Leading Stories

On March 17, emotions ran high as UWF announced the continuation of remote learning and cancellation of spring commencement.

According to the UWF’s Tuesday morning press release, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the State University System of Florida directed universities across the state to move all in-class instruction online for the remainder of the spring semester. Additionally, students living on campus were encouraged to return to their permanent addresses unless cleared by Housing and Resident Life.

Adjusting to day two of online learning, UWF students paused to process the untimely news and quickly flooded social media with their concerns, hoping to obtain answers from fellow classmates and peers in leadership positions. While some answers are still in the process of being solidified, Tom St. Myer, News and Publicity Director of Institutional Communications, readily responded to inquiries. 

Below are questions posed by students with responses provided by St. Myer.

Housing

  • Are students going to be reimbursed for housing and meal plans?

“The University of West Florida is actively working with the Florida Board of Governors, as well as the state universities to determine options regarding refunds and credits for room and board and meal plans. There are a variety of factors to consider, such as financial aid implications, and we want to ensure that the decision that is made does not have a negative impact on students. We will communicate with students as soon as a decision is made.”

 

  • Will campus housing still be available this summer?

“At this time, summer housing programs will be open as usual.”

 

  • Are students allowed to go back to their dorms after the 30th for any reason?

“UWF will continue to accommodate those with extenuating circumstances and work with students who are unable to return home during this time period on an individual basis. 

The guidelines for social distancing led us to create the following schedule for those students who need to return to campus to remove ALL of [their] belongings. This includes bikes you may have on campus as well. Please remember to clean your space and remove all food from refrigerators and dispose of trash before leaving. We ask that you adhere to this schedule if at all possible, to make this efficient and safe. Housing and Residence Life is operating with drastically reduced staff and want to make sure we are available to assist you when needed.

    • Village East and Village West Residents: Thursday, March 26th through Saturday, March 28th.
    • Heritage and Pace Residents: Thursday, April 2nd through Saturday, April 4th
    • Presidents, Argo and Martin Residents: Thursday, April 9th through Saturday, April 11th.

We will have limited carts available for moving belongings. It is recommended you bring your own carts and hand trucks if needed to facilitate an easier move. If you are not able to come during your designated time, please email Housing at housing@uwf.edu.”

Campus Jobs

  • What should students who usually work on campus expect?

“Paid student employees (Work Study, OUR Works, Contracts, Grants, etc.) as well as graduate students on assistantships are employed by the institution and are expected to work remotely during this time period. Supervisors are expected to provide assignments to employees. Employees working remotely are expected to fulfill all of their normal duties and work hours. If employees are in roles that do not traditionally accommodate remote work, supervisors must assign other work, projects or professional development that can be performed remotely.” 

Online Learning

  • What advice can be offered to students who believe their studies will be negatively affected by long-term online learning?

“This will be a new experience for many, but our faculty, staff and students have always been innovative and adaptive to change, and we hope these changes will be a positive learning experience and display our resilience. For online resources related to strategies and resources for how to be successful in an online course, general study skills, time management, subject based skills, etc., students may enroll in the online Academic Success Course through Canvas.”

If you have any concerns regarding your ability to effectively complete your course online, contact your instructors so, together, you can find a path to success. If you feel your only course of action is to drop your class, the withdrawal deadline has been extended to April 13; however, the university encourages this be a last resort and to allow yourself and your instructor time to adjust.

Campus Services

  • Will the library continue to offer laptops and other services now that the length of time has increased?

“As a part of our efforts to make the transition to online learning as smooth and seamless as possible for students, the UWF John C. Pace Library is providing a limited number of laptops for students who do not have a computer to check out for the entire Spring 2020 semester. The University has ordered more laptops so that we may continue to offer them to students.”

  • Are any services going to be provided on campus?

“Yes, limited services remain open to ensure students’ well-being.

    • The Nautilus Market is open to students that remain on campus and is open for two meal periods each day—lunch from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. The dining room is closed and meals are to-go only. There are no self-serve stations. Plates are served by Nautilus Market staff.
    • Argo Pantry is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with limited supplies. 
    • Mail is available for pick up at the back door loading dock of the University Commons. Once at the door, ring the buzzer to notify Post Office workers. For mailing items, both campus and US mail service, must be dropped off at the back door as well.  
    • Shops in Argonaut Village are maintaining their regular hours at this time.
    • The campus trolley service continues to operate the Express Trolley. The three on-campus routes are suspended. ECAT bus service to campus (route 43) continues as usual until further notice.
    • The Edward Ball Nature Trail and all other public trails remain open as long as social-distancing procedures are followed.
    • All students still have access to counselor consultation and crisis consultation via telephone. We are unable to provide traditional therapy over the telephone.  
      • All students have access to a counselor 24/7 by contacting CAPS at 850-474-2420 and following the prompts.
      • All students are encouraged to utilize Therapy Assistance Online to strengthen skills to cope with anxiety, depression, stress management and more. TAO is an interactive web-based self-help program that is available 24/7. Access TAO anonymously at uwf.edu/TAO
      • If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.”

Commencement

Despite the complexity of the current situation, students across campus have been adapting to recent changes, looking forward to life’s eventual normalcy. Unfortunately, for some, Tuesday’s news suggested an unfortunate conclusion to their college careers. 

UWF’s Tuesday press release caused a sentimental reaction in seniors across campus as the cancellation of Spring 2020 Commencement ceremonies was announced. Although the CDC recently adjusted protocols to include the cancellation of gatherings consisting of 10 or more people for the next 15 days and gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, the update came as a surprise, and those who had originally planned to walk across the stage in May presented questions. St. Myer responded to those questions with the following answers. 

  • Now that commencement is cancelled, is there any possibility that students won’t be able to graduate/earn their degree?

“The change in this celebration is unrelated to students’ academic journeys in pursuit of their degrees. 

The traditional in-person Spring 2020 commencement will not be held in May 2020. We understand this is very disappointing to our seniors and we are working with student leaders to discuss creative ideas to ensure our students are celebrated. We plan to honor our students while still keeping our community safe.”

  • Can students obtain a refund on their caps, gowns, cords, etc?

“According to Herff Jones, students will receive information regarding their regalia via email within five business days. Regardless of the vehicle, students who wish to cancel their gown orders will receive 100% credit.”

  • Will commencement be rescheduled, or will there be an alternative way of celebrating only?

“We are still working on a special way to celebrate graduates and will update you as soon as a decision is made.”


Protocols continue to change as updates from governments are presented to universities and the public at large. While many of the changes are understandably anxiety inducing, frustrating and confusing, the university encourages patience on the part of the university, students, faculty and staff.

Despite the inconvenience, it is important students stay calm and remember that these inconveniences are not everlasting; rather, a temporary sacrifice to protect the health and well-being of UWF’s Argo family. Please continue to reach out to supervisors and instructors for any questions or concerns and regularly check your email and https://news.uwf.edu/ for updates.