A Message for FSC Students and Parents about the Fall 2020 Semester

Aug 14, 2020

by Brad E. Hollingshead, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dear FSC Students and Parents,

August 14, 2020

I know that our decision to reduce student capacity on campus for the fall semester has disappointed many of you. I understand why that is the case. I wanted nothing more than to have all students return to campus this fall.

While I will note that the College was advised that a low-density start was in the best health interests of our students and community, my message here is not an attempt to convince you of the value or efficacy of this new plan for the fall 2020 semester. Instead, I want to address questions we have received about why certain student groups were chosen to return to campus rather than others.

Once we made the decision to limit the number of students on campus, we immediately focused on one question: What groups of students had the most academic need to be on campus relative to others?

To answer that question, we worked with the College’s academic leadership, including deans and various faculty members, to determine the student groups we needed to consider. We also had to keep the total number of returning residential students to about fifty percent of our capacity in a normal semester.

One of the first groups selected was new freshman and transfer students. Data and experience show that new students benefit significantly in their first year from building relationships with faculty, staff, and peers. Indeed, the transition to the academic rigor of classes at Florida Southern is difficult enough for new students, even in the best of circumstances. Providing new students with an on-campus experience introduces them to important resources and gives them a chance to build a foundation for success. Building that foundation will give them the best possible start to their academic careers.

This does not diminish the needs of our more experienced students; rather, it prioritizes the needs of what we consider the group of students most at risk for not completing a college degree, as national studies consistently show that a degree often remains out of reach for those who do not get off to a reasonably good start.

Other student groups were selected due to their program of study and the nature of instruction. For instance, some majors have academic requirements that cannot be met virtually, and if not met this semester, their graduation would be delayed by a year at minimum. Other programs have specific professional certification requirements for which accrediting bodies provide no remote alternatives, and still others have ongoing laboratory research projects that are graduation requirements, which again have no remote alternatives. 

It is understandable that not everyone agrees with the groups selected to return to campus. We acknowledge that it is not perfect; however, it represents our best, most-informed effort in response to such a daunting need: reducing the residential student population by half to promote the overall health of our campus and community. By the time this letter reaches you, students will have received notification of their status.

My greatest hope is that conditions will allow us to return all students to campus in a healthy, timely manner, but as you well know, the present moment is a remarkably difficult time in Florida and across the nation. The College is working hard to create the healthiest possible environment on campus for students, faculty, and staff in this moment. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters.


Sincerely,


Brad E. Hollingshead, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

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