Today's Update: Friday, September 18

September 18, 2020

Dear Student Life Team, In a big organization like Student Life, it is sometimes easy to lose track of what others in the unit are doing. That’s one of the ideas behind High Five Friday; it’s an opportunity for everyone to see the Scarlet and Great work being done in other areas.  

And I want you to know, that even though I use the term ‘Scarlet and Great’ a lot…I don’t use it lightly. I believe (strongly) in the work we do together, and I believe in each of YOU. I also know this is a hard time and that so many are doing so much. And I also know this isn’t an easy time for individuals on a personal level. Living life in a pandemic is difficult. Living life in a pandemic at a time of social unrest is…more than difficult. Please know I honor you and all you are feeling, and I want to hear from you. Feel free to email me, and I am going to set aside time each week to visit with you via Zoom, no more than ten team members at a time. Next week’s sessions will be: 

  • Wednesday, September 23, 9-9 30 a.m.  

  • Wednesday, September 23, 4-4:30 p.m.  

  • Friday, September 25, 1-1:30 p.m.  

If you’d like to sign up, visit: go.osu.edu/slvpmeeting. I can tell you that these sessions will be some of the highlights of my week! 

Having said all that, today I want to offer a high-level overview, and accompanying High Fives, of many projects, initiatives and efforts that make this team Scarlet and Great.  

AVP Search 

As you probably recall, a few weeks ago we posted three of our senior leadership positions internally to Student Life: Dean of Students/Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Support; Associate Vice President for Belonging and Inclusion and the Associate Vice President for Health and Well-being. Because the pool was limited to just a few applicants and to be efficient with the time of our search committees, we are going to combine those applications with national search pool, with positions posting later this evening. I will keep you informed as more updates are available.  

Student Engagement 

I also want to acknowledge that our Student Life world isn’t exclusively pandemic-related, no matter how much it seems that way at times. High Fives to those who are working so closely with our students in myriad ways, particularly when it comes to societal issues and racial injustice. In our future direction announcement, I highlighted that “Belonging and Inclusion” will remain an area of focus for our organization. We have much work to do as a team, as an institution and as a society, and High Fives to those who are helping our students navigate activism and develop their leadership skills and social change experience.  

When we think about student development in general, and particularly in the time of a pandemic, it’s never been more important to be nimble and flexible.  

One area of particular note has been student organization events and gatherings. In consideration of the path of the virus and an increase in positive test results, we had to make the difficult decision to hold off on events and gatherings, of any size. We continue to monitor the daily test results and will consider each week how we will need to proceed.  

At the same time, we have installed three outdoor locations where students, of fewer than ten, can informally gather using tents on the Hale Green and in two locations in the North Residential District. This expands the available casual spaces where students can study, eat and spend time between classes. 

Another new development that has emerged as a way of continuing to highlight the importance of the safe and healthy guidelines is the creation of the Together As Buckeyes Ambassador program. The newly created peer initiative is designed to inspire safe and strategic dialogue among students about keeping up with things like mask-wearing, physical distancing and proper cough/hand hygiene. For more information and to refer students who may be interested, (Student Wellness Center director Blake Marble tells me 31 have already signed up!) visit studentlife.osu.edu/articles/together-as-buckeyes-ambassador-program/.   

I know it can seem like we talk a lot about the things that we can’t do because of COVID-19, but we also want to be sure that students know there are still ways to stay engaged and get involved, on campus and in the broader communities. We created a list of evergreen ideas and we will continue to populate the Student Life calendar with many more events and activities.  

Testing 

You may not realize it, but Ohio State has one of the most multi-faceted testing strategies of any institution in the nation. We have a multi-pronged testing protocol that includes both surveillance testing and voluntary (symptomatic and asymptomatic) testing.    

A surveillance program is a testing strategy identifies people with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms, preventing further spread of the disease on campus and in the broader community. Surveillance testing is not meant to include those who have symptoms or have a known exposure to a positive case.  

I’ll talk in more detail about testing in an update next week.   

You can monitor the testing results on the daily tracking dashboard, which is a phenomenal resource for the campus community particularly as it lets you break the data out in a variety of ways. 

There was a great article recently in The Lantern about students who help monitor the testing, and special thanks to Laura Darling and various Rec Sports team members who are our on-site Student Life support group. Also, High Five to Dr. Gibbs and the Student Health Services team for taking advantage of a captive audience by setting up a space where students can get a flu shot before they leave Jesse Owens North. 

Quarantine and Isolation Housing 

One of our largest efforts, both in scope and in the number of people involved, is for quarantine and isolation housing. We currently have three dedicated on-campus buildings and two off-campus properties that are interconnected where we house on-campus residential students who have tested positive (isolation) and students who have been identified as a close contact of a positive case (quarantine).  Throughout all of these spaces, we have about 600 spots for isolation and another 360 for quarantine. Another feature of the daily tracking dashboard is showcasing the occupied and available quarantine and isolation spaces on any given day. 

From setting up the rooms to staffing the halls to providing special activities for the residents to checking up on them with calls and emails to providing their meals to every other aspect of this remarkable effort....High Fives to everyone involved, and it is literally hundreds of people. 

External Relations 

The Buckeye Community is really our entire community, and our impact as a university goes well beyond our physical boundaries. I’ll talk more about this in an update soon, but we are working very closely with local business, property owners/managers and restaurant/bar owners as partners in our effort to contain COVID-19.  

Redeployed Staff 

As you can see from this message, there are lots of us, including me, doing work that we never would have dreamed of a year ago and also that fits firmly into the “other duties as assigned” in our job descriptions. High Fives as well to everyone who has taken on such roles that maybe aren’t what we expected but are needed to address our most pressing issues. For some it’s meant volunteering to help in addition to other duties, and for others it’s been a full redeployment. Whatever the case, you all are Scarlet and Great. 

University Leadership 

I want to give a High Five to Ohio State’s (relatively) new President, Dr. Kristina Johnson. I have had the honor and privilege of working closely with her as she has joined the Ohio State family, and I am simply thrilled with her complete dedication to students and her deep desire to make Ohio State an institution where all can pursue their dream of being a Buckeye. If you joined our all-team Zoom session just a few weeks ago, you heard from her directly about her appreciation for our work, and her interest in joining us in creating the extraordinary student experience. Her most frequent request of me is: “I want to engage with students!” and she has made incredible outreach in just a few weeks. As someone who is still in my “first year” as a Buckeye, I can personally appreciate the great impact President Johnson is already having on our campus community, and I hope you all are seeing the effects of her leadership, too. 

Well…THAT was a long Today’s Update, but we have a lot of important work going on in Student Life, and it seemed like a good time to recap as we finish out our first four weeks of the semester. As always, I am grateful to each and every one of you for your Scarlet and Great contributions.  

High Five!  

Melissa