Since her freshman year, Lauren Graham has attended every single senior design showcase and thought to herself, “one day that’s going to be me.” Due to the many changes made on campus because of COVID-19 concerns, she can no longer reminisce about that thought.
On Mar. 20, Juan Avendano, Florida Tech’s director of student projects, emailed the student design community announcing that the 2020 senior design showcase is canceled. As of Apr. 9, Avendando stated the university is now in the process of creating a virtual showroom for senior design projects.
“Although there’s still hope for a virtual showcase, the cancellation is still a bit upsetting and heart-breaking,” Graham said.
A senior from Georgia majoring in aerospace engineering, Graham and her senior design group were in the process of building a robot that could deposit and mine moon dirt for a NASA mining competition.
According to Graham, the NASA mining competition was canceled on Mar. 25.
“We essentially had all our manufacturing done, and we were close to spending all $4,000 of our budget,” Graham said.
Graham added that since the showcase has been canceled, her group could no longer finish the physical portion of the robot in terms of programming, performance checks and other aspects.
“It’s been a struggle lately,” Graham said.
She added that her group’s grade was based on how well they performed at the NASA mining competition, hence forcing the group to reassess since the competition’s cancellation.
Graham said some of the changes to her project include a heavier emphasis on writing skills and more online testing with some electronics for their robot.
While Graham and her group saw a significant effect on the physical construction of their robot, other senior design groups saw little impact.
Ken Gibbs, an adjunct professor in electrical engineering that has been assisting electrical engineering students with their senior design projects, said that there have been some dramatic impacts on more of the physical projects that have seen a slowdown or halt in the fabrication process.
Lukas Burchianti, a senior majoring in construction management, said that his senior design group has had to make only some slight changes.
“Because our project is not as physical as others, there were not too many changes we saw,” Burchianti said.
Working alongside civil engineers in his senior design group, Burchianti explained that his group’s project was to design a convention center that would be located where the Southgate fields are.
Burchianti said that in addition to switching to online meetings, the main change to their project is that they will no longer be able to make a 3D model of their convention center.
Despite these changes, Burchianti said his group still has the same amount of work to do even though there is no 3D model.
“Our project has essentially become more paper-heavy,” Burchianti said.
Gibbs also said that he has been advising students to look at alternative methods to still work on senior design projects such as more detailed documents and analysis, simulations and processing on computers.
“This is not how we wanted to end the class of 2020,” Gibbs said. “I wish things were different, I miss the student interaction.”
Gibbs added that despite the unfortunate circumstances of the showcase being canceled, he views this as an opportunity for students to flourish in the face of adversity.
“I also hope they [students] understand that the university is still preserving educational outcomes,” Gibbs said.
Florida Tech’s Provost, Korhan Oyman said that since classes have transitioned to online instruction only, modifications have been made to some of the senior design objectives and deliverables.
“For example, students can now replace the specific construction of a component with extended design documents, simulations, and or extended evaluation and reporting,” Oyman said in an email to the Crimson. “Each project was adjusted to allow students to complete the work remotely while maintaining the objectives of the course.”
Oyman also stated that the changes that have been made are consistent with Florida Tech’s accreditation requirements.
According to Avendano Florida Tech plans on developing a virtual showroom for senior design students to upload their posters, ebooks and entries with video explanations. Avendano noted that the showroom will be seimi-open to the public, and all content and student projects will be shared with industry representatives that were planning on attending the senior design showcase. The virtual showroom is expected to be online before graduation, May 9.
“We want this to still be an opportunity for students to seek employment,” Avendano said.
The university is also in the process of creating virtual hands-on seminars such as soldering and 3D printing for current juniors to start their design process early, according to Avendano.
Students currently living in the residence quad were notified via email from housing on Apr. 3 that they must move into dorms in Columbia Village. This mandatory housing reassignment comes in response to Governor Ron DeSantis’s stay-at-home order.
Residence quad students
The email said that residence quad students must be relocated to Columbia Village beginning Monday, Apr. 6 in order for the university to protect their well-being as well as to focus staffing and support services.
Students in the residence quad and Columbia Village that notified housing or responded to a student life survey stating that they plan to remain on campus for the rest of the semester were given two options. They were told they could make an informed decision to relocate to Columbia Village or leave campus and notify housing.
The university acknowledged that leaving campus might not be an option for all, hence why they are committed to supporting students on campus.
Residence quad students were asked to pick up their new room assignments and keys at campus services during an assigned time as stated in the email they received. For example, residents in Shaw Hall were told to pick up their new room assignments between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Tuesday while residents in Campbell Hall were told to pick up their room assignments between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Monday.
James Riswick, a graduate student in the applied behavior analysis and organizational behavior management program, is one student that is affected by the mandatory housing reassignment.
Currently living in Shaw Hall, Riswick stated that he was first “angry and stressed” when hearing that he would have to move.
Riswick explained that he had understood the other precautions the university has taken to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak such as switching to online classes, the take-out only rule in the dining hall and shutting down certain offices on campus.
