Hello Forsyth Tech students,
After sending my call to action message that I sent to you last week, I had the opportunity to speak with some of you. I know I haven’t talked to everyone . . . yet . . . but I am grateful to have had time with many of you, and I will continue to reach out and connect with as many students, faculty and staff as possible. Through my conversations, I heard loud and clear that whatever we do, it should not be just for “show.” It is important for our actions to be real and thoughtful. That is why I think we need to start with meaningful engagement through open, transparent dialogue and active listening. I have made a commitment to do more than just talk about equity, diversity, inclusion, implicit bias, racism, discrimination and oppression, and I remain steadfastly committed to action. However, we need to be sure we take the right actions and while we have the resources to do some things, we likely do not have the capacity to do everything at the same time.
Here are some of the ways we are beginning this important work:
- Beginning next Friday, June 19, we are hosting a series of three Courageous Conversations: Acknowledgement, Affirmation, and Action, about racism and the social unrest in our country and communities (see below for more details).
- Our College’s Diversity & Inclusion Council is working on a set of resources and a way to engage and share those resources in an internal social media-like platform. We are also re-defining the role of this important council – creating a new action-oriented charter for this group, and changing the name to reflect our commitment to belonging, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, the leaders of this important team are currently working on ways to engage students in this important work.
- We are reviewing our college processes and systems, looking for unintentional bias and working to dismantle unjust systems that create unintended barriers in equity, hiring, entry and enrollment for students, and more.
- In addition to internal dialogue within our college community, I am personally connecting with members of the Black communities we serve to understand their thoughts and get their ideas on actionable things that need attention most urgently.
This work is not another initiative.
This is just the beginning of our action.
This is part of who we are.
This is how we build a culture of belonging.
Please join me in having conversations and let us know what you’re thinking and feeling.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in North Carolina, concerns have been raised that I would like to address. As you know, we are bringing some students back to our campuses for hands-on classes and labs, and we are modifying spaces to accommodate appropriate social distancing. One of the questions that has been raised, is why are we bringing students back when most staff is still working remotely? We have intentionally limited the number of staff on campus to reduce the number of people who are gathering and therefore protect everyone a bit more than if large numbers of students, staff and faculty were back on campus, all at once. In essence, students are only back for hands-on classes and labs, and under the current COVID-19 conditions, we are only bringing staff and faculty back to campus if they need to be on campus to facilitate hands-on classes and labs or to perform work that cannot be done remotely. Again, this is a deliberate approach designed to limit risk for all of us.
We ask all employees and students to complete the Self-Monitoring and Personal Protection Guidelines before returning to campus. You must answer “no” to all the questions to be able to return to campus. Remember, if you are feeling sick, please stay home.
We are also continuing to discuss how to effectively manage fall semester. Our primary goal is to design a fall experience that is safe and equitable, with as few barriers to success as possible for our students. Right now, we know that the Fall semester will begin August 17, 2020 and we plan to have a mix of online and face-to-face class options for students. Our goal is to modify our courses so that the face-to-face components end by Thanksgiving (with only minimal exceptions), and some courses may have online exams or final assignments after Thanksgiving.
More immediately, we are reviewing the needs in face-to-face summer classes and labs. Per our plan, some classes and labs with hands-on requirements have resumed and students are back on campus completing this coursework and labs. We have implemented social distancing and strongly encourage wearing masks. However, some students have voiced concerns about their safety if they return to campus at this time.
We want everyone to both be safe and feel safe and we will listen to all concerns and take as many safety precautions as possible. In response to the most recent issues brought to our attention, we have purchased face shields for faculty and students who are returning to campus for hands-on labs and classes. We believe these shields, along with deliberate social distancing and reduced numbers of students in labs at one time, will provide greater protection. If you are participating in an on-campus class or lab this summer, the use of either a mask or a face shield is now mandatory. You will receive information from your faculty about distribution of face shields.
I encourage all of you to continue to follow precautionary steps to keep us all safe, including wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and using proper hand-washing protocols. As a reminder, lecture-only classes remain remote for now, with plans to introduce a face-to-face option for some lecture classes in early July, unless the virus situation and state guidelines change.
Additionally, you all saw the TechAlert that went out on Monday about another COVID-19 case. We recognize the information wasn’t complete, the time it was sent caused some confusion, and we missed the opportunity to communicate clearly. We deeply regret not providing more effective communications, and we will do our best not to let that happen again. Going forward, our Emergency Operations Team has developed protocols and communication guidelines that will allow us to respond quickly, as required by the federal Clery Act, while also providing follow-up messaging that provides additional details and clarity.
Forsyth Tech Courageous Conversations Series: Acknowledgment, Affirmation and Action
At Forsyth Technical Community College, equity is grounded in a culture of belonging. We intentionally design the college experience to ensure that each learner receives what they need to be successful. Keeping with this equity statement that we affirmed during our Visions 2025 strategic planning work, we are hosting a series of Courageous Conversations to Acknowledge the pain caused by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, to Affirm our commitment to Black students, faculty and staff, and to Act on the national calls for justice.
During the month of June, we will host three virtual conversations. Please join us!
Can We Talk? Hearing the voices of our students, faculty and staff during this time of racial unrest.
Due to COVID-19, we will meet virtually and the sign-up links are above. Additionally, our consultant Dr. William Lewis, who has been working with us on our diversity, inclusion and belonging efforts over the past year, is hosting a virtual session about the movie Just Mercy, yet another great opportunity to engage, learn and work toward making a difference.
Drive-Through Brand Launch Party
We hope you all will join us as we reveal our new logo and tagline, — our new Forsyth Tech Brand! At our drive-through brand launch party, you will also receive information about how the new brand was developed and selected.
Please mark your calendars for Thursday, June 25, for the “Brand Launch Party – Drive-Through Style” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in parking lot CC3 of the Strickland Center near Horticulture! You may stay safely in your car, while you drive through the parking lot. We will have giveaways, food, and lots of fun!
During the drive-through, Forsyth Tech is partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank to help end hunger especially in these difficult times. Please consider bringing a canned or non-perishable food item with you to donate.
FAFSA Frenzy and Hope and Opportunity Scholarships
Forsyth Tech wants to help you find the money to attend college for free or at a much lower cost. Have you completed your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? Through “FAFSA Frenzy” and Hope and Opportunity Scholarships, you may discover more money is available to pay for your education. If you have not completed your FAFSA form, check out these seminars about how you can complete your FASFAs.
Last year, more that $89 million available for students in Pell Grants was unused in North Carolina. Check it out!
Hope and Opportunity Scholarships are available to any Forsyth County student who will graduate in the high school classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 and who live in households with an income of 80 percent or less of the average median income of the county.
Next Facebook Live – Tuesday, June 16, 2 p.m.
I have been enjoying engaging with so many of you in the Facebook Live sessions each week. I look forward to continuing these engagement opportunities with our next FB Live on June 16 at 2 p.m. Please join me if you can – I look forward to talking with you and answering your questions.
Knowing and Doing
I would like to leave you with one thought for the week:
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
With the events in our world over the past few weeks, what we all know is not enough, we must apply civility, character and compassion for each other. We must go beyond our willingness, we must do what we can to make our world a better place.
I am grateful for all of you. Stay safe and stay well!
Dr. Janet N. Spriggs
President of Forsyth Technical Community College