Town hall meeting covers COVID-19 relief, commencement and student involvement

Town hall meeting covers COVID-19 relief, commencement and student involvement

Since Chancellor Andrew Leavitt’s last town hall meeting on Monday, UWO is now moving forward in plans with relaxing some of its mandates across campus and looking forward to end-of-semester commencement. Leavitt has decided to continue hosting these virtual meetings in the future.

“We’re light-years away from where we were a year or so ago when we first started hosting these family town halls,” Leavitt said. “We’re doing everything that we can to keep students safe; at the same time we’re working hard to return to a greater state of normalcy.”

Homecoming weekend

This past weekend was Homecoming, as well as Family Day. UWO combines the two to involve people in Reeve Union.

There was a great turnout, with over 900 parents signed up for Family Day.

COVID-19 updates

“UWO has been a leader amongst the UWs and many other colleges and universities across the country in terms of our COVID-19 response,” Leavitt said. “We have been very safe and thoughtful, but at the same time aggressive.”

Our positivity rate as a campus is hovering just about 1%. Going out into the community, the rate tends to be a little higher than that.

Interim Director Kimberly Langolf says the UWO strategy continues to change with the pandemic.

She said the university had a COVID-19 spike in September, hovering around 2%, which she barely considers a spike.

Nationally, cases are trending downward. Over the last 30 days, cases have dropped more than 30% in the state of Wisconsin.

UWO has lifted the testing mandate for unvaccinated off-campus students and employees and the mask mandate for students in the residence halls within their floor community. 

Even though these mandates are lifted, UWO is still encouraging masking, and employees will be required to wear masks in the residence halls.

“For our students [the residence hall] is their home, and we wanted to make them as comfortable as possible since they’re wearing those masks from 8 in the morning to maybe 8 or 9 at night,” Langolf said. 

There will be a continued testing mandate in the residence halls for unvaccinated individuals and continued offering of vaccines, including boosters. The university is still waiting for Moderna boosters, but already has Pfizer.

“We continue to monitor these COVID cases in collaboration with our local public health and the chancellor will communicate those updates to our mitigation protocols as they are warranted,” Langolf said. 

HEERF disbursement

UWO is currently in the third round of COVID-19 relief funds for students. This fall round has already been disbursed within the last couple weeks through direct deposit or mail.

All the qualified students should have been notified through TitanWeb of their eligibility and been informed on the amount that they were receiving. Qualifications include FAFSA on file for that particular student, as well as enrollment. 

Another round will be disbursed in spring. There is still an opportunity for students to qualify for special circumstances to receive a portion of this funding. 

“If a student has experienced specific hardships, I encourage them to reach out to our financial aid office to determine whether or not their financial aid can be adjusted based on those,” Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Aggie Hanni said. “A portion of the funding can be allocated in addition to perhaps what they’ve already received or if they didn’t receive funding already.”

Every institution gets to decide a little bit differently how this money is disbursed. A total of 6,335 students received the funding at UWO this fall. 

HEERF I disbursed $3 million to students, HEERF II disbursed $3.1 million and HEERF III disbursed $10 million. Half of this $10 million will be disbursed in the spring semester.

Growth in student involvement

Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs & Dean of Students Art Munin spoke on recent gains in student involvement across all three campuses.

“The vibrancy is back,” Munin said.

The Oshkosh campus has had 250 events planned during the 14 week semester with a total of 7,683 students attending thus far. That number grows daily. 

There are 47 new sorority members, 31 new fraternity members and 134 student organizations. Residence Life held 144 programs with almost 900 students in attendance.

The Student Recreation and Wellness Center is open daily and so far there have been 27,000 swipes to get in. The Outdoor Adventure Center has had weekly kayaking, as well as biking, sailing, backpacking weekends, 320 total group fitness classes and intramural sports all with high popularity. 

Seven UWO sports clubs are back to competing including hockey, bowling, men’s golf, fishing, cheer & stunt, women’s and men’s volleyball. 

If students are looking for ways to be engaged, reach out to Munin, student affairs or email .

Athletic Director Darryl Sims commented on athletics recently.

“Looking back over Homecoming weekend, it was a really good day,” Sims said. 

The football team won against UW-Eau Claire and the women’s soccer team won the conference title against UW-La Crosse.

“I’d like to thank the students personally,” Sims said. “We had probably more [fans] last Saturday than I’ve seen in quite a while, so please continue to come.”

Winter commencement

Last May, UWO added additional commencement ceremonies to lower the audience size. There were two ceremonies rather than four.

The reaction from this was great, Leavitt said. Parents loved it. These were much shorter ceremonies to personally acknowledge students with a handshake and diploma cover. 

UWO will continue with more ceremonies, smaller audiences and fewer students. Normally in the winter, the university would have one ceremony with about 800 or 900 graduates, but this year it will hold two ceremonies in order to reduce the density of the audience, Leavitt said.

The ceremonies will be virtually streamed like last year and there will be four tickets per graduate at no cost.

As of now, there will be a mask requirement for the commencement. Pending graduates are encouraged to check their emails to get properly registered and get information on gowns and such.

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