Tressel Joins University Presidents in Fall Semester Update

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — During Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, three presidents of Ohio’s higher-education institutions gave brief updates on how they prepared for the fall semester.

Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel joined Katherine Fell, president of the University of Findlay, and Alex Johnson, president of Cuyahoga Community College during Gov. Mike DeWine’s briefing. The administrators complimented their student body, faculty and staff for a successful start to the semester.

Tressel says the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represents 14 public universities in the state, have logged more than 50 virtual meetings and conference calls to help each other prepare for university life during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We feel strongly this time, this moment, higher education is being counted on,” particularly with training nurses, doctors and pharmacists to join the front lines of the response to the pandemic, Tressel said.

YSU’s president complimented the staff, faculty and students, who “pivoted and went remote” at the end of the previous semester. “We’re proud of them and we’re proud of our faculty who had to make a quick turn in the middle of a semester,” he said.

He also commented on the furloughs and layoffs to the workforce over the last four to five months, saying “it’s been tremendous to see people’s willingness to help us get through this.”

With regard to social distancing and other mitigation efforts, YSU enacted the Penguin Pledge for students and staff to protect themselves, each other, the campus and the community. Tressel echoed the governor’s concerns over what students do when they are off campus and advised avoiding large gatherings.

“We’re all anxious, because we’re all social beings, to be back together in groups,” Tressel said. “And we are all preaching on every one of our campuses, that we know how excited our students are to be here. And in order to be here, we’ve got to do a great job with that social distancing.”

Thus far, students have been wearing masks and maintaining distancing while on campus. On social media, students are “kind of barbing each other” to maintain those practices, he noted.

“A little peer pressure always helps,” DeWine joked.

On Aug. 18, The Business Journal spoke with students on campus for the first day of classes. Students were encouraged by what they saw on the first day.

“Everybody’s taking it seriously and I’m impressed with that,” said freshman Trenton Kliner. “My first in-person class had every other seat blocked off and [my teacher] said if she caught anyone with their mask off, they’d be excused. People are pretty much forced to wear their masks, which is awesome. On campus like this, all precautions are good for everybody.”

Some addressed concerns about how people would abide wearing face masks and maintaining physical distancing in light of a large gathering the night before at The Edge, an off-campus apartment building, where few if any students wore masks.

The event was condemned by the university, saying students violating safety guidelines put in place by YSU are subject to action via the Student Code of Conduct.

Tressel closed by addressing the cost of putting certain protocols in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While the first round of funding from the federal Cares Act helped, particularly with direct assistance to Pell Grant students, he said “if there’s any more of that coming along, we can certainly use the help.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.