HEPC chair pledges additional help for campus groups dealing with COVID-19

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Chairman Mike Farrell pledged assistance to faculty, staff and student leaders dealing with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during a meeting Friday that originated in Charleston.

Mike Farrell

The HEPC heard comments from leaders of various councils.

Concord University Professor Joe Allen told Farrell and other members of the HEPC that students are adapting to the COVID-19 world in various ways.

“A lot of them are very stressed,” Allen, who represented the Faculty Council said. “Some of them have adapted very well to the mixed virtual and face-to-face. I think having a mixed presence has worked out very well, especially for commuting students.”

A full schedule of in-person classes on college campuses in West Virginia this fall is rare.

Farrell urged Allen and the others to reach out to the HEPC for assistance.

“If you have specific concerns, would you reach out to the chancellor and identify them? HEPC cannot help if we don’t know a problem exists,” Farrell said.

Marshall University student body leader Anna Williams, representing the HEPC Student Council said, internet access continues to be an issue for a lot of Marshall students who make their homes in southern West Virginia. Williams also said a lack of social interaction is beginning to take its toll.

“Anxiety and depression are rising with uncertain circumstances or being in an adverse home situation,” Williams said.

Fairmont State University Mirta Martin

Fairmont State University President Mirta Martin told the commission that college and university presidents across have worked well together in addressing the pandemic. She also said she was glad to get students back to campus, at least in part.

“I can tell you it was a joy welcoming home all of students, faculty and staff,” Martin said.

Farrell had praise Friday for campus presidents.

“We are stronger by the response of the presidents. By their sincere participation with each other and with our chancellor in trying to navigate through the pandemic,” he said.

Farrell added those presidents have shown true concern for their campuses not just how the pandemic has impacted student enrollment.

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