The Franklin Co-Executive Editor Taylor Wooten checks in with Franklin College President Kerry Prather about nationalist flyers spotted near campus, new statewide COVID-19 restrictions and possibilities for Immersive Term classes.
Read on for a lightly edited transcript from their conversation.
Taylor Wooten: There were some flyers found around campus advertising a group called the America First Nationalists Union…we were wondering if you were aware of this and if the school has a plan to address it, because I know that at least a few people have shown concern that they're targeting students of color with their message.
President Prather: Well, we don't know that for a fact although I'm concerned about the placement of it. So we're trying to research it right now. A couple of things that I would say, number one, hats off to the physical plant staff who had the presence of mind to take them down. And secondly, once we get a firm handle on what we think it represents, then, to the extent that we can… obviously, you know, there's a there's a limit to your ability to keep narrow minded people from doing narrow minded things, but our obligation is to wrap our arms around our own community and let them be reassured that we will protect and support them. So, we're still, you know, it's still fresh, so we're still trying to exactly figure out the details of it. But it's my first instinct.
TW: Are there any plans with the COVID numbers going up in Johnson County to potentially change how Immersive Term will look or even like the upcoming athletic seasons for the winter and spring?
PP: Well, it's all in flux, Taylor, and we're all kind of ricocheting off of the external environment. So much like we approach the fall semester and then much like we kind of dealt with various ups and downs during the fall, we’re in constant contact with both the county health department and our partners at Johnson Memorial Health…as recently as this morning. I talked with [Dr. Craig Moorman] and [Dr. David Dunkel]. So we'll just continue to monitor it and hope that it scales back down… It's interesting. In the spring, when other counties spiked, we were somewhat blessed in terms of hospitalizations and ICU units and all of that. But nobody's been spared this spike…the entire state is kind of under siege right now. I talked to the dean this morning about contingency plans for every possibility and we'll just approach to that as we go but I get I could also tell the faculty will make decisions in a timely enough manner that they can obviously prepare for, however, we're going to approach Immersive Term and then the start of the spring semester. Athletics falls in the same category…we've got a contingency in place for the winter sports. And we're just we're just going to have to play that week by week.
TW: Are you considering that Immersive Term classes could be online?
PP: Yeah, they could be although, you know the experience of the fall semester, and the months leading up to the fall semester, and the debrief, such as it's been, thus far, about the fall semester is that our default position is that we will have classes in person. And so, if it is ever deemed to be the case that we can't safely do that, then we'll make a pivot. But we would not opt to exercise that option, except by necessity.
TW: Do you have any idea how many students opted to stay on campus during this time?
PP: You know, I don't Taylor I'm curious, and I've had passing conversations with Dean Jones. Our best indicator is obviously food service. So I think if you circle back with him, he could give you a ballpark. It'd be inexact but it would be probably the best barometer of that.