Vice Chancellor's response to COVID-19

Update sent to all students and staff 25 March, 2020

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Professor Adam Shoemaker Vice Chancellor and President Southern Cross UniversityProfessor Adam Shoemaker, Vice Chancellor and President, Southern Cross University

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to give you the latest information on our broad-ranging responses to the COVID-19 epidemic. 

My main message is one of thanks.  

Online Mode
As you are all aware, we transitioned to online mode for nearly all of our degrees on Monday 23 March.  This was accomplished in record time and with the highest degree of professionalism.  Not only is this a profoundly student-centric model but it helps to ensure the health and safety of students and staff alike.  I want to place on record our gratitude to all Deans, all Schools, all Colleges and all staff—professional and academic alike.  This migration was one of the fastest and most seamless in the entire higher education sector;

Libraries 
The University libraries are the heart-and-soul of our campuses.  They are also major drawcards for students and meeting places.  As you may be aware, the Prime Minister’s announcement last night on federal responses to the epidemic mandated that—as of midnight tonight—all libraries in Australia had to close to patrons.  There is no exception for University libraries.  This applies equally to the Gold Coast, Lismore, Coffs Harbour and any other mini-libraries, such as at The Hotel School.

The library staff have been working very rapidly and collegially to ‘virtualise’ our Southern Cross University libraries in all sites.   This means that enquiries, the chat function, online catalogue searching and the downloading and borrowing of online resources can now take place.  Fortunately, the library—under Kate Kelly and now Alison Slocombe—have been working towards a ‘default online’ model for all reading material for over three years.  So this has now really come into its own.   

Therefore, from 6pm tonight (25 March, 2020) the libraries will close to physical patrons.  But you are all more than welcome to continue to use all of the deep online resources available;

Student Help Desks/Students Hubs
To reiterate yesterday’s advice from Allan Morris, all Student Hubs have now transitioned to virtual mode as well. Staff have been enabled with connections to work from home.  Applications, enrolment details, chat functions and all other student enquiry services have been virtualised.  The partnership between Student Services and IT Services has meant that all phone, text, chat and email queries can be responded too either in real time or via normal queues.  The only constraint is that total bandwidth use in Australia has exploded in demand.  We have quintupled the capacity of our dedicated AARNET service nationally but there may still be times when internet responsiveness is slower than usual.  I would ask for your understanding in these extraordinary times.

Closure of Queensland Border
Those of you who are resident in Queensland will be aware that the Premier has determined to “restrict access at its border” for the first time since the Spanish flu epidemic following World War I. From midnight tonight (Wednesday 25 March) there will be border road closures and police checks on vehicles on major highways—including, of course, the M1.  Rail services are terminated. In addition, all air travellers to Queensland will be required to self-isolate upon arrival for 14 days.  Penalties include fines of up to $13,345.

There will be exemptions to the above for a variety of reasons, including cross-border medical treatment and ‘those travelling to and from work’.   According to the Premier’s media release, “Police are developing methods to identify vehicles in border communities to make frequent essential border crossings easier — such as a permit.”  However, those permits are not yet ready and police advise that there will be “very long” waits at border crossings from tonight—even in Tweed/Coolangatta.

NOTEThere are no exemptions for students attending facilities on the other side of the border. Therefore, if you are a Southern Cross student and a NSW resident, please do not attempt to cross the border to come to the Gold Coast campus for any reason.  You will be turned away.  Please continue to study from home.

If you are a Southern Cross staff member and a NSW resident, please continue to work from home.

If you are required to work at the Gold Coast campus or you have an essential reason to travel to QLD which is university-related please contact SCUassist@scu.edu.au

Again, my apologies, colleagues for these extraordinary measures in extraordinary times.  All of this proves the worth of our very rapid pivot to online learning and services.

My best wishes for health to all of you,

Adam

Professor Adam Shoemaker
Vice Chancellor and President
Southern Cross University 


Update sent to all students 18 March, 2020

Dear Southern Cross University Students,

I am writing to let you know of an important decision that I have made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University will deliver its educational programs online from 23 March, 2020 and for the remainder of Session 1 2020 (and the study periods that fall within Session 1). 

This means that unless you are otherwise advised by your School, the units of study in which you are enrolled will be delivered online at the same time that your face to face classes would have occurred.

In essence, except for a very limited number of cases (that your School will discuss with you if applicable), your timetable will not change. But how you engage with classes will.

You will find all of the information you need in order to access your online learning on Blackboard – for each of your units of study.

While we are moving our courses online, all of our campuses remain open. This means that you can, unless advised otherwise, access facilities and services on campus should you need to do so. But face to face classes will not be delivered on campus.

Many of you will currently or soon be involved in clinical placements, practicums, internships and other forms of work integrated learning. These will continue as planned and they are not impacted by the decision set out above.  If, however, a site at which you are undertaking a placement closes and as a consequence you are unable to continue with the activity, you should contact the University on SCUassist@scu.edu.au  so that we are able to efficiently coordinate an appropriate, supportive response.

Finally, I appreciate that this decision may raise questions for you about the implications for professional accreditation requirements or, in the case of international students, compliance with student visa conditions.  On the basis of many discussions with a range of government agencies and accrediting bodies, the University is very confident that you need not be concerned about either of these matters.

Sincerely.

Adam

Professor Adam Shoemaker
Vice Chancellor and President
Southern Cross University

 

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