Myers holds virtual town hall to discuss campus safety, COVID-19 updates

President Richard Myers said the fall semester should be close to a normal, pre-pandemic class arrangement. (File Photo by Bailey Britton | Collegian Media Group)

In Thursday’s virtual town hall, President Richard Myers and others addressed a number of issues, including campus safety.

Additionally, Lafene Health Center’s medical director Dr. Kyle Goerl gave an update on COVID-19. He said things are looking pretty good in Riley County based on the latest statistics.

“The [Riley County] percent positivity rate has been under five percent I think for nine weeks now, and we’re actually under two percent the last couple of weeks, which is extremely encouraging for our county,” Goerl said.

Myers said the fall semester should be close to a normal, pre-pandemic class arrangement.

“We’ve got a team working on the details for moving the university to the phase-out portion of our pandemic recovery plan this summer,” Myers said.

While many students are receiving vaccinations, there are still uncertainties related to the durability of the doses — how long the immunity will last.

“The unfortunate answer that I have right now is, we’re just not sure,” Goerl said. “We don’t have long-term data — or at least long enough data — yet to know how long the immunity from the vaccine will last.”

In addition to COVID-19 concerns, some town hall attendees expressed concern about safety on campus in light of recent mass shootings and a rise in anti-Asian American Pacific violence in the U.S. There were also concerns about the potential of the state legislature reducing the conceal carry age to 18.

Some faculty said they do not feel safe returning to in-person classes next semester.

“We take safety very seriously,” Myers said. “You can call campus security [who] will escort you to your destination on campus or within two blocks of campus. We’ve got the blue light phone boxes to notify campus police. Of course, we recommend you use the best-lit paths when you’re traveling walkways at night.”

Myers also recommended people sign up for K-State Alerts and utilize the SafeRide and Safe Zone programs.

“We understand what’s going on around the nation,” Myers said. “Our campus police are tied in very well with Riley County police, with the FBI – always trying to be on the lookout for any intelligence that would say that we were at higher risk of some sort of incident here in Manhattan, or specifically on campus.”

In other news, Cindy Bontrager discussed the decision to close the K-State Natatorium.

“The Natatorium was very difficult to close because we understand that there just aren’t a lot of those facilities in our Manhattan area,” Bontrager, university operations vice president and chief operations officer, said. “We had to make difficult decisions because of the lack of funds to maintain the facility.”

Despite calls to raise funds for renovations, Greg Willems, the KSU Foundation’s president and CEO, said there are many other COVID-19 and economic priorities at this time.

“We haven’t started discussions for fundraising for this facility,” Willems said. “I think we’d have to begin with the university really thinking about what’s the long-term solution. Is it modernizing or renovating the current facility or a newer facility? And then, how does that fit in with the current priorities that we got for the institution moving forward?”

Chief of staff and director of community relations Linda Cook said her office is working with the Manhattan community to develop a plan for a community aquatic center.

The next virtual town hall meeting is at 8 a.m May 10.

My name is Sean Schaper, and I'm the news editor for the Collegian. I’m a junior in journalism with a secondary focus in film studies. I grew up right outside of Kansas City in Leawood, Kansas. As a first-generation K-Stater, I look forward to leaving behind accurate coverage for the current and future Wildcat community.