“This was the first change that I felt was upsetting and unnecessary,” Riswick said.
In addition to stress stemming from a heavy workload with his online class schedule, Riswick also stated that he feels moving would put his health at risk.
“I feel safer here in Shaw because I’m isolated in my own space with no roommates, there is a cleaning crew constantly coming through and there are only about a quarter of students that remain in Shaw,” Riswick said.
Another student affected by the mandatory housing reassignment is Juan Merced, a freshman majoring in astrobiology who is currently living in Campbell Hall.
Alike to Riswick, Merced also feels that this decision puts his health at risk.
“I am immunocompromised and I don’t see how living with four random strangers is going to be safe,” Merced said. “To have us move and live in different locations for less than four weeks, and then to have to do it all over again at the end of the semester, that’s ridiculous.”
In hopes of not having to move, Riswick created a petition through change.org titled “reverse order of mandatory change of housing assignment at Florida Tech for spring 2020.” As of today, that petition has over 130 signatures.
Columbia Village students
The email that students in Columbia Village received was similar to the one that students in the residence quad received.
“If you are planning to remain on campus for the remainder of the spring semester and you have vacant bedrooms in your dorm, these spaces are likely to be filled,” the email read.
Columbia Village residents were told to prepare their common areas in their dorms and expect new roommates to arrive on Monday, Apr. 6.
All students in Columbia Village and the residence quad were notified that their current mailboxes will stay in place until the end of semester, and that they must continue to follow all student conduct and housing policies — including the amended guest policy issued on Mar. 27 stating the number of individuals that may be in a space is equal to the number of residential beds assigned to the space.
Eli Rines, a junior majoring in applied behavioral analysis, said he has since moved out of Anderson Hall within Columbia Village, partially due to this housing reassignment.
“As a transgender man, a concern of mine was if I was going to be housed with men or women,” Rines said. “However, I’m also worried about risking my health.”
Rines added that not knowing who is moving in with him and where they have been is a problem for him.
Erin Corcoran, a freshman currently living in Clark Hall within Columbia Village, said she feels “stripped of her safety.”
“Even though I’m from Florida, I don’t feel safe going back home where I have family members that are essential workers and could expose me to something,” Corcoran said.
Corcoran also added that another big concern she has is that her new potential roommates may not be taking the issue seriously or following social distancing guidelines.
“At this point, I might just risk it and go home if I get new roommates,” Corcoran said. “I just don’t know what to do.”
According to Jacqueline Hetherington, director of residence life, there are roughly 700 students that remain on campus —roughly 250 of them being international students, based upon multiple surveys that the student life office has sent out to the student body since March 13. Hetherington added that officially 413 students have left campus.
Bino Campanini, the senior vice president of student life and alumni affairs and the chair of the pandemic response team, stated that the university is taking measures to best ensure the health and safety of students.
Campanini emphasized that the pandemic response team has been focusing on a consolidation of facilities such as closing down the Clemente Center and locking buildings on campus.
Campanini added that by consolidating the residence quad, it would allow National —Florida Tech’s custodial service — to focus more of their resources on other areas on campus such as Panther Dining Hall, Columbia Village, Harris Commons and Evans library to maximize cleanliness and better control the situation.
According to Campanini, there are roughly 100 students left in the residence quad. By closing down 40 bathrooms and 20 toilets in common areas in the residence quad, and locking down the quad dorms, the university can minimize frequented areas of surfaces that are touched.
Information from the Center for Disease Control states that it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.
Greg Connell said in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus by surface contact, students that will be moved from the residence quad to Columbia Village will minimize contact with door knobs and other areas such as sinks that were previously common spaces in the residence quad.
Hetherington noted that measures are being taken to protect students when they have to go to Harris Commons to receive their new room assignment.
“The Harris Commons doors are being cleaned frequently,” Hetherington said. “We are also placing tape outside the office to allow for distancing, only allowing one person in the office at a time and making sure the only individual that touches the new housing keys are the students receiving them.”
Hetherington also added that Residence Life is urging students to have conversations with their new roommates regarding standards of living and that they spend time working on agreements about social distancing practices and more.
Rodney Bowers, dean of students, stated that if a known student is not practicing social distancing measures it should be reported to him so he can follow up on the issue.
“This is not a perfect scenario,” Campanini said. “Currently, we must look at the bigger picture to protect all 700 students that remain on campus.”
Connell emphasized that there will be flexibility for students who might have classes or other conflicts during the assigned times they were told to pick up their roommate assignments from Harris Commons.
“Students don’t have to move out precisely when they receive their new keys,” Connell said. “They have about 48 hours to move.”
If students have any other concerns regarding the move, Connell said the university is here to help them best accommodate. Bowers added that the residence quad buildings will be locked and shut down after students move out.
Today at approximately 3:34 p.m. Florida Tech’s Provost, Korhan Oyman, announced in an email to the Florida Tech community that a pass or no credit option would be implemented for the remainder of the semester.
