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Longwood leaders pleased with students’ response

Longwood officials are pleased with the way the semester has gone so far as they work through a pandemic and are cautiously optimistic as they move into October.

W. Taylor Reveley IV

Longwood University President W. Taylor Reveley IV expressed pride during a Friday, Sept. 25, interview in the work done by faculty, staff and students in order to mitigate the virus’ existence in the campus community.

Reveley said while a lot of work is still ahead in the battle against the coronavirus, those numbers were the fruits of hard work on all fronts.

Reveley also reflected on sacrifices made by students and the weight of the pandemic on each individual.

“Today’s freshman has missed so many of the major milestones and rituals of life and rites of passage,” he said, “And they yearn so much, we all do, to begin to enjoy the things we celebrate in life.”

Other hardships have included the cancellation of graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020.

He added the past several weeks have allowed officials to stand back and make observations regarding virtual learning and the way classes are conducted, commenting that in-person classes are an “irreplaceable aspect of American higher education.”

At the same time, he said there are some benefits to the online experience. Some students who have difficulties in a traditional classroom find it helpful to be able to go back, listen and review lessons, a tool the school will likely take advantage of going forward.

Reveley said while officials haven’t been able to totally recreate all aspects of a normal, in-person semester, students are continually encouraged to find ways to enjoy their environment and not spend the entire day in their living space.

“We’ve been working hard to figure out ways to encourage them to not just be in their rooms,” he said. “A thing that’s nice about Farmville and Prince Edward is there’s so many great things to do outside.”

Longwood University Vice President and Chief of Staff Justin Pope highlighted the student body’s dedication to coming back to campus and maintaining mitigation efforts since the summer.

“I think an example of that is that we announced a restricted visitor policy in residence halls,” Longwood Assistant Vice President of Communications Matt McWilliams said, “and we kind of put out a date that we would start to re-evaluate it and see if it would change, and Student leadership said, ‘We need to keep it restricted, we need to do the things needed to keep us here.’ I think that is a sacrifice that they made that does show the kind of maturity and strong culture of leadership that we have here.”

Of course, COVID-19 has meant a change in protocol for the majority of the university’s operations, including student mental health.

“All of the individual counseling/individual therapy is taking place through telehealth,” Associate Vice President for Wellness and Auxiliary Services Matthew McGregor said.

McGregor also said CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) has played a big role in assisting students with the challenge of potential quarantine and isolation, helping to facilitate open discussions and connecting students with someone who can help overcome the anxieties of waiting for a test result or isolating following a positive one.

Reveley gave some insight as to what the second half of the semester will look like for students, including a shift of gears following Thanksgiving.

Reveley said students will not have fall break this year. Oktoberfest, as it has traditionally been known in the past, will also not occur this year, although a virtual concert may be in order.

In a normal year, students typically attend another week of classes after Thanksgiving break followed by approximately two weeks of exams. Thanksgiving break will still occur this year. However, no in-person classes will happen after the break for the remainder of the semester.

Reveley said exams will largely be taken online, although the campus will still be open. Students who wish to stay home for the remainder of the semester after the break and have the internet capabilities to complete exams online can do so.

As flu season closes in on the commonwealth, flu shots will be available at the University Health Center.

“That’s gonna be a push, because as you can imagine a lot of the symptoms overlap,” McGregor said.

In discussing the university’s financial standing, Reveley commented that enrollment is steady, stating that while the financial impact of COVID-19 and associated challenges is unknown in some ways, the institution does not appear to be facing dramatic cuts of any sort. He said while the distance appears cloudy, the immediate horizon is stable.

In looking forward to an unknown time in the future in which the coronavirus may in hopefulness be a distant memory, Revelely presented one bright side to the experience.

“I do really think that one last silver lining society-wide is going to be a renewed appreciation for being together with friends and family and being able to engage in the rituals and celebrations of life.”