Murray State University is nearing the end of its first full, in-person semester since coronavirus rocked the world, and university leadership is hopeful for a second round of stimulus funding.
Murray State University President Bob Jackson said the institution will have spent “a few million dollars” by the end of the year in order to operate in-person in the midst of the pandemic. He said he regularly speaks with leadership from other universities in the state and region, and they’re reporting the same concerns: budget reductions and increased expenditures.
“It’s the same story everywhere. We’re spending so much money being open on PPE [personal protective equipment], hand sanitizer, auxiliary buildings, technology, and the list goes on and on and on,” he explained. “We’re going to spend a few million dollars at Murray State University this year just to operate as we’re operating. So this is a very difficult environment and we do need that assistance.”
Jackson said the university constructed plans for an 8% reduction in state funding, as requested by state officials, which equates to an approximate $3.5 million decrease for MSU. He said the cuts will potentially go deeper if the next round of federal stimulus funding isn’t approved for states and educational institutions. But, he said based on conversations with federal delegates, he believes it’s coming--just not until after the 2020 general election.
Jackson said in addition to the Racer Restart Initiative page where updates, guidance and information are shared, the university employs regular emails and text messages with students, faculty and staff. He said frequent communication and reminders have been part of the plan for a “safe” semester.
The university recently saw an uptick in positive cases on campus, but that number appears to have leveled off in the weeks following. The Calloway County Health Department continues to report a significant number of increased cases, with 34 cases — a new record high in a single day — reported on Thursday. Jackson said success for completing the fall semester in-person still relies upon “making good decisions,” on campus and off campus — including wearing face masks.
“Our healthcare professionals have told us that 75% of the spread can be controlled by simply wearing a mask. [Masks] are cheap, it's easy, doesn't require a great deal to wear a mask,” he said. “I wear masks to protect you and the campus community, and the campus community wears a mask to protect others and I appreciate that.”
The end of the fall semester will set in motion something entirely new: a virtual commencement ceremony. The Nov. 21 event will celebrate May, August and December 2020 graduates with formal remarks, students speeches, and slides representing each graduate.
Jackson said commencement organizers tried to emulate a typical ceremony as best they could, and make it a “special” day for the graduates.
“[Graduation day] is important to our students, this is an important day in their lives,” he said. “It's important to the families and parents of our students, and so we want to make sure we do it well.”