By Rebecca Jasulevicz
Members of ESU’s administration, faculty, staff, and student body convened yesterday, February 19, for the semester’s first Council of Trustees meeting.
The council’s first order of business was to address the recent gastrointestinal illness that has been spreading on campus.
Beginning February 11, the Health Center and Pocono Medical Center began receiving students, faculty, and staff showing symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Maria Hackney, Director of University Health Services, said, “We’re seeing the symptoms are a lot less severe, and again we’ve been in contact with the Department of Health throughout this entire situation. They did a lot of testing when the first students were presented at the emergency room back on the 11th and on the 12th…They did come back as positive for norovirus; therefore it is not a food-borne pathogen, it is not an enteropathogen, but it is a true virus.”
With guidance from doctors specializing in infectious disease at Pocono Medical Center, the university’s health staff took preventative measures to cull the spread of the illness, some of which included the temporary elimination of all self-serve options at Dansbury Commons and Center Court, sanitation of common areas, and using bleach-based solutions in cleaning.
“We’re really stressing the importance of cleanliness, and most importantly washing your hands. This virus is an illness that is easily transmitted because it is an oral/fecal kind of illness. We are encouraging everyone to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, and really clean any hard surfaces,” said Hackney.
Though incidences of the illness are still occurring and being reported to the Health Center, they have been in decline since February 13. For most students, symptoms of nausea and vomiting have taken about 24 to 48 hours to subside, but infected students should refrain from working and attending classes for an additional 48 hours after symptoms subside, as they may still be shedding the virus, which can be infectious toward others.
Another reason that students have missed school this semester has been cancellations due to extreme weather conditions.
According to President Marcia Welsh, “Thus far this semester we have missed four days of class because of weather. We are working on a snow make-up day policy that is in compliance with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and our Faculty Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
The make-up policy has not yet been created, and whether students will have to make up any classes this semester specifically has not been decided.
Another topic brought up during the Council of Trustees meeting was the mandatory Title IX training that faculty and students must now complete in order to work on campus.
In order to meet the standards set by legislation such as Title IX, the Clery Act, and the Protection of Minors Policy, mandatory training must be given to every individual who works on campus, from student note-takers to the president of the university.
President Welsh said, “For ESU, it means we will be doing background checks on every employee, regardless of their status as administration, faculty, staff, student employee, employees of our affiliates, and any organization that uses our campus.”
The Title IX training reinforces that employees of the university are responsible for reporting any incidences of sexual assault and harassment on campus.
The university must attain full compliance with these laws within the next ten and a half months.
The Council of Trustees also heard a report by Chad Witmer, Acting Part-time Assistant Dean for the College of Health Sciences, who shared some of the college’s initiatives, including the introduction of two new courses: Anatomy and Physiology I and II.
“As our department has grown and evolved in the past several years, we’ve noticed that we have some specific needs within the college in terms of the anatomy and physiology curriculum,” he said.
To target these issues, the college is collaborating with the Biology Department to develop these new courses. The lecture sections of the classes will be taught by faculty of the Biology Department, and the laboratory sections will be taught by faculty of the Athletic Training Department and Exercise Science Department.
The College of Health Sciences hopes to start offering these classes this upcoming fall semester.
Their second initiative is to begin a cooperative learning collaborative with Pocono Medical Center.
Witmer said, “The way the learning collaborative is going to work is with two goals: one is to initially do an asset mapping activity and see where we’re at and what we have between the institutions, and two is to look for opportunities to foster new programs and new developments together with both institutions.”
This collaboration will utilize the expertise of individuals at both ESU and Pocono Medical Center, and members of the College of Health Sciences hope that this will generate ideas for future projects and partnership.
The next Council of Trustees meeting will be held on April 23 at 4:00 PM in the Innovation Center.
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