As COVID-19 Continues, a discussion with Flagler College President Joseph Joyner

By Erin Brady gargoyle@flagler.edu

The one thing on everybody’s mind at the moment is the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping not only the nation, but the world as well. Touted as the worst pandemic to hit the United States since the H1N1 virus in 2009, the effects have undeniably been felt throughout the Flagler College campus. Classes have been moved entirely online for the remainder of the Spring semester and many students have decided to move back home to stay with family. 

However, President Joseph Joyner assures that Flagler will continue to stand tall in the face of this once-in-a-lifetime situation. In a recent interview, Dr. Joyner explained developments made by the college to help students in this difficult time.

You recently announced the partial reimbursement of room and board for all students. Quite a few universities throughout the country are doing the same or something similar, and you mentioned during Monday’s Town Hall that you believed this was the right thing to do.

That is correct.

Why do you think that is, and how did you come to this decision?

Well, there is actually a couple of reasons. The first being that students did not have proper access and because of that, they were not able to get the full Flagler experience. The second is that we believe that this could help students financially, as well. This provides the students with some money to help them stay afloat during these difficult times.

Some colleges, as you mentioned, are reimbursing their students. However, those colleges are giving a smaller or flat amount to their students. We do not necessarily think that is fair. This new system that we have in place allows us to provide students with the exact amount of money not used from spring break to the end of the semester.

Also during the Town Hall, you said that you expect things to return to normal by the upcoming Fall semester. Do you believe that there will be a change in culture and attitude surrounding Flagler, as well?

I sincerely do. This has been such a unique and unprecedented situation that really none of us have ever experienced. I think people are going to pay more attention to their own personal help, as this is a major wake up call. 

How is that?

They are going to start making sure they stay safe and healthy, not only for themselves but for others as well. I really do think that people are going to be much more grateful to be with their friends and professors, and they will do whatever they can to protect them. This entire situation has drawn us back to what is important, and that is a sense of community.

Speaking of community, recently, Flagler started the Community Applause project. Every week, students and staff are encouraged to go outside and clap for our first responders and front line workers. Of course, this is a kind gesture, but what are some other things students can do to directly help and support those in need?

That really is a great question, and I have found myself asking that as well. However, I believe the most important thing we can do is to make sure they know how much we respect the work they do. You can send notes and emails of thanks to the people in your life that are working the front lines, especially when this is all over. 

We still have students on campus, and we have critical staff helping them, going beyond the call of duty. They have done so much, such as creating the Student Emergency Fund. I feel really good about the team here at Flagler, and it is more important than ever to honor them, as well.

You just mentioned the Student Emergency Fund. Can you elaborate on what that is?

Absolutely. Earlier in the year, a donor provided money to help students specifically in financial crises. More donors have contributed to this fund and have really stepped up in providing resources. We’re anticipating more financial issues because of this pandemic, and we want to make sure our students can continue being a part of our family. For many students, this is their home, and we have to make sure we continue to be just that.

So how can students apply for help from the Student Emergency Fund?

Vice President of Enrollment Deborah Thompson is overseeing this Fund. Students can contact the Enrollment office to go through the application process.

Finally, what are your words of advice for Flagler students with all these rapid new changes and developments?

It is important to take things one day at a time. Every single day is new, and that can be overwhelming right now. Focus on the right things and make sure to take care of each other.

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