President Michael Crow spoke about the fall semester, COVID-19 vaccines, graduation and more in a meeting with The State Press Monday
By Jeffrey Horst, Wyatt Myskow and Piper Hansen
ASU President Michael Crow continues to say the University has successfully managed the COVID-19 pandemic on campus and its current “plan for the fall semester is to return to normal operations,” he said in a meeting with The State Press Monday.
University Provost Mark Searle and Provost Pro Tempore Nancy Gonzales announced in an email to students and staff Monday evening that fall semester’s “instruction will be delivered to students by faculty in person, on campus.”
But decisions on what the fall semester will look like are still being determined, Crow said, and will be based on the spread of the coronavirus and vaccine distribution.
In the meeting, Crow spoke to the impact of the pandemic on University finances, how the University has pushed to include ASU community members in Arizona’s vaccine roll-out and how those vaccines would impact campus operations in the coming months.
Crow also said he wishes it will be possible to have an in-person graduation ceremony, but he does not know how likely it will be.
How was the University able to work with the state to secure vaccines for the ASU community?
Last month, a vaccine site for the ASU community opened at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex at the Tempe campus. Crow said the University had to go to the state and make the case its employees qualified as essential workers.
“What had happened was that they started (vaccinating) teachers but they didn’t remember that university professors are teachers also,” he said.
Over 4,000 community members have been vaccinated, said Neal Woodbury, ASU’s chief science and technology officer.
“Our hope is to get as much vaccine as possible and vaccinate everybody,” Crow said. “And so that’s our goal. And we just got put up the queue a little bit.”
When more students and staff are eligible, could the University require people to get vaccinated before coming back to campus? What kind of impact will the vaccine have on University operations?
“Returning to normal operations may mean that we have to get everybody vaccinated and so forth,” Crow said. “But we don’t know yet.”
The University is currently considering making the COVID-19 vaccine a similar requirement to the mandatory Measles vaccine required for students to take unless they have medical or religious exceptions, Crow said.
Why did the University still charge the Student Athletic Fee if no students were allowed to attend games?
ASU charged students its $75-per-semester Student Athletic Fee as part of tuition this past school year, which provides students free entry to athletic events, despite the Pac-12 not allowing most fans to attend games.
The University made over $11.3 million from the fee in the 2019-20 school year, according to an athletic department financial report sent to the NCAA.
Crow characterized the fee as an investment made by students granting them the ability to provide “input” within the department, such as in the designs for Sun Devil Stadium, which completed renovations in 2019, and a new multi-purpose arena set to be completed by 2022.
“(It) is their contribution — they being the students — to the athletic department to operate the athletic department as an entity within the University, which is a special thing,” Crow said.
What is the current financial status of the institution?
Crow said “the University is financially stressed, but stable.”
ASU has lost millions of dollars due to the pandemic, he said, due to a loss of auxiliary funds, which includes all revenue not from tuition and research, such as residence halls, food services and athletics. Most of the losses occurred in the current fiscal year 2021, Crow said.
“The institution is sound but stressed, we are still not planning layoffs, still not planning furloughs, still not planning salary reductions,” Crow said.
Unlike some other universities, ASU maintained its services to students, which required staff to work both on campus and remotely, enabling the University to not make cuts, Crow said.
With a new administration in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, are there any particular policy goals you want to see accomplished?
“We have to find a way to advance the economy to the highest level of economic opportunity across all social groups,” Crow said. “We’re hoping for everything imaginable to help stimulate the economy.”
“We’re one of the strongest voices supporting DACA students and their path to citizenship, and (we’re doing) everything that we can to bring them to ASU, to graduate them from ASU and to move these students forward on their lives and on their academic paths,” Crow said. “What we need now is an end to a lack of rational immigration policy.
“We’re also interested in expansion of the Pell Grant programs. We’re interested in finding ways to enhance student’s success.”