DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban is joined by Interim Provost Salma Ghanem, Executive Vice President Jeff Bethke, Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Memo Campuzano, and Vice President for Student Affairs Gene Zdziarski to provide a video update and answer questions submitted by the university community.
Dr. Esteban announced the launch of DePaul Connection as a way to create a virtual university community during this time of social distancing. These online video updates will be an additional resource to provide information, direction and answers to your questions about our fast-changing life at DePaul. DePaul Connection updates will be posted here weekly. We invite students, faculty and staff to send in your questions to email@example.com.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Welcome to the fourth edition of DePaul Connection. Joining me today are Executive Vice President, Jeff Bethke; Provost, Salma Ghanem; Vice President for Student Affairs, Gene Zdziarski; and Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Father Memo Campuzano.
I'll do today's update segment just to update you on a few things which have happened. Our students now have the option to have a pass, D, or fail option for undergrad students. This allows our students to make a decision on the last day of classes to inform their instructor to say they want either a pass, D, or a fail grade for their class. And this removes some of the stress associated with taking classes remotely, which is being done for the first time at this level at DePaul.
The second update is there have been a lot of questions about resuming university operations. The COVID situation has caused a lot of us to take pause and trying to figure out when can we resume what we call normal operations. As you know, we have a COVID task force, which is looking at this day to day, and we take guidance from the states as well as from the City as to when we might be able to return to our campus. With this goal in mind, it's your safety and well‑being that we're after. So we'll keep you informed as we hear more from the local and state officials.
The third update is how are we living our mission in this day and age. And I'll just share with you three examples. One, from our School of Music. If you haven't heard our music faculty students and alumni perform, I invite you to go to their new ‑‑ they have a new channel, which is on YouTube, where they have all of these performances from our faculty and students, as well as they plan to have some of our student recitals and faculty performances on this site moving forward.
Our Theatre School launched their Community Drama Division to bring theatre and wellness practice to our Chicago area youth. During these times of social distancing, the Community Drama Division is offering online classes for children ages 4 to 14. So for those of you who have young ones ‑‑ and we've heard from quite a few of you who have said that we don't pay our teachers enough ‑‑ now that you have to have the young ones with you, this is one way to keep them engaged in the community.
And, lastly, Father Memo will talk more about this, but we have some new things going on for Vincentian Service Day, especially now that we're doing it in a virtual format.
With that, I'd like to ask my first group of questions. I want to direct them to Salma. Salma, again, since college visits are no longer taking place, how are you able to show prospective students what it's like to visit DePaul's campuses, meet our faculty, and meet people from DePaul in general?
>> SALMA GHANEM: Well, Gabe, we have done a lot in terms of connecting with our current students as well as prospective students through a virtual environment. So I would recommend that if they would go to the DePaul ‑‑ the main DePaul web page, there is a link on that page on how they can tour the university in a virtual environment. The other way they can go about finding our virtual tours is by going to the website go.depaul/visit. And there are many ways that they can connect with the university, either in terms of a virtual visit, to talk to an admission counselor, as well as to talk to our faculty.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you. And for our students who don't have necessarily access to a home computer -- these are potential students -- is there any other way they can reach out to our counselors?
>> SALMA GHANEM: Yes, absolutely. They can always call. And the phone number to call is 312‑362‑8300. And they can be helped over the telephone. They don't have to use the online environment.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Salma.
Jeff, a couple of questions about benefits. What kinds of changes to our health benefits have been made available to our faculty and staff, like, with our current stay‑at‑home situation?
>> JEFF BETHKE: Thank you, Gabe. On April 14th, just yesterday, there was a Newsline article that explains two of the new enhancements to the benefits plans that were rolled out in response to the stay‑at‑home order. The first is a mechanism for reducing the risk of exposure to COVID‑19. We've expanded the telehealth benefit both for COVID‑19 and non‑COVID‑19‑related illnesses. So there is now a zero-cost solution for that: no copays, no deductibles, no coinsurance for in network. So members who are on DePaul's PPO and CDHP plans can access these benefits through their participating providers or by registering on MDLIVE. So then the HMO participants can also get access as well. So that's one good benefit that we've added.
And the second is an expansion of our backup care through Bright Horizons, DePaul's emergency care, backup care provider. So if Bright Horizons cannot fill an in‑home care request, we can now provide a reimbursement up to $100 for available ‑‑ up to $100 for alternative care per employee. So I would encourage folks to go out and search the Newsline article from yesterday that details these items more fully.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Jeff. The other question is given that it looks like the university will be facing a budget shortfall, will there be changes to employee benefits such as retirement plans or our tuition benefits?
