated information on travel and other issues relating to coronavirus on the CDC website (CDC-Coronavirus Disease 2019)

At this time, Southeastern has not restricted domestic out-of-state travel for University-related business, but please use your personal discretion regarding such travel—your safety is my upmost concern.  It is important to note that in some cases, events already have been cancelled (e.g., Ellucian Live 2020) but in other cases, events have not been cancelled to date (e.g., Annual Conference of the Higher Learning Commission).  Southeastern will continue to monitor event cancellations and abide by the host entity’s decision.  For example, the Southeastern Women’s Basketball team departed from campus earlier today and then this afternoon, we were notified that the upcoming championship events for NCAA, including men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, will be conducted with only essential staff and limited family allowed to attend.  Please remember, at all times I will respect your decision if you choose not to travel, even if an event is not cancelled.

And remember, if you are sick, stay home – whether it’s this week or after spring break.  Communication is essential during this time.  Students, please contact your professors for all the assignments that you have missed due to illness. Faculty, staff, and administrators, be sure to contact your supervisor if you become sick.

The University has developed a contingency plan and will work very closely with health officials to protect our students, faculty, and staff.  Given the rapidly changing circumstances associated with the novel coronavirus, Southeastern is considering all options to mitigate its spread, including restricted access to the campus.  Therefore, as all of you (students, staff, and faculty) prepare to leave campus for spring break this week, you should consider taking instructional materials, devices, or other personal items with you.

The steps outlined in the contingency plan are being followed as stated above and no additional decisions have been made.  We will be monitoring the situation very closely until this health concern passes.  Be sure to regularly check your University email for updates when you are away from campus, especially during spring break.

Bryon Clark
Interim President

MEDIA CONTACT: Alan Burton, Director of University Communications, aburton@se.edu or 580-745-2731.

THIS PAGE WILL BE UPDATED AS NECESSARY