Susan Edwards, eighth president of Wright State University. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Photo: Thomas Gnau
Photo: Thomas Gnau

WSU president given additional authorities during coronavirus pandemic

The Wright State University president can now act on urgent matters that affect the health and safety of the school without prior board approval.

The board of trustees approved giving President Susan Edwards the additional authorities during a virtual meeting Saturday.

“It times like these things can and do change quickly and it’s really important Dr. Edwards has the authority she needs to act quickly and in her best judgment,” Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick said. “While in more normal times, we have communication protocols and approval processes in place, with things happening so rapidly, we don’t have time to follow our normal protocols.”

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Saturday’s resolution goes into effect retroactively to March 9. The resolution does call on the president to first contact the board chair if, “during this crisis the president encounters an extraordinary circumstance as determined by the president, which requires official action.”

Edwards traced the university’s steps since the coronavirus outbreak first came to the public’s attention. The campus first began emergency planning on Jan. 28 when two students at Miami University were the first two suspected Ohio cases of COVID-19. Those students were tested and their results came back negative.

“The last 18 days have been unprecedented to say the least,” Edwards said. “I want to thank the Wright State community for rapidly mobilizing to make the sweeping changes that were necessary in order to navigate the constantly evolving COVID-19 situation.”

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Like many other campuses across the state, students were forced to quickly figure out housing arrangements after they were told they needed to leave dorms earlier this month.

“Now what the board may not know, and what the community may not know, is that we actually had some of the student body that call Wright State their home,” Edwards said. “We are their only home and the chancellor asked us in a communication that we allow housing to continue in the case of extenuating circumstances.”

Edwards thanked the staff in residence life who continue to serve those special circumstance students on a daily basis.

At the February board meeting, Edwards said enrollment needs to be the university’s top priority. Saturday, she discussed what that looks like amid the coronavirus crisis.

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“We have reached out to our students who have applied and been admitted,” Edwards said. “We want to let our region know that we are here to support them and we remain committed to providing them a quality education at one of the lowest price points in the state for a four-year institution.”

Over the next few weeks, Edwards said a team of about 175 faculty, staff and athletic coaches will be making calls to each existing student to check in and see what the university needs to do to be of assistance.

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“In terms of retaining our existing students, we recognize that students might not in fact excel in the current remote teaching mode,” Edwards said.

A fund was established that will be used to assist students who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak. Those interested in contributing to the fund can visit givecampus.com.

“I also want to thank the Wright State Foundation, who stood up for Wright State Student Emergency Relief Campaign to support our students who have been adversely affected by COVID-19,” Edwards said. “As of right now, they have raised over $20,000.”

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