>> JEFF BETHKE: We don't have anything planned at the moment. We are watching the fall enrollment situations, of course, very early, but we'll see what revenues look like for next year and respond accordingly; but at this point we're not considering any changes to any of those plans.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Jeff.
Gene, I have a couple of questions for you, and one is a two‑pronged question. What kind of reaction or response have we gotten to DeHub, and how could students stay involved in school activities and spirit? I see you're wearing blue, like all of us are wearing blue.
>> GENE ZDZIARSKI: Definitely I wear blue and support that school pride. You know, it's really been interesting to see the level of engagement that we've gotten from students in this remote environment. At the beginning of the spring quarter, the Office of Student Involvement created DEN or our Digital Engagement Network. That's part of the DeHub, our student organization portal. And if you go there, right now you'll find that there's over 350 different events that are available to students throughout this spring quarter, and the number keeps growing.
One event in particular that I'll highlight was DemonTHON. Last week, our students put together the annual DemonTHON event but did it in a virtual environment. Over a hundred students attended the event and participated in it, and it was really great to see them kind of let their hair down, dance a little, have fun, and really raise money for a great cause with Children's ‑‑ Lurie Children's Hospital. So it was a lot of fun. But I encourage students to check out DeHub and look at all the different events that are available for them to be involved in.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Gene. And DemonTHON was a great event. I'm glad you and I were able to be part of it. And you should have gone there. You would have seen Gene kind of swaying to the music, so to speak.
So what's the next big thing, Gene?
>> GENE ZDZIARSKI: Well, I've got two events that I'll highlight at this point. The first of them is our Virtual Gnome Hunt. That's going to happen May 4th through the 8th. Now, whether people are new ‑‑ if you've participated in our traditional gnome hunt in the past, or if you're new to the gnome hunt idea, I think you're really going to enjoy this special edition of what has become a fun campus tradition. Students, faculty, staff, student organizations, campus departments can adopt a gnome to decorate. Now, we've got printable versions as well as digital options of gnomes, but you're going to choose a name and create a social distancing story for your gnome. The deadline to request a digital gnome is April 24th, so you want to get on this pretty quick. For more information about this program, go to DeHub on the Student Involvement page and look for Virtual Gnome Hunt.
The second one I want to touch on is really right up your alley, Dr. E. It's DePaul's Got Talent. This is going to be an online event showcasing the many talents of our students and alumni. And this is a program that's being hosted by Alumni Relations and the Office of Student Involvement. DePaul's Got Talent will take place on May 7th at 7:00 p.m. via live stream. Now, the acts are going to be evaluated by judges and categorized into three different types: music, movement, and variety. There's also going to be a People's Choice Award. Auditions for DePaul's Got Talent are currently taking place via video submission to DPAlumni@depaul.edu through April 23rd. This is going to be a great event, and I'm sure that you and Mrs. E are also going to participate in this one.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Well, that sounds like a whole lot of fun, Gene. Are you allowing professionals?
>> GENE ZDZIARSKI: Well, you know, we do have some professional alumni who could definitely be part of this.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Good. Okay. Thank you, Gene.
Father Memo, everyone is excited to talk about Vincentian Service Day, which is coming up; and we're excited to learn more about what types of service opportunities will be available and how will our students, faculty, and staff be able to participate this year.
>>REVEREND GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: Hello, everybody. St. Vincent de Paul said 400 years ago or so, charity, which is usually expressed in service, is the soul of virtues and the paradise of communities. We understand in the 21st Century that charity alone is not enough, but in crisis like this, charity can be an essential element of how we cope socially. So I would like to invite the DePaul community, faculty, staff, alumni, and the students to register today for the Vincentian Service Day. Go to serviceday.depaul.edu and register.
We are ready to participate in the Vincentian Service Day. This year we invite the DePaul community to participate virtually, remotely, following the guidelines of physical distancing. We have created similar opportunities, different opportunities for people to engage in service. So some options: correspondence and communication. Possible options include the elderly, the sick, healthcare workers, first responders, those experiencing homelessness. We can tell them words that support their situation right now and the work they are doing.
Small donations. We are planning to support local and global Vincentian family organizations: Vincentian Assistance Fund, the Student Emergency Assistance Fund, Inspire DePaul, food banks, and pantries. And, finally, a skilled sharing. Possible options include online teaching, making request masks from community partners, visual assistance for low‑vision individuals, et cetera. There are many possibilities for us to engage in the Vincentian Service Day. Charity is the soul of our virtues and is usually expressed in service. Let's do service, and let's help each other.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Father Memo. I know the PPE 3D printing has been one of the more successful ones, and we've actually received requests for PPE devices from one hospital, agencies as well, because it's not just the hospitals who need these devices. But thank you for your words.
