Caboni optimistic classes will continue physically in fall with necessary adjustments

The Staff Senate held it’s monthly meeting over Zoom o May 5. President Timothy Caboni presented an update and took questions from the staff. 

Cassady Lamb

WKU classes will likely be in person next fall, with some adjustments, WKU President Timothy Caboni said in a Staff Senate meeting on Tuesday. 

In the monthly meeting, Caboni presented an update on the COVID-19 situation and took questions from staff about the fall and restarting WKU. 

“We’re going to be back on campus this fall, but this fall is not going to look like last fall,” Caboni said. 

“Hundreds and hundreds” of students have contacted Caboni about the cancellation of classes, and he said no one has expressed that they prefer the current online situation.

“Everyone of them wants to be back. We have to do everything in our power to get them back,” he said.

On April 20, Caboni announced the formation of “restart WKU committees” which report to the COVID-19 Task Force. These committees would focus on academics, student experience and engagement, athletics and the environment and operations.  

The committees, who meet twice a week, have not yet come up with a set date of when the university will reopen to those who are not essential employees, Caboni said.

“I don’t wanna give you a date right now because we don’t know what the date is,” Caboni said.

In making a decision on how to restart in the fall, Caboni said the committees are looking at the CDC and the federal government for information regarding reopening the university, as well as following the reopening schedule Gov. Andy Beshear has put forth. 

Caboni added faculty, staff members and the entire campus community needs to be involved in the conversation on how to keep the university safe during the reopening.

Though Caboni believes the university will open this coming fall semester, there will be strict social distancing guidelines put in place.

“If we can’t have everybody back in the office, that means some people can’t work in the office,” Caboni said.

He mentioned heavily populated lectures may look different this fall, and as an example said some classrooms could be held in the football field or Diddle Arena so that students can remain six feet apart. 

“We want to be strategic, we want to be intentional, we want to be quick but not hasty, we want to be methodical, but not slow,” Caboni said regarding reopening in the fall.

Caboni thanked faculty and staff for their “shared sacrifice” during the pandemic.

“This isn’t what any of us thought we were going to be doing this year, but I appreciate the sacrifice that all of you have made,” Caboni said.

Personal expenditures were also brought up in the meeting. Since most faculty and staff are not on campus, they are resorting to using their own printers, toners and ink. Some employees of the university are questioning whether or not they will be reimbursed for these costs. 

After two of the state’s biggest universities, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville announced budget shortfalls, concerns surrounding WKU’s budget have risen. 

Caboni announced the university is following the same budget process that has been followed for the past two years and the Budget Executive Committee has had a large range of conversations about the budget.

“It’s not going to be the same budget as last year. We know there are going to be negative effects,” Caboni said.

Alongside budget deficits, other universities are also facing furloughs and lay-offs, which WKU has not experienced yet. 

“I do think we are well-positioned for next year,” Caboni said. “We’re gonna do some things that are challenging. The question is are there going to be layoffs? We don’t know that yet.”