Tupelo • Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., commissioner of higher education for the state of Mississippi, has established a 16-member Safe Start Task Force to develop a plan for universities to start and complete the fall 2020 semester “in the safest and most effective way.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented disruption to all facets of our society and university operations are not excluded,” Rankins said. “Regardless of the challenges, our universities are committed to providing the best and safest educational experience possible for their students and the most productive and safest work environment for their employees.”

Two administrators from each of the state’s eight universities will provide input through the Institutions of Higher Learning’s task force.

Mississippi State University Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. David Shaw will serve as chair of the task force.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum said he has tremendous confidence in how Shaw and the university’s other task force member, Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Regina Hyatt, will contribute to the work of the IHL task force.

“I’m deeply encouraged to see the leadership of our university system taking concrete steps toward envisioning and defining what reopening our universities for the fall 2020 semester would look like and formulating policies to facilitate that action,” Keenum said.

MSU’s intention – within the confines of official federal and state government guidance and that of the leadership of recognized public health agencies – is to move efficiently and effectively toward a reopened and vibrant university delivering academic content in classrooms and laboratories, Keenum said.

“Clearly, we have a tremendous amount of work to do in assessing how we safely reach those goals, but I am hopeful we can attain them and still provide a safe and nurturing educational environment for our students, faculty, staff and the surrounding university community,” Keenum said.

University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce said in a letter to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday afternoon that the university’s status for the fall 2020 semester has not changed for all classes on the Oxford and regional campuses at this time.

“We remain committed to pursuing all possible ways to resume in-person instruction,” Boyce wrote. “We continue to monitor the evolving situation and plan accordingly with preserving the safety, health and well-being of our campus community as our top priority. Any future changes to our plan will depend on how the public health emergency unfolds over the coming months.”

UM leadership will release plans for fall 2020 no later than June 30, according to Boyce.

The two members of IHL’s Safe Start Task Force from Ole Miss are Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for Administration and Finance, and Dr. Charlotte Pegues, interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

Due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, all meetings of the task force will be held remotely.

The members of the Safe Start Task Force include:

Alcorn State University

Dr. Keith McGee – Interim vice president and executive vice president for Academic Affairs

Dorothy Davis – Director of Health and Disability Services

Delta State University

Dr. Charles McAdams – Provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs

Dr. Michelle Roberts – Vice president of Executive Affairs and chief of staff

Jackson State University

Robin Pack – Executive director for Human Resources

Dr. Carlos Wilson – Interim director of School of Lifelong Learning

Mississippi State University

Dr. David Shaw – Provost and executive vice president

Dr. Regina Hyatt – Vice president for Student Affairs

Mississippi University for Women

Dr. Tammie McCoy – Professor and dean of Nursing and Health Sciences

Jason Trufant – Director of Athletics and Recreation

Mississippi Valley State University

Dr. La Shon Brooks – Chief of Staff and legislative liaison

Joyce Dixon – Vice president for Business and Finance

University of Mississippi

Larry Sparks – Vice chancellor for Administration and Finance

Dr. Charlotte Pegues – Interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs

University of Southern Mississippi

Chad Driskell – Vice president for External Affairs

Dr. Amy Chasteen – Executive vice provost for Academic Affairs


Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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