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Live on YouTube, University Meeting Closes Spring Semester

Published on May 13, 2020

Live on YouTube, University Meeting Closes Spring Semester

cameras and podium
President Elsa Núñez addressed the Eastern community on May 8, broadcasting live on YouTube from the Student Center's Betty Tipton Room. 

More than 350 Eastern faculty and staff community members tuned into YouTube for a live streaming of Eastern’s first-ever “virtual” University Meeting on May 8. Broadcasting from an empty Betty R. Tipton Room, university administrators covered an agenda that acknowledged the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic while celebrating students, faculty and staff for successfully adapting to those challenges. The meeting also discussed the future of Eastern — with or without COVID-19 — and recognized retiring, long-serving and exemplary employees.

“In many ways this seems like a commentary on what we’ve been calling our ‘virtual semester,’” opened Provost Bill Salka, acknowledging the nearly deserted campus and welcoming the hundreds of Eastern faithful who tuned in remotely. “Like our spring semester, this is imperfect and certainly not the way we do things here at Eastern.

“And in fact, I believe the term ‘virtual’ to be misleading or even wrong, because virtual implies something not real or make believe,” Salka continued. “This couldn’t be further from the truth because the education we provided this semester was certainly very real, as were the struggles of our students who had to make the transition to an online environment as quickly as we all did.”

Following Salka’s greetings were remarks by Communication Professor Andrew Utterback, president of the University Senate, who noted two of the senate’s major highlights of the academic year — passing the senate bill on the revised Learning Outcomes, which simplifies Eastern’s liberal arts curriculum down to five learning outcomes, and endorsing the 2020-25 Strategic Plan.

Vice President of Institutional Advancement Ken DeLisa presented awards to nine employees for 10, 20 and 25 years of service, as well as five retiring faculty and staff. Education Professor Sudha Swaminathan was named Professor of the Year and four others received excellence awards for research/creative activity, teaching and service to the university. (See slideshow below)

President Elsa Núñez closed the meeting with her remarks. “I want to thank everyone watching from home for the tremendous job you’ve done these past two months in preserving Eastern’s academic enterprise and maintaining the University’s daily operations.

“Let me acknowledge the incredible work of our faculty to teach online since March 23,” she continued, mentioning the 1,500 classes that were transitioned to online in only one week while students were away on Spring Break. “You learned new technology and new ways of teaching to maintain meaningful connections with your students.”

Núñez went on to thank and congratulate students and staff for adapting to and excelling in the new online format. “All of us should be proud of what has been accomplished this year despite these unprecedented times!” she said. “Now let me look ahead. What happens next?”

Núñez confirmed that Eastern will offer summer courses online, with faculty teaching remotely, and that it will be June before employees are phased back to working on campus. “We will need to follow the conditions for returning to work laid out by the governor and our health officials,” she said, which will include safety measures such as face masks and other personal protective equipment, social distancing, contact tracing and utilizing a mix of on-ground and telecommuting employees.

She reminded everyone that reopening campus is a fluid situation and that there’s a possibility for future waves of COVID-19. “We must plan to be back on campus, yet we must be ready to pivot to online instruction should the health conditions and metrics change.”

Speaking to budgetary concerns brought on by the closure of campus, Núñez said that Eastern is on stable footing due to its financial reserves. “I have said many times that our fiscal prudence over the past 14 years has been the reason we have a current reserve balance of more than $30 million. Your hard work and sacrifice meant we were prepared for the ‘rainy day’ in which we now find ourselves.”

In closing, Núñez said, “We do not know yet how the next few months will unfold, but plans are being made across Connecticut for the good of our students and the safety of our campuses. I am confident we will sustain ourselves no matter what.

“And I pledge to you that I will share information on our future as soon as it is available. Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay together. And be proud of yourself, your colleagues, our students and Eastern Connecticut State University.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Categories: Administration