Coronavirus Update from President Wendler March 14

Coronavirus Update from President Wendler

March 14, 2020

8:20 p.m.

COVID-19: What WT is Doing

This is a reflection of West Texas A&M University’s actions regarding COVID-19. It is current as of March 14, 2020. Marking this specific time is an indication of the speed at which information, insight, and appropriate actions are changing. No one has ever witnessed such a pandemic: the Spanish flu, the Black Death, the Asian flu, multiple Cholera pandemics, and even polio, are all different. The Internet, coupled with the 24-hour news cycle, makes information flow at the speed of light. Rapidity accentuates the importance of clarity and simultaneously promotes misinformation, intentionally or unintentionally. A review of our decisions at WT may be helpful to our campus and extended communities.

  1. Health, Safety, and Welfare: Every decision and action is based on the most durable and clear guidance available, uncompromisingly focused on the health, safety, and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff. National, state, and local leaders, both elected and appointed, as well as The Texas A&M University System Chancellor, John Sharp, emphasizes the essential nature of stewardship of the public trust. We will meet that expectation.
  2. Academic Core: Our academic programs and faculty, under the direction of the Executive Vice President and Provost, Dr. Neil Terry, and our six college deans, are preparing and will be ready to meet the instructional needs of our student body in sundry instructional settings. They are capable and industrious. Nearly all of our courses will be available online when students return from spring break. Students are being asked to contact faculty for teaching modes during this uncertain time. Our effort is to meet the needs of our students, class by class, treating all as individuals with individual needs. It is the WT way. Accommodations will be made to every extent humanly possible.
  3. Communication In and Out: Current circumstances are complex. The Vice President for Philanthropy and External Relations, Dr. Todd Rasberry, and our communications team, including the Chief of Staff and Assistant Vice President for Strategic Communications, Tracee Post, are working diligently to assure a reliable, pertinent, current, and effective flow of information. Our website, www.wtamu.edu/about/coronavirus-information, is populated with the latest COVID-19 information available. It should be checked regularly by all who serve and are served by West Texas A&M University.   
  4. Strategic Purpose: A healthy, safe, and supportive environment enables and empowers academic excellence. This will not change. Student progress in studies is critical and central to actions that we take or recommend. Helping to influence our strategic thinking is the Vice President for Strategic Relations, Dr. Brad Johnson.
  5. Student Service: Our campus will remain open and operational unless and until directed otherwise. We are on spring break this week. The break will be extended for two days, March 23 and 24, to allow students who believe it is in their best interest to make adjustments. Under the direction of the Vice President for Student Enrollment, Engagement, and Success, Mike Knox, the well-being of students on and off-campus, is being continually monitored. Provisions to assist students with transitions are being made.
  6. Graduate Students and Faculty: Many issues facing graduate students and faculty, and ongoing research projects are highly specialized and require attention to the stability of experiments and information flows. The Vice President for Research and Compliance and the Dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Angela Spaulding, has oversight for all such matters.
  7. Staff Continuity: Our staff are overseen by the Vice President for Business and Finance, Randy Rikel. Food, maintenance, janitorial, public safety, and all other support services will remain in effect. We intend to keep all staff, at every level, fully active and employed.
  8. Information Technology: Data and operational infrastructure, led by the Vice President and Chief Information Officer, James Webb, will provide access to every available digital resource allowing the information flow regarding health, safety, and welfare, as well as teaching, learning and staff work to continue with minimum interruptions.
  9. Extended Community: All intercollegiate athletic activities, except for team practices, are canceled until March 31, 2020, and will be reevaluated on or before that date. We understand the disruption this causes for all. The Athletic Director, Michael McBroom, a seasoned and experienced athletic executive, monitors this situation continuously.

In a nutshell, here we are today.

  1. The University is open. Dorms are open. Food services are available as they would typically be during and after spring break. All will continue into the future unless circumstances change.
  2. Classes will continue to be offered. Many, nearly all, will be available online. Some will continue to be provided on-campus until it is determined to conflict with the health, safety, and welfare of those we serve.
  3. Staff will continue to work their assigned hours. Accommodations will be made to allow all to care for themselves and family members, including flex time.
  4. The May graduation is postponed. Students will still receive their degrees, if all course work is completed, as standard. No student who is scheduled to graduate in May will be precluded from that by University inaction. Our faculty will work individually with students to complete course objectives. Formal graduation will be scheduled as soon as I believe it to be safe and in the interests of the health, safety, and welfare of our students, faculty, staff, and the general public. A formal graduation could be late in the summer, or beyond. This is an imperfect solution; it requires patience from all. Circumstances and sound judgment demand that, and that is how WT will respond.
  5. All university special events, as well as special public events on campus, including all non-school activities scheduled to be held on University grounds and intercollegiate athletics competitions, are canceled through the end of the spring semester. Additionally, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, located on the campus, is closed until further notice.

West Texas is a region of responsive people, driven by performance, empowered with grittiness and pragmatism to get things done, faithful to, and understanding of, each other. The importance of our individual work, no matter the station, is nearly unquestionable. 

It is with appropriate pride that I recognize the vast majority of students, faculty, staff, management, and leadership of West Texas A&M University to have inherited or adopted those characteristics: 98% share this passion. For the 2% who don’t, there is always hope. We are a group that gets things done, more so, in the face of unpredictable adversity. It is in the DNA of our land and its people.

Mary and I are people who pray. We pray daily for God’s unmerited favor and grace in this time of unequaled need. Please join us if you will.

Walter V. Wendler, President of West Texas A&M University

president@wtamu.edu