Current COVID count – HutchCC president discusses school’s response

Current COVID count – HutchCC president discusses school’s response

By Emily Branson and Sam Bailey / Staff Writers

Unprecedented times. Uncertain outcomes. Global pandemic.

For the last seven months, the world has been in limbo. Life changed, plans rearranged, and utter chaos reigned.

One of the few encouraging thoughts during these times is that most everyone is in the same boat, rowing upstream with a hole in the bottom.

Some college students are racing to the finish line blindfolded, surrounded by uncertainty since early March, and the distress doesn’t seem to be fading anytime soon.

With only five weeks left in the semester, some Hutchinson Community College students wonder why the college has not transitioned to remote learning. They feel left in the dark about HutchCC’s handling of COVID-19.

However, HutchCC President Carter File and Director of Marketing and Public Relations Denny Stoecklein feel confident in the college’s communication with students and control of COVID-19 on campus.

“We want to be transparent,” File said. “That’s not the issue. I think our issue is (we don’t know) what we aren’t doing or what more can we do.”

File and Stoecklein were surprised that students felt out of the loop because they said students had not expressed those feelings.

“You’re the first student who has told me directly that there’s a concern that there is not enough information being shared,” File said to a Collegian reporter.

The college sent out several announcements regarding COVID-19 on campus at the beginning of the semester. Since then, students have received only sporadic information.

Baldwin City freshman Jacie Devers said she feels uneasy and concerned that HutchCC lacks transparency with students.

“I am not very sure they are telling us the truth about the COVID statistics,” Devers said.

The college encourages students to visit the COVID-19 page of the hutchcc.edu website for accurate and updated information. However, straightforward information can be challenging to find on the COVID-19 page. The page recommends visiting the Reno County Health Department Dashboard for the latest number of cases in the county and at HutchCC, identified on the dashboard as “higher education.”

File and Stoecklein both said they believed the two most recent emails sent to students regarding COVID-19 contained a link to the dashboard. However, neither email included the link. After realizing this, File and Stoecklein agreed to send out an email to faculty and students including it.

“We can certainly put out an email to tell faculty, staff and students where to find that information,” File said. “I know it’s under the COVID-19 button on the website, but if it would help the communication process, absolutely, we would be happy to do that.”

HutchCC cannot share specific information about which staff or students are in isolation or what classes the students are in, which means that the only information shared with students and staff is what is on the Reno County Dashboard.

“House Bill 2016 restricts severely what information you can and cannot share with other people,” File said. “We certainly couldn’t name them, say what classes they’re in, or who their faculty is because then those all become personal, identifiable information.”

HutchCC’s administration releases pertinent information through the official college communication channels, like email and DragonZone announcements, but are hesitant to post the same information on social media sites due to potential backlash and misinformation in post comments.

“Social media is not my favorite way to communicate with students and our constituents,” File said. “It’s fraught with an awful lot of problems with people that will jump into the middle of a conversation with zero information.”

While lacking social media posts may make the information harder to find for some, Larned sophomore Brooke Butler said that students just need to know where to find it.

“I think the college is being very transparent about the statistics,” Butler said. “Many students do not seek out the information though.”

File encourages students to read the information that is shared with them through the proper channels.

“We’re making the plea to students,” File said. “When they get Dragon Zone messages, read them.”

File posed a question to students: “What more can we do, and what more should we do?”

For any questions and concerns, email HutchCC at covid-19@hutchcc.edu.

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