That ends today's DePaul Connection. I'd like to thank our guests. Newsline Daily will announce when our next video update will be available. Please continue to send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Welcome to another edition of DePaul Connection. I would like to welcome our guests for today, EVP Jeff Bethke, Interim Provost Salma Ghanem, VP Mission Father Memo Campuzano, and VP Student Affairs Gene Zdziarski.
Last week, we announced a tuition freeze for new and continuing students. We will also provide students with additional support from a $266 million financial aid pool.
We at DePaul remain committed to providing access to our nationally ranked programs through a diverse community of learners, those with great financial need, and many of whom are first-generation college students.
This summer, we will also extend remote teaching into both summer 1, summer 2, and the law school. Registration is now open so please register.
We made this decision to continue social distancing guidelines. Hopefully, this will slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.
Later, our Executive Vice President Jeff Bethke will share more about DePaul extending its pledge to continue to pay hourly employees and student workers whose work can’t be handled remotely. The university will continue this pledge beyond the May 1st date we had previously shared.
Finally, I want to encourage our DePaul community to continue to practice social distancing. You have likely seen Mayor Lightfoot’s meme to stay home and save lives. I urge you to do the same.
As a Vincentian community that cares for those around us, everyone at DePaul should do what they can to limit the spread of this virus. Now, here are some of the questions you have sent in to DePaul Connection.
Salma, today we start with a question about the option to drop classes. Will DePaul consider extending the deadline to drop classes?
>> SALMA GHANEM: No. We’re not going to extend the deadline, Gabe, but the deadline, so everybody knows, is – was extended a while back because it fell on Good Friday. So, we’ve moved it from Friday to Monday. So, the deadline is April 13th to drop classes. So, students have plenty of time to make that decision. That is about 20% of the time that they have spent during this quarter. It is two weeks. So, that should give them enough time if they need it to drop the class or not.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Salma. With stay at home orders in place, campus stores are not possible at this time. For many of our prospective students and their families, a campus visit can affirm a decision to attend DePaul or move the university to the top of consideration. What are we doing to fill this gap left by our inability to host prospective students on campus?
>> SALMA GHANEM: Well, what we’ve done, Gabe, is we’ve moved all visit opportunities online, including students or prospective students can have one on one appointments with admission counselors. We’ve also moved our open houses online. We have virtual tours. Faculty are also setting up meetings with students and discussing the various topics.
So, basically, if a student is interested in any of those opportunities, they can go to Go.DePaul.Edu/Visit and they will be surprised at the number of opportunities that they have to not only see DePaul but to talk with people at DePaul.
And interestingly, Gabe, I was looking at the numbers this morning. Our applications seem to be going up and obviously the virtual tours seem to be working.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Okay. Thank you, Salma. We also have a question about the law school commencement. Will the June virtual commencements include the law school?
>> SALMA GHANEM: No. Actually, the law – they will not be including the law school but the law school is looking at a variety of opportunities to honor their graduates. But they really have to wait until this crisis passes before they can announce something. But I know they are planning to do something for the law school graduates.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Okay. And we also received, Salma, an interesting question about what is in your background. The question was this. The writer wrote that, “I noticed in the videos that Salma has a black and white picture on her bookshelf. I am curious about the picture and was hoping you can shed more light about it.”
>> SALMA GHANEM: I’m assuming they’re talking about this one. It is actually a very sentimental picture for me. It is a picture of my dad at age twenty-one back in 1945 when he was leaving Egypt, where he is from, to go to France to pursue his graduate degree.
So, it is – it means a lot to me. My father passed away when I was sixteen, just as I was finishing high school, and even though I did a nontraditional path in my education, it took me, I have to confess, ten years to get my undergraduate degree.
I promised myself that one day there would be another Dr. Ghanem to honor my father.
It took me a little while but I got there.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Salma. Very eagle-eyed by our viewers so to speak.
>> SALMA GHANEM: Yeah.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: This is directed to Jeff. Jeff, as I mentioned earlier, we pledged to pay student workers and hourly employees through May 1st even if their work could not be handled remotely. Will this practice extend past that date?
>> JEFF BETHKE: Thank you, Gabriel. Yes. I am delighted to share that DePaul will continue that pledge through June 30th of this year. So, staff who are classified as nonexempt or paid on an hourly basis and whose work could not be handled remotely, first they’ll be considered for alternative duties and tasks within their departments. DePaul will pay the difference between the actual hours worked and their regularly scheduled hours up to June 30th. At that time, we will reevaluate the process again or as that date approaches to determine how best to proceed.
