During the virtual State of the University address held on Tuesday, President Ray Watts and faculty members highlighted UAB’s success and high standings on university charts amid the global pandemic and what they plan on doing in the future to stay on top.
“Our community has risen to every challenge, worked unselfishly and many times 24/7 dedicated themselves to the greater good to help us fight this virus and help keep the UAB community and the state safe,” Watts said.
Watts said UAB is leading in COVID patient care and research with $1.4 million going towards research and vaccines and they also funded a total of twenty-four, six-month high impact grants that have produced results that study the mechanisms of the virus and how to stop it.
Along with diligently working to stop the spread of COVID-19, Watts also said UAB experienced a fifth straight year of record enrollment.
“We continued to have one of the most diverse student bodies in the country with 42% of our under graduates being under-represented minorities,” Watts said.
Finances were also a topic of discussion at the virtual meeting. Senior Vice President of finance and administration, Allen Bolton, said there would be no merit program for the current fiscal year due to the financial impact of the pandemic.
“We are spending a lot of resources on COVID testing across campus that will continue to keep us safe not only this semester but through next semester as well,” Bolton said. “We also invested in cleaning supplies and protocols such as face masks that were provided to all faculty and staff.”
Watts responded to this comment and said if these measures were not taken the university would have lost $50 million and through these cost saving measures; the university was able to make up that money and have a balanced budget.
With all the precautionary actions being implemented on campus, UAB experienced an increase in positive cases among students in the past week.
“What we are understanding is that it is not the behavior of our students on campus that is causing the increase, but it is the behavior of students of campus instead,” said John Jones, Vice President of Student Affairs.
Jones said the university plans to take a more proactive approach to help the students understand what the implications are and try to mitigate the rise in cases on the campus.
Senior Vice President of Medicine, Selwyn Vickers said they met with some students and medical leaders about the concern of positive students and how to handle staying safe, but also expressed how proud they were of the students for how hard they have worked to keep the spread of the virus down.
“The whole campus should be extremely proud of UAB’s performance and protecting our staff and students is really being recognized on a national level,” Vickers said. “Yet with that said, there has been an uptick due to off campus activities so that is why we focused on addressing that.”
Faculty is aware of the mental health issues students are experiencing during the pandemic and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and provost, Pam Benoit, is working with the university to get people the help they need to stay mentally stable.
“Our plan for the spring is to continue with the variety of different kinds of instructional methods that we had this term,” Benoit said. “At the same time we recognize that everyone has fatigue with the pandemic and we’re trying to work with students and faculty to find ways to address mental health issues and give opportunities for safe ways to socially engage with others.
Edited by Breeze Yancey & Diane Mwai