Auburn's Samford Hall

Auburn University has re-released a payment plans for students that will provide a bit of breathing room and aide during the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn.

Auburn’s board of trustees met Friday morning, albeit remotely, to hear how the university is coping with COVID-19.

Auburn President Jay Gogue presented updates on the central campus, the state’s Cooperative Extension System, Auburn Agricultural Experiment Stations and Auburn University at Montgomery.

Auburn University at Montgomery has aligned many of its processes to Auburn University, including beginning remote instruction March 12 said, Carl Stockton, chancellor at Auburn University Montgomery.

“AUM has prioritized the safety of our students and staff and faculty,” Stockton said. “We have a number of protocols in place should a person test positive for COVID-19. With all the disruptions concerning this situation, I believe AUM staff has handled it very well.”

There are still a few students on campus in residence halls, Stockton said, adding that 250 have stayed out of the 1,250.

Many are international students who could not return home, he said.

Study abroad and university travel have been suspended, and many staff members are now working remotely, Stockton said.

“Finally, we made the decision to teach 100 percent remotely this summer and we’ve moved graduation to Aug. 15,” Stockton said. “I want to really commend the faculty, staff and students again for their hard work. We’ve gotten feedback from students and they’re very pleased as to how we transitioned very smoothly.”

“For two weeks, county extension offices have been closed, but our personnel have been very active,” said Gary Lemme, extension director for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

One of the system’s main accomplishments has been its COVID-19 information page with up to date articles and videos, Lemme said.

Stakeholders have taken well to virtual meetings and lectures, Lemme said, with thousands of participants over Zoom.

Similarly, the Alabama Agriculture Experiment Station has continued to operate well and director Paul Patterson likened it to near normal levels.

“We’ve made the decision to keep all experimental operations going forward during this period of adjusted operation,” he said. “Failing to proceed with our experimental work would result in the loss of one year’s worth of experimental data and a failure to perform on contracted research work.”

Despite this, the stations are careful to follow social- distancing guidelines, Patterson said. Many stations have fewer than 10 employees currently working. Others are utilizing a revolving schedule, he said.

Conferring of degreesAuburn University recently announced it would finish the rest of the semester remotely. Additionally, spring commencement has been joined with the summer commencement ceremonies.

Graduating seniors, however, would still like to receive their degrees. The board voted to approve the awarding of degrees.

“Even though students will not participate in commencement ceremonies until a later date, that’s because obviously, the pandemic, it’s still necessary for the board to authorize the awarding of degrees before May,” said board member Charles McCrary.

“That way the graduates can have their degrees when they start their jobs or pursue any advanced degrees in the summer.”

Revenue bonds

The board also approved, should a need arise, a resolution for the future issuance of revenue bonds.

“Let me assure you first, that Auburn’s financial position remains strong,” said Kelli Shomaker, university vice president for business and finance and CFO. “Our transition to remote instruction and operations has had little impact on finances thus far as a result of COVID-19.”

The issuance of bonds is a precaution, however, Shomaker said, as the coronavirus situation is ever-changing.

“COVID-19 has caused incredible volatility in the market over the past month, impacting rates both positively and negatively,” she said. “It has also interrupted the daily lives of our students, faculty and staff.

Therefore it seems prudent to prepare for either a potential long period of interruption that has the potential to utilize unknown amounts of financial resources or borrowing conditions so favorable that the welfare of students, faculty and staff could be greatly enhanced.”

If the situation arises where bonds need to be issued, this resolution specifies that only the board of trustees’ president pro-tem, chair of the finance committee and chair of executive committee need vote for the issuance, rather than the full board, Shomaker said.

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