Prather

The Franklin Co-Executive Editor Alexa Shrake and Tabby Fitzgerald catch up with Franklin College President Kerry Prather about COVID updates on campus, Enrollment, and new weight room construction.

Read on for a lightly edited transcript from their conversation.

Tabby Fitzgerald

Circling back to last week, do you have an updated number on the amount of students that have been vaccinated?

President Prather

The unvaccinated category included 25 or 30 students who are partially vaccinated, so that percentage will go up as those students finish the process.

So right now, the total student body is just a tick over 70% vaccinated. So that includes all the graduate students, our resident undergraduate students are actually almost 71%. So that's also good.

Total faculty is about 91%, total staff 73.5%. So the total campus community includes everybody, full and part-time, it's about 73% vaccinated. So all of those are good numbers. And I say good, because they will continue to rise we've got Dean Jones and his staff have indicated from students that more of them continue to get vaccinated, and the partially vaccinated are going to complete that process. So that'll keep that will keep ticking.

TF

And is 70%, about the percentage for students to be able to, like, take their masks off, and that is vaccinated across campus, or it was a weak, higher number.

PP

We don't have a number. What we're going to do is take all this information, give it to our physicians, and then the equation becomes what are you managing. What does that tell you about, essentially, the unvaccinated population? Is that manageable, and to what extent in what settings with what level of mitigation, so we'll let them decide that and then adjust our policies according to their recommendations. They'll take a more global look at what the greater environment is, too. But the goal ultimately would be in stages. So because for example, we can't spread classes out, I think in a typical classroom, you would remain in masks whether or not you would have to in other indoor settings where you could manage your own distancing. If you're vaccinated, that's what I'd like to get to. Because I think that's the next logical step in taking advantage of the vaccination status without jeopardizing anyone's health. The important underlying concept here is it's we're talking about manageability. The question is, do you have a population now that you can manage by way of their continued unvaccinated populations continue to use mitigation protocols and appropriate surveillance testing. The other piece of this that our physicians will tell us is, given that population, here's the frequency and the scope, that we think your surveillance testing of unvaccinated students is adequate. And then we'll follow their advice on that too. I'm comforted in that respect. With what we've got planned right now because there's a layer underneath what we do to the general student population, that the athletic the athletes are going through anyway. So there's kind of a double layer of surveillance going on.

Alexa Shrake

Have you guys started surveillance testing?

PP

The surveillance of the surveillance testing of the athletes has already begun. I think the surveillance testing of the non-athlete students, I think starts this week.

TF

Were [athletes] tested before they came back to campus?

PP

They were all tested before they came back to campus. And then they’re surveillance tested. Surveillance testing started as their seasons began. So the NCAA has a protocol for how many of them are tested and how often.

TF

With international travel canceled for J-Term, do you think that domestic travel will still happen?

PP

Or there'll be I sure hope. The dilemma with international travel is because of how we pay for that. It's those decisions that have got to be made so much earlier, so that needed the students nor the institution lose a bunch of money. And given where the international levels of warning are both the State Department and CDC, we just couldn't wait another month or six weeks to see if it looked better, because students would lose 1000s of dollars, the institution would lose 1000s of dollars. So I hated that because we had the most students signed up that I think we've ever had. We don't have those same timeline constraints to the domestic travel will have some, but they won't be as hard and fast and there won't be as much money in the balance. So at a minimum, we'll have more time to make those decisions. And there are other issues too. You know, if you have a health crisis on a domestic trip, it's a different set of circumstances than if someone were overseas in a third world country or whatever, so hopefully, those will be able to go. That's our goal.

TF

Would you be able to talk about that a little more like what the plans are for enrollment?

PP

We brought Thandabantu Maceo as the Vice President for Enrollment with the goal of building enrollment if not to physical capacity. At least to a consistent level that from an efficiency standpoint and a financial standpoint, let's replace, run with some financial margin. We've got room for a couple of 100 more students. Our goal is, and we're really talking about growing back, because, at one point, we were at 1070, just shy of that. We've talked about strategies within the enrollment division, how to more proactively connect the prospective student market with all of the geographical and academic profiles associated with it, with academic programs on campus, that have historically been particularly successful, kind of high profile programs where there is room for growth in those. We've talked about continuing to grow our enrollment of underrepresented populations of students, where we have underperformed in the past and this year's class, we took a pretty significant jump in minority student recruitment, which is huge. We need to continue on that path. We'd like to be more actively proactively engaged in the international student market, even though COVID. But if you take COVID out of the equation, from a growth standpoint, it's healthy for the campus from a diversity standpoint, but it also is an avenue that will allow us to grow. So and we need to focus on making sure that our non-athlete population continues to grow, we've got a growing set of student-athletes. But to keep all of that in balance, it's important for us to be really intentional about non-athletes, student recruitment, as well. So all of those are kind of pieces of the puzzle. We've got a new consulting firm, that I think is going to be a better partner for us than what we've had previously. And that's a part of the industry has to do with strategy and financial aid, leveraging, and all of the pieces that go into this. So I'm excited about that, I think that will prove to be helpful. And there's a certain amount opening up that's going to go on in terms of college fairs in high school visits, it's been confining not to be able to make those face to face interactions with prospective students in those settings that have traditionally brought us campus visits, and once we get students to campus, we yield those students at a pretty high rate. But that's been a challenge. So we'll see what this winter brings.

AS

With refugees at Camp Atterbury, what can FC do to help out or anything?

PP

That's a good question. I reached out to Hannah Adam's Ingram over the weekend with that very question. And so they apparently have an organization that is coordinating all of the volunteer efforts and the donation efforts. Once we figure out what they really need, and then how we can be helpful with that we will share that with the whole community. We don't know how long they're going to be there. It may be as little as a couple of weeks. So I don't know that. We won’t be in a position to actually physically go there and help out in ways that you would like to, but even if we can provide resources, donations, we'll do whatever we can.

AS

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 coming up, is FC doing anything for that?

PP

We've got a salute on the service day on 9/11 in conjunction with the home football game. Other than that, I think we will probably rely on whatever the community is doing. But we'll have a conversation about that tomorrow in the cabinet as well.

AS

So how would you say 911 changed campus?

PP

Oh, I think it changed everything. Less, probably, for you folks who didn't live through it is not like seared in your memory, like it is mine. But I think if it created a sense of vulnerability that we had not known, you know. So I'm not old enough to have been around when, you know, there was World War Two sense of maybe you could be attacked. The Cold War was, was always at a distance. It was a concept that people worried about, but it wasn't kind of front and center. That was really the first time that anything had happened in our country, which would lead you to think that we weren't completely safe. I think that's had a residual effect on folks. Probably, again, more my generation than yours. But how that play itself out? I don't know. I hope, maybe in more positive ways than negative ways. And overall I think we have some sense that it kind of brought families closer together and kind of emphasize the importance of community and friendships and, and then just the link among humans in our society, but in sum total, why I suspect historians will probably be better at figuring that out.

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