CAT panelists discuss possible COVID-19 impact on campus life, athletics

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Panelists discussed various possible impacts the local COVID-19 situation could have on the upcoming semester on July 31 over Zoom.

In the third Community Action Talk, panelists from Kansas State discussed what decisions have been made and are still to come regarding classes and campus activities this fall.

The previous session on July 24 centered around the Manhattan community as a whole. Friday’s session focused specifically on the university community.

Provost Charles Taber, moderated the session on topics including athletics, classes, medical care for students, xenophobia and how COVID-19 impacts these areas.

Student testing and wellness

Kyle Goerl, director of Lafene Health Center, said at Lafene “the overall trend in terms of positive [COVID-19] cases is going down. We’ve been sitting at zero cases at the clinic for the last few days.”

Goerl said while this downward trend is also being seen in the larger Manhattan community, the health center has seen data projecting an increase in cases during October and November as schools open.

Lafene has worked to increase testing capacity for a large population of students by ordering large quantity of tests and necessary supplies.

Goerl said Lafene can now run up to 1,000 tests per day if necessary and that he feels the health center can accommodate the university’s needs.

K-State Athletics and student-athletes

In terms of athletic events, Matt Thomason, associate athletic director for student-athlete health, wellness and performance, said the administration is taking a day-by-day approach to deciding whether teams will compete with spectators this fall.

A final decision has not been made about what the season will look like.

Preparing for many scenarios

Taber received many questions during the meeting regarding potential shifts from in-person to online instruction for the fall.

“We have required that all classes have the capacity [to be moved online], and all professors are prepared to teach if their students are not able to come to in-person class,” Taber said.

Vice president for student life and dean of students Thomas Lane said the university will make accommodations for students both on and off-campus when necessary.

“Should we need to have on-campus residents return home, we will ensure students with a demonstrated need will have an on-campus housing option,” Lane said.

Sarah Thurston, director of international student and scholar services, said accommodations for students unable to make it back to K-State include international students working to return from abroad.

She said the university is currently working with international students on their individual situations regarding visas, flights and country-specific travel restrictions, but the option to continue with K-State online via distance learning is available to international students.

Xenophobia

Annie Cortes, president of the Asian-American student union, and Grace Liang, associate professor in educational leadership, discussed the threat of xenophobia as a result of tensions relating to COVID-19.

Liang said it will be important as classes begin for faculty, staff and leadership on campus to pay more attention to small things, or “microaggressions,” that pose a threat to minority students’ mental health and quality of life at K-State.

Moving forward

As the COVID-19 situation in Manhattan and at K-State continues to shift, Lane said any changes made to classes, fees, quarantine orders or any other necessary information will be communicated to students.

A recording of the CAT meeting is available on the K-State website’s Diversity and Inclusion page.

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