To return us to a bit of a regular pattern, today we resume our customary bi-weekly “Monday Message” we typically send in normal times. You will continue to receive regular updates from the COVID-19 taskforce and me throughout the week, but getting back to familiar timing as we settle into our altered routines makes sense.
After two weeks of our new normal and remote learning, we continue to engage deeply with our students in alternative ways, with an eye toward term completion and keeping them on the path to graduation. I have heard from many that they feel your strong commitment to their academic success. Your work with them to provide the same individual attention and care they received in person has been exemplary.
Additionally, our leadership team has worked across silos and with you to rethink almost every WKU process so we can continue our operations. I am thankful for the work of the COVID-19 taskforce, which has stepped up in a remarkable way in this time of challenge. I also know the volume of information shared with you has been overwhelming at times (our team has shared 25 COVID-19 related messages with campus in the past three weeks). I appreciate the grace you have shown on the occasions we have had to make course corrections mid-stream.
During times of uncertainty, many of us will experience a heightened level of anxiety and fear about the future. Let me reassure you that we will emerge on the other side of this pandemic successful and well positioned because of our work together.
The taskforce continues its scenario planning and contingency preparation for the 2020-21 academic year. Given the unknowns in the external environment, you can imagine the possibilities range from slight alterations to significant disruptions. Rest assured, the leadership team is hard at work preparing for every eventuality, and these will shape our conversations during the next several months.
Student enrollment is the most important variable for future planning and it also is the most volatile, highly dependent upon our economy and the state of the pandemic as we approach the fall semester. However, what we do during the next four months will affect significantly student recruitment and retention. We continue to demonstrate strong year-over-year subscription for the fall 2020 class and have revamped how we connect with prospective Hilltoppers. We continue to do everything in our power to maintain that progress and also are investing significant staff time to retain current students into the fall semester.
During this unusual time, our colleagues and students have stepped-up, illustrating the care we have for one another and the true meaning of our WKU family. For example, WKU launched a campaign for alumni to adopt our students remaining on campus; quickly all 46 were adopted. These are at-risk students, many of whom have no home to go back to or don’t feel safe doing so. I’m so proud that many of those alumni who made adoptions are our own faculty and staff. Yesterday, the Chinese Student and Scholar Association stopped by the President’s home to drop off hundreds of surgical masks and respirators to support our community’s first responders. Their work to collect this PPE equipment will assist greatly our health professionals on the front line of this battle.
We are reshaping Commencement for the Class of 2020. It’s especially important that we let the voices of our graduating seniors guide our plans, so we continue to engage them with surveys, asking them what they would like to see for their culminating activities. Once we have a framework that meets their desires, we will announce the plan to the WKU Community.
Finally, in legislative news, our state appropriation was held flat in the budget that was sent to the Governor for signature and our KERS pension contribution also was held flat at 49 percent for next year. Both of these are very good developments for our budget next year.
As always, thank you for all you do for our students and each other.
Timothy C. Caboni