ASNAU hosted a Q&A session with students and administrators to address the changes surrounding COVID-19. This discussion featured representatives from around the university — including Academic Affairs, Campus Health Services, ITS and Parking Services — as employees considered ongoing adjustments.
Linsey McClintock, vice president of academic affairs at ASNAU, moderated the meeting and fielded questions on Thursday afternoon. One frequent remark from students was about the fall 2020 semester, and more specifically, whether it will still include face-to-face classes.
In response to this question, Dean of Students, Andrew Dies said the university has not addressed moving classes online next fall. However, he added that the summer session was already adjusted.
“There have been no discussions in regard to in-person classes going online in the fall,” Dies said. “We do know that summer classes starting in May will be online, but we anticipate everyone being back in the fall for the start of the semester.”
As NAU continues to adapt to current events, university staff plan to keep campus open and operational throughout the summer, although portions of the housing program will likely reorganize.
In regard to summer housing, Dies said it is important for staff members to contact their supervisors about any possible changes, especially in regard to student workers' employment over the break.
Similarly, it is still unknown how the COVID-19 pandemic affected future study abroad programs. John Masserini, vice provost for Academic Affairs, said part of this uncertainty is because of varying responses globally.
“As for navigating this situation, different geographic areas are experiencing things in different ways,” Masserini said. “We are anticipating some sense of normalcy when we get back this fall, but we’re going to have to wait and see what’s going on.”
Meanwhile, the university has offered all students a pass-or-fail grading system as a substitution to traditional evaluations. This announcement came from Provost Diane Sterns via an email distribution to the student body in early April.
Masserini said this option is available until 11:59 p.m. May 2, although a number of students already exercised their decisions.
“As of yesterday [Wednesday], we’ve already had over 2,000 students requesting 3,500 course changes,” Masserini said. “A lot of people have been taking advantage of the pass-or-fail option.”
Although this alternative provides the chance to shield GPAs, Masserini said he encourages everyone to give remote learning a chance. After all, the deadline to switch grading systems is still weeks away, and it comes after the final day of regular instruction.
“When we’re faced with things like this, we end up learning a lot about ourselves,” Masserini said. “You have plenty of time to make these decisions. Weigh them carefully, and don’t make them too soon. Give yourself a chance to adapt.”
Masserini also said remote learning may feel like an insurmountable barrier. However, with appropriate time and effort, he explained that students may surprise themselves by navigating this situation.
For more information about the pass or fail option, along with the paperwork to complete this transition, Masserini recommended visiting nau.edu/registrar.
According Sterns's email, the university implemented this temporary grading alternative due to the impacts of online learning. During Thursday’s meeting, similar influences were discussed by students and administrators.
McClintock said remote instruction created certain benefits for the university community. A lot of professors are willing to work with students, she added, which made this transition easier.
“Another individual from ASNAU lives in Hawaii, and her professors have been very accommodating to her,” McClintock said.
Although Hawaiian Standard Time is currently three hours earlier than Pacific Standard Time, McClintock said many students on the islands were able to connect and collaborate with professors. In this regard, they also discussed class times that work better for Hawaii’s different schedule.
Despite the compromises between students and faculty, digital learning also carried certain challenges. McClintock said some of her classmates perceive online coursework as ineffective compared to face-to-face instruction, which can also lead to a lack of motivation. Furthermore, maintaining a regular schedule and routine while based online poses challenges.
Masserini also explained the complications of digital instruction. Although NAU benefits from a long and successful history of online learning, he said this capability is different from the current situation.
Normally, Masserini added, online classes are based on a distinct pedagogy and clear structure. This established format is different from the current spring semester, wherein staff and students were suddenly forced to transition online.
Director of Parking Services, Erin Stam said officials continue to enforce parking on campus, although summer regulations were implemented early. This system offers flexibility and lenience for pass holders, she added, especially with parking in different lots. For example, students with south commuter permits can use the north commuter lot.
Despite these adjustments, Stam said there will be no refunds for parking passes, mainly because the university already offers significant discounts on annual permits.
Passes for the fall and spring semesters cost $348 apiece, Stam added, while summer permits cost $149. However, Parking Services charges $465 for an entire year, which is cheaper on a monthly basis. For this reason, no refunds are currently provided.
“We do a pretty significant discount on the annual pass,” Stam said. “So when students are here for the entire year, they get quite a bargain."
As of Thursday, NAU has not proposed any refunds aside from housing and dining.