Forsyth Tech Community College. A place of promise. President's Message. Dr. Janet N. Spriggs.

Hello Forsyth Tech faculty and staff,

Ready or not, the Fall 2020 Semester is upon us. Unfortunately, the beginning of this new academic year does not resemble what any of us would have wished it to be. Over the past few weeks, I have talked with several staff and faculty who expressed numerous concerns related to returning to face-to-face instruction and on-campus operations in the fall. Additionally, students and employees shared similar sentiments on the “Returning from COVID-19” survey a couple of weeks ago. I am using this weekly update message to share some of the survey results and clarify a few important points.

I also challenge us to take ownership for working together to find solutions to the issues we face today and the change we will see in the future as a result of this unprecedented crisis. This is a complex situation with numerous external factors adding to the complexity. I do not believe we can identify a definitively right or wrong pathway forward, but I do believe our response will impact our future.

To ensure our students have the safest and best experiences and most successful learning opportunities possible, and to make sure faculty and staff who work on campus can do so safely, we have to remain empathetic and flexible in responding to the unique and ongoing disruptions our students and employees are experiencing. We are committed to using the following guiding principles as we make decisions and plans for the new academic year:

  • Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of students and employees.
  • Our commitment to our mission, vision, equity statement, and core values will not waiver.
  • Our decisions will be flexible and empathetic to the varied situations facing students and employees.
  • Our decisions will be fair and equitable.
  • Our responses will be creative and innovative, and we will not sacrifice quality or customer service.

Be Safe Feel Safe

Earlier this week, we required everyone in a supervisory role to attend re-entry training built upon a Be Safe Feel Safe framework. Last Thursday, we received additional information about this model from Human Resources and the COVID-19 response team in Email. This information is extremely important to help us be responsible employees and keep each other safe. The Be Safe Feel Safe framework provides guidance on how to respond to issues and equips us with answers for potential questions. Please make sure you have learned about this important safety model. I have attached the Be Safe Feel Safe Employee Training document with Q&A, and you can find more information on our COVID-19 Page.

Surveys & Solutions

Thanks to all of you who responded to the COVID-19 re-entry survey. We received almost 240 faculty and staff responses and just over 600 student responses. As you might expect, there was a wide range of differing responses and many strong opinions. In general, some students and employees are concerned about returning to campus, and others want to come back now.

When asked: “I believe the college is taking adequate measures to keep me safe,” 62% of employees and 64% of students agreed or strongly agreed. However, almost half employees, 49%, and more than half the students, 54%, disagreed or strongly disagreed when asked: “I feel comfortable returning to campus in the fall.” Twenty-six percent of students prefer completely face-to-face in a classroom instruction, but only 15% of faculty want to teach face-to-face this fall. Hybrid was more preferable to both groups than completely face-to-face with 27% of students and 36% of faculty choosing the hybrid modality, but the majority of both students (46%), and faculty (43%), chose fully online as their preferred modality this fall.

In summary, while most students and employees believe the college is taking appropriate safety measures, about half of both groups still have concerns about coming back in person. Additionally, while most students and faculty prefer fully online or hybrid/blended courses, over a quarter of the students and 15% of faculty want access to face-to-face courses.

The table below shows the percentage of courses by delivery modality for our current Fall course schedule. My observation is that our curriculum course schedule provides an appropriate mix of options to meet the preferences identified in our surveys.

Modality # of Courses %
Blended 260 20%
Hybrid 53 4%
Fully Online 857 66%
Face-To-Face 119 9%
Total 1289 100%

We also asked students and employees to tell us what specific concerns they had about returning to campus – see the two graphs below for those results. These response clearly demonstrate the varied issues creating concern for students and employees. By applying the guiding principles I shared above, we will, to the best of our ability, find empathetic and flexible ways to address individual concerns while continuing to deliver high quality teaching and learning, student support services, and business operations.

