Home Campus Ohio U could shut down in event of coronavirus outbreak, provost says

Ohio U could shut down in event of coronavirus outbreak, provost says

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Chaden Djalali speaks to Student Senate. Photo by Emily Zeiler.

Chaden Djalali, the executive vice president and provost of Ohio University, discussed the university’s plan should coronavirus reach campus, the budget crisis and graduate health care costs at Graduate Student Senate’s (GSS) Tuesday night meeting.

Djilali mentioned the possibility of the university shutting down because of coronavirus, while superstitiously knocking on a wooden table.

“We are trying to plan,” Djalali said. “Hopefully, we don’t come to the point that we have to close the university. But we’ve been asked … to plan for that. Hopefully we’re not going to get there.”

Djalali said that Ohio U will not allow any university-related trips to or from any countries that have been given either a Level 2 or Level 3 Travel Health Notice by the CDC, including China, Italy and South Korea. 

Nonetheless, he expressed a sense of confidence in the university’s plans if there is a local outbreak of the virus. The provost, however, didn’t expound on the specifics of Ohio U’s plan.

“We tell people there’s no need to panic. Go by facts and not fear,” he said. 

The Athens City-County Health Department said in a statement Monday that the city’s preparedness plans for a coronavirus outbreak would be similar to what was in place during the 2009 swine flu outbreak.

Djalali also talked about the cost of health care for graduate students — a contentious topic because of recent hikes in costs.

University policy requires graduate students to pay for health insurance. Students have the option of waving this requirement if they can find an alternative that the university approves. However, many believe finding an alternative provider is difficult, especially international students. Previously, students protested the university’s policy.

Djalali said that the university is aware of graduate students’ concerns over the university’s health insurance costs, and he ensured that Ohio U is working on a solution, but he didn’t elaborate further.

The provost also talked about the state of the university’s budget. He claimed the university has an unsustainable budget because of a decline in both enrollment and online students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. 

The university has “savings,” but if nothing is done, all the reserves will be used up and there will be a real crisis within three to four years, he said. 

In other business, GSS enacted four resolutions Tuesday evening.

The first, which was initially discussed at their previous meeting, changed the roles of governance and committees within the rules and procedures of GSS. 

These new rules require that all internal committees — such as veteran affairs and minority affairs — have more than one gender identity represented, at least one international student represented, one domestic student and that more than one field of study. The committee chairs don’t count toward these requirements.

The second resolution passed requests that the university increase health insurance subsidies. The resolution’s sponsors pointed to how subsidies at other public universities in Ohio cover a much larger percentage of the total cost per student. For example, Ohio State University covers 85% of the total insurance cost, whereas Ohio U only covers 10%, according to the resolution.

The resolution requested that Ohio U increase its percentage of cost covered to 80%. 

The third and fourth resolutions passed were both for using GSS funds. One gives $350 to the School of Art and Design Graduate Student Open Studios and the other allocates $250 to the Women’s Achievement Dinner, which takes place on March 25. 

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