Reporter’s notebook

Coronavirus and commencement

With growing concern over the spread of the coronavirus, colleges around the country are developing business continuity plans in case classes and events are postponed or canceled. The slightest details aren’t escaping college leaders, such as how to handle congratulatory handshakes at commencement.

“I shake hands with 400+ people during @OwensCC commencement exercises,” Steve Robinson, president of Owens Community College in Ohio, posted on Twitter. “We have not decided how to handle #Covid_19 during our ceremony in May, but our teams are exploring the impact for May 15, 2020.”

One idea floated by his staff: handshake alternatives from different cultures that can double as a “multi-cultural teachable moment.” 

Ditching the commencement handshake has happened before. For example, Robinson noted that during the swine flu outbreak more than a decade ago, Mott Community College in Michigan dropped the handshake at graduation.

Speaking of being prepared

With its 100th annual convention just a few weeks away, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is closely monitoring what’s happening locally regarding the coronavirus.

AACC has taken some precautions such as offering attendees a “greeting button” to wear that says “Hello” or “Fist bump me” to indicate you don’t want to shake hands for health reasons.

Some other precautions the association is taking for its annual meeting:

  • Providing alcohol-based disinfecting wipes in all session rooms and meeting spaces.
  • Placing signage regarding hygiene (washing hands, how to greet one-another – no handshakes, etc.) throughout the meeting space.
  • Eliminating buffet meals where large numbers of people gather and moving to plated and pre-packaged options.  
  • As in previous years, a nurse will be onsite in the event that anyone begins to feel ill.

Until then, keeping washing those hands regularly!

Food for fines

For this week only, Northern Virginia Community College is allowing students to donate certain non-perishable food items as payment for parking citations. 

The items will go to the college’s food pantries.

Only parking tickets with a base of $25 and $75 are eligible for the program. Five items need to be donated for a $25 citation and 10 items for a $75 citation. Late fees and appeal fees will be waived.

Help after the tornado

Nashville State Community College has set up a tornado relief resource page on its website to help its students, faculty and staff affected by the devastating tornado that hit the city this week. It includes how those in need can access the college’s food bank and how to find help with replacing textbooks and supplies, gas and other costs to ensure they keep going to class.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.