Student Survey:

Student Survey Results

Student survey:
What specific concerns to you have about returning to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic? (Please select all that apply.)
I am high risk -17.4%
A member of my household is at high risk – 38%
I have children who will not be returning to in-school learning – 14%
My job involves work with the public, so I would be unable to work if I got sick – 38.7%
I do not have insurance, so becoming hospitalized would become a large financial burden – 16.4%
I am skeptical Forsyth Tech will be able to open safely – 37.9%
I believe that students and facility may ignore safety protocols instituted by Forsyth Tech. – 51.2%
I believe the college may close mid-semester – 46.9%
Other – 6.4%

 

Faculty and Staff Survey:

Faculty and Staff Survey Results

Faculty and Staff survey:
What specific concerns to you have about returning to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic? (Please select all that apply.)
I am high risk -37.4%
A member of my household is at high risk – 34%
I have children who will not be returning to in-school learning – 21.4%
My job involves work with the public, so I would be unable to work if I got sick – 28.2%
I do not have insurance, so becoming hospitalized would become a large financial burden – 6.3%
I am skeptical Forsyth Tech will be able to open safely – 37.4%
I believe that students and facility may ignore safety protocols instituted by Forsyth Tech. – 71.4%
I believe the college may close mid-semester – 41.6%
Other – 12.8%

Finally, we asked both groups to share their thoughts on what additional measures should be taken and what other communication topics should be shared as we work through the pandemic, and we asked faculty and staff to share their ideas on how they would engage students remotely and provide excellent service remotely in fall. There were many creative ideas and productive recommendations, and more importantly, some of the respondents shared concerns or problems and recommended solutions.

Your responses varied greatly. Some affirmed how the college has responded so far, while others clearly disagreed with some decisions, and many of you shared your uncertainty and anxiety around returning to campus. We will use the constructive feedback, creative solutions, and innovative ideas shared by students and employees to inform planning and decision making.

I want to specifically address this comment from the employee survey: “Has the college stopped reporting COVID-19 cases?” The comment further suggested the “rumor mill” believes we are no longer reporting cases. The answer is yes, we have followed and will continue to follow the reporting process required by the Clery Act and posted on our COVID-19 page. However, if a Forsyth Tech student or employee who has not been on any Forsyth Tech campus is exposed or tests positive, we will not report those cases because there has been no exposure to anyone on our campuses.

Additionally, a few employees commented that we had not shared information for certain important things, such as instructions on the classroom cleaning process or details on what to do if a student or an employee is exposed to the virus. I want to remind everyone to make sure you are using our COVID-19 website which is frequently updated to provide timely and comprehensive information about our COVID-19 response. Information about both of the comments above is located there.

Our individual circumstances are different, our behaviors and beliefs about the severity of the pandemic are different, and therefore our ideas about how to respond and move forward differ greatly. We are working hard to keep everyone as safe as possible, to make evidence-based decisions, to be transparent, to seek input from all constituencies to inform the decisions we make, and to be as flexible and empathetic as possible to each individual circumstance and situation.

We have been through a lot together since this pandemic began, and unfortunately, we have farther still to go before we are clearly on the other side of COVID-19. We have made it this far together, and the only way we will make it the rest of the way is if we stick together. Thank you for remembering to be kind to yourself and to each other, to encourage and support each other, and to shed each other a little gracea little courteous goodwill goes a long way.

Next Facebook Live

I look forward to our next Facebook Live on Aug. 11, at 11 a.m. We changed our time so that you might virtually attend the Budget Presentation at 2 p.m. on that same day. Please join me if you can! It is a great way for staff and faculty to engage with each other, and for you to also engage with students.

Life’s Challenges

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you;

they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

~ Bernice Johnson Reagon

While the challenges of COVID-19 at first surprised us and challenged us, we are now seeing how strong and resilient our Forsyth Tech community can be, and who we can become for the future.

Stay safe and take care!

Warm Regards,

Dr. Janet N. Spriggs
President
Forsyth Technical Community College