In a recent email to faculty, President David Smith announced that Southern will be unable to hold the SmartStart summer session this year and will move all classes online in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Academic administration, with the support of university leadership, continues to review academic programs that may need to be modified due to the pandemic,” Smith wrote in the email. “Recently, Administration determined to continue with only online instruction for all summer sessions. In addition, SmartStart will be canceled for 2020.”
According to Smith, moving to online classes hinders the full purpose of SmartStart, which is to help freshmen feel comfortable on campus before the full work of the fall semester begins.
“By going to all online courses for the summer, it is believed that we cannot effectively fulfill the purpose of SmartStart to help incoming students experience Southern’s campus life in person prior to the rigor of the fall semester,” Smith wrote.
“Enrollment Management staff will begin communicating to our incoming freshmen class that SmartStart is canceled for this summer, but that a free class comparative to the one that they would have taken during SmartSmart will still be available to them. Details about the specific plans for this will be worked on with academic administration.”
Dionne Felix, associate vice president of Academic Administration, said Southern has been taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously and hopes to make the best and safest decisions for the students and faculty. When making decisions, Southern has monitored the recommendations given by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as state and county officials.
“The safety of our faculty and students is vitally important,” Felix said. “We have made these decisions by seeking God’s wisdom and guidance through individual and group prayer.”
Southern still has not made a decision about whether or not student workers in the Collegedale area will be able to return to their jobs this summer.
“Unfortunately, it’s too early to tell what will be possible,” Felix said. “We will continue to monitor the recommendations of health officials and evaluate the campus employment needs on a case-by-case basis.”
Through these unprecedented circumstances, students may be concerned about how the fall semester may change and what should be expected.
“Like the rest of higher education institutions, Southern is looking to the fall with hope. It’s still too early to know how the pandemic situation will resolve, and how that may affect enrollment,” Felix said. “Still, we have seen many students express their desire to return to in-person classes, their friends, and the campus events and spiritual atmosphere that make Southern special.”
The decision to move summer classes online has been frustrating for some.
“I’ve been looking forward to college ever since the beginning of high school,” said Makayla DeWind, an incoming freshman biology major. “To miss the experience of being on campus and completing an entire class before actual school begins is extremely disappointing. I had so many friends that were going to be at SmartStart with me, and we were all looking forward to it.”
While the future is uncertain, Felix believes Southern will continue to consider the needs of its students and make the decisions to best keep everyone safe.
“Southern students can expect us to continue to offer remarkable, Christ-centered education,” Felix finished.