In the email, Oyman stated that Florida Tech administration realizes the multiple changes this semester, including the switch to online instruction only, has significantly disrupted students’ educational experiences.
“As such, Florida Tech has made several changes to academic policies and processes to provide students with opportunities for successful completion of their degrees,” Oyman said in the email.
The new grading model allows for undergraduate students to receive a P for pass in place of their letter grades without having an effect on their current GPA. The model also allows for students to select the pass or no credit option on a course-by-course basis in which they are currently enrolled in for the 2020 spring and summer semesters. An F in any class would count as a no credit (NC).
The same policy applies for graduate students. However, letter grades of both D and F will result in a no credit (NC).
The email also stated that a “P” will infer that a student has met all course specifics of a minimum letter grade requirements and “demonstrated the acquisition of associated student learning outcomes.”
It is noted that students cannot ask to switch back to a letter grade once the pass or no credit option has been selected. Furthermore, students that receive a “no credit” in a class must repeat that class. Students that do not make a request for the pass or no credit option will receive a letter grade for their final grade by their professor.
For aviation and flight courses that receive an “incomplete” (I) grade, and courses with a satisfactory or unsatisfactory (S/U) grading model are excluded from this temporary policy change.
Students must request a pass or no credit form, which can be found on the registrar’s website under the forms and documents section, by May 15. The form also must be signed by the students department head, program chair, site director and or other applicable signatures before sending to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also announced in the email was that online instruction would continue into the summer of 2020 and face-to-face instruction will resume in the fall of 2020.
In terms of Florida Tech’s academic standing policy, Oyman said that the undergraduate and graduate probation and dismissal policies will be suspended for students who are enrolled in classes during the spring and summer 2020 semesters. Academic standing for such students affected will be re-evaluated by the end of the fall 2020 semester. The only exception to this policy will be for students who choose the letter grade option and are able to raise their cumulative grade point average.
Factors such as financial aid eligibility, athletic eligibility, and admittance to graduate school were listed as careful considerations students should take into account when deciding between a pass or no credit and letter grade option.
Provost Oyman told the Crimson in an email that this decision was a collective effort involving many deans, departments and other offices.
“We did our best, and I believe we provided the best option to our students,” Oyman said. “They [students] need to know that we understand the hardship came with these sudden changes due to COVID-19 but we are working tirelessly to help and support them.”
Madison Ulvenes, a sophomore and SGA senator at Florida Tech, created a petition through change.org for pass or fail classes on Mar. 25. As of today, that petition has over 2,300 signatures.
“I would like to thank President McCay and all administrative staff at Florida Tech for reacting proactively to the ongoing pandemic,” Ulvenes said in a statement to the Crimson. “ The petition was created to ensure that the needs of our community would be heard.”
Ulvenes also thanked everyone that participated and signed the petition.
“It would not have been possible without the students support,” she added.
According to Heidi Hatfield-Edwards, the chair for the school of arts and Communication, the pass or no credit option is ‘the right thing to do” given the current circumstances.
“This is such a difficult time and even though we are doing the very best we can, students still have technical issues, or there are students who are not nearby or in different time zones all while trying to have to deal with their school work,” Hatfield-Edwards said. “This type of option gives them [students] a little more flexibility and lets some of the stress decrease during this abnormal time.”
Florida Tech’s pass or no credit announcement also stated that department heads and program chairs will be available for students to discuss their decision with.
“We are here to support you in your academic and personal goals,” Oyman said in the email. “As this is an unprecedented time in history, we feel these changes will allow you the ability to continue with your courses without additional stress and burden.”
(Issue 6 Spring 2020)
(Issue 6 Spring 2020)
(Issue 6 Spring 2020)
(Issue 6 Spring 2020)
Due to concerns regarding the coronavirus, guests and family members will not be welcome to attend the spring 2020 graduation commencement at Florida Tech.
According to an email President T. Dwayne McCay sent out to expected spring graduates, the university is “carefully monitoring the coronavirus situation and taking steps to preserve the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and their families.” As a result, the university has decided to “reconfigure spring commencement exercises.”
The email also said that ticketed ceremonies in Clemente will be canceled and that graduate only ceremonies would occur at the Gleason Performing Arts Center to be webcast live, video recorded and photographed.
This guest ticket cancellation comes in the wake of many universities including Harvard, Ohio State, Standford and many others canceling in-person classes and moving to online instruction only.
Due to the fact that Florida Tech has a diverse student body with over 100 countries represented at the university, McCay stated that “we felt it prudent to make this announcement as soon as possible so that families of graduates could adjust their travel plans accordingly—particularly those who would have traveled internationally to join us on campus.”
As an alternative, Spring 2020 graduates are invited to walk at the 2020 fall commencement exercise on Dec. 12.
The university stated that details about the spring 2020 graduation ceremony are still being finalized and further updates will be released shortly.
This is a breaking news story. Please follow along on our website for further updates.