President Herbert Speaks On The Shelter In Place

USG’s 4/1 meeting covered the capital project and got in-depth communication about the shelter-in-place decision from President Herbert and Provost Karen Pardue.


Last week’s USG meeting covered the shelter in place order that was lifted Saturday, April 3rd. President Herbert joined the meeting to answer some questions about the decision-making process that went into the shelter-in-place order. Although this was the main point of discussion, the capital project was also considered. 

At this point, it seems the aim of the capital project will be working with the Outing Club and other sports clubs to transform the space in the Hang, that some seniors may remember as a dining option, into an area to store sporting equipment in a more central area and expanding the rental program. UNE’s outdoor programs serve as a major draw to the school, so expanding upon that is only logical. 

The upcoming transition to Brightspace was touched upon. For students out of the loop, UNE will be transitioning away from Blackboard to Brightspace come Fall 2021, and how to educate the student body and teaching staff on the use of the new service is being discussed.  

Now that campus students are able to travel to area restaurants and stores with relaxing shelter in place measures because the school officially reopened. The email notifying the student body of this change recognized the efforts that all took to ensure the stop of rising cases, with only one commuter student testing positive during the last round of university-wide testing.

In order to spread verified information to the student body, President James Herbert and Provost Karen Pardue attended the meeting to engage in discussion with USG. One of the burning points of conversation was around how these decisions were being made, and why things seemed to move so fast on the 25th of March.  

President Herbert mentioned the COVID-19 committee that he is a part of. This committee meets daily and according to President Herbert, the emails start before dawn, the constant communication allowing decisions like this to be made in a tight timeframe. Most in the student body were aware of the rising case numbers, with members of the Football team again in the center of COVID-related controversy and an off-campus party that led to spreading within the student body.

In the days before the decision was reached the committee was still having daily meetings, monitoring the rate of positivity. They found three consecutive days before the 25th that cases were on the rise. This wouldn’t have been a major issue if the cases were coming from the outside, similar to the outbreak in Featherman that caused students to be quarantined within that dorm for a period, but there was rising evidence of community spread. This means UNE students exposing other UNE students to the virus.

The next question raised by this is “why did these efforts come so quick?” This answer relies on a few factors. First, there is major recognition that students don’t want to finish their semesters from afar, similar to the spring 2020 semester. The faculty recognized that the only way to keep that possibility open was to act quickly.

Due to these rapid measures, there were issues raised with the way this dissemination of information occurred. Athletes and RA’s knew before anyone else. The memo that would be passed onto students was going back and forth between many members of faculty so the information would be clear and hopefully not cause too much chaos. There wasn’t ill intent in those who shared the messages, but the coaches who spread information to their athletes and the RA’s who were able to inform their friends before anyone else are problems that may need to be discussed in the future.

Administration really doesn’t want students online for the remainder of the semester and is hoping for a return to at least a semblance of normalcy come the fall 2021 semester. The way President Herbert wants to handle this is by getting the entire administration, faculty, and student body vaccinated by next semester.

Provost Pardue mentioned that on April 7th Governor Janet Mills will be opening COVID-19 vaccines to anyone over the age of 16, and even though most won’t be able to schedule an appointment on that date she advises students to try as hard as they can to get an appointment as soon as possible.

Considering the vaccine, President Herbert intensely desires for UNE to become a vaccine site. To accomplish this the school had to become certified to administer vaccines, and being a medically focused university, the necessary resources and manpower largely already exist. Though one shouldn’t hold their breath on this one, because as this is written there has not been a college in Maine that has received a supply of COVID-19 vaccines. The school is fully prepared to start the process at the drop of a hat, already draining the hockey rink so that it can be used at a moment’s notice for this purpose.

President Herbert left the gathered representatives with a final message, keep your masks on. It’s a relaxation of this that likely led to the on-campus outbreak, and this event shows that we aren’t at a point where we can relax yet, so please stay safe and keep posted precautions in mind.