It should be noted that this is not something that the institution can continue to do indefinitely, but we do want to do what we can to support our entire workforce during a really uncertain period.
For students whose work can’t be handled remotely, this extension will be through their agreed upon term of employment for the position that they are holding or June 30th, whichever comes first.
So, if a student is graduating, for instance, that would be the end point. So, one of the university’s priorities throughout this situation has been to take care of our community as best as we can and I think this is one of the ways we’re trying to live that mission.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Jeff. Another question is about personal time off for staff. Because of the stay at home order from the governor issued across many states, the likelihood of taking a vacation in the near future is nil.
Will the university allow employees to carry over all of unused paid time off days to the new calendar year?
>> JEFF BETHKE: Well, I think implicit in the assumption is the likelihood of traveling for vacation is nil. But we encourage employees to continue to take vacation. Many of us are working harder than we ever have before and it is important to use that vacation time to take a break. So, employees should continue to use their earned vacation days and their holidays and their floating days – we’ve got one coming up on Friday with Good Friday – to take a break from the work and reenergize themselves.
We’ve all had to find new ways to try to cope in this – in this challenging situation and performing our jobs from home can be – present all sorts of new stresses. But we need to use that vacation time to find times to pursue hobbies, interests, be with our families, just unwind as best we can.
So, it should be noted that DePaul doesn’t have a paid time off program per se. It is really a collection of vacation, sick, holiday, benefits that are all pooled together. And you know, we look at this with a fairly – on a fairly regular basis in terms of that vacation benefit and we do allow five days to be carried over at the end of the year. Plus, we also offer some twenty additional holidays. I mentioned one just a second ago with Good Friday coming up. But Martin Luther King Day, the Christmas/New Year break, two floating holidays, summer hour days, and the like.
So, we have always tried to have a generous benefit in this regard and we encourage employees to continue to get the most out of it.
This is directed to Gene. A student is about – is asking about healthcare services. Is the AMITA Sage Medical Office still open and available to our students?
>> GENE ZDZIARSKI: Yeah, thanks, Gabe. Our student health services is still open and available to all students. Our service provider, AMITA Sage Medical Group, is located at 1150 West Fullerton Avenue and their hours are 8:15 AM to 5:30 PM, Monday through Friday.
Now, I will note that this Friday they are going to be closed because of that holiday on Friday with Good Friday, but again, they run normal hours throughout the weeks, throughout the spring quarter.
A couple of other things that I’ll note, at this time when we’re dealing with this current health crisis, one of the things they would ask is that before you come to health services, they would ask – they are asking all patients to call in advance. To do that, you can reach them at 773-549-7757. And by calling in advance, they will be able to make sure that they are ready for you when you arrive.
As well as if you are experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19, what they want to be able to do is run through the checklist. And they don’t do testing at Sage – at the AMITA Sage Office but they will refer you to an office where you can get that testing.
So, it is important that you call in advance and perhaps even save yourself a trip.
For more information about student health services, you can look at the webpage by going to GoDePaul.EDU/HealthServices.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Gene. Father Memo, we have a question about the Vincentian Heritage tours. If we were selected – the question is, “If we were selected to be part of a Vincentian Heritage tour, will we still have the opportunity to participate in the trip to France if and when they are ever rescheduled?”
>> REVEREND GUILLERMO CAMPUZANO: Hello, everybody. The first thing that I would like to say is that in the past month, I have been participating in ongoing discernments about our programs and about everything we have and I have seen that in this discernment, the main question for us in making our decisions is what is best for the people we serve. What is the best for all of you?
Unfortunately, we have had to cancel the Vincentian Heritage trips given the current situation and the uncertainty of what the future holds. But we are hoping to run these trips again in 2021.
If you were in one of those trips of this year, we will do our best to have you in the same trip next year as long as we have the trips, as long as these trips run again. Thank you.
>> PRESIDENT GABRIEL ESTEBAN: Thank you, Father Memo. And lastly, we received a question about the DePaul Connection and the question was, would it be possible to have transcripts of the Connection videos posted along with the videos. It would be helpful to reference back to this transcript when reviewing the various updates from leadership.
We have auto-generated transcripts which are available on the YouTube link to the DePaul Connection videos after they are posted, but they do take some time to appear.
In response to this request, we will be adding the transcription for all future DePaul Connection video updates posted on our COVID-19 website.
The full transcription will be available within a couple of days.
We would like to thank you for being part of the DePaul Connection. Newsline Daily will announce when our next video update will become available.
Please continue to send in your questions to DePaul Connection at DePaul dot EDU. Stay safe, stay healthy, and always, take care, DePaul.
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