By Rebecca McClaine
Copy and Line Editor
On Oct. 8 at 7 p.m., Healthy Campus Bill of Rights at KU will host a live Zoom town hall meeting open to the public.
The organizers hope to address the university’s lack of response to students, faculty and Kutztown residents’ concerns about the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
HCBR invited KU President Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson to attend, but he has thus far declined.
Karen Feridun, a two-time graduate of KU and a resident of Kutztown, is one of the organizers of the upcoming town hall meeting and a member of HCBR. She would like Hawkinson to address concerns in a public forum, rather than doing it individually, electronically or behind closed doors.
Feridun and the townhall organizers maintain that the numerous questions from students, faculty, staff and residents cannot be answered by reading the daily updates or referring to the reopening plan.
“We have been collecting questions for the public hearing. They are a representative sampling of the many questions that people have because, as the university is quick to point out, President Hawkinson has never addressed the public, which is a much more efficient way of communicating information than conducting individual meetings. We are astonished that President Hawkinson is so adamantly refusing to take our questions. We can’t understand why,” Feridun said.
The organizers hope to give voice to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 not just on the KU campus but in the Kutztown community at large. Attendants are encouraged to bring their questions and concerns to share with fellow students, staff and residents.
On Monday morning, university administrators posted this message on KU-related social media sites:
President Hawkinson has informed the organizers of this event that he will not be attending and has expressed his concern that the public is being misled into believing that he is affiliated with this event. He is not affiliated with this event. President Hawkinson has met with numerous constituencies over the past six months to include faculty, students, staff, alumni, donors, legislators, members of the community, etc. to discuss its reopening of a residential experience for KU students. Should an event be planned in the future, notification to the community will come from KU University Relations.
Despite these claims, some students and faculty members believe that their voices are not adequately represented in the choices the university is making in response to COVID-19 and not just for this semester but for the upcoming spring semester too.
President Hawkinson sent this response on Sept. 21 when the group initially requested a town hall style meeting:
Thanks for your input. I have consulted with numerous students, faculty, staff, leaders of the community, alumni, etc. and am well informed of the sentiment with regard to our plan in dealing with the pandemic. Should I think it necessary to have a town hall meeting in the future I will make a public announcement and you would be certainly welcome to participate in my event. Should you have any questions about issues concerning the pandemic, I encourage you to review the KU Pandemic Plan and/or the daily updates. My best wishes.
The town hall meeting organized by HCBR will occur whether or not Hawkinson attends. Despite his stance, they encourage people to contact Hawkinson to motivate him to participate. If Hawkinson does not attend, the organizers plan to send a recording of the event along with a transcript of concerns to the PASSHE chancellor.
HCBR also says they will make a recording of the meeting available to view on social media. They will also send a recording to the KU administration and to members of the press.
To view this town hall meeting on Zoom, follow this link to request access: http://bit.ly/HAWKINSON