Stephanie Wiechmann and Stan Sollars
Ball State University is postponing large scheduled fall gatherings as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the country.
The Muncie school said it will move Homecoming activities and Family Weekend to next spring, citing concern for gathering in large groups. And, as Ball State University president Geoffrey Mearns said in an IPR interview Friday, an October graduation ceremony planned to celebrate last spring and summer’s graduates may also have to be moved.
“Given the concerns that I have on campus, the possible plans to do an October commencement, even outside, I think, are becoming less likely.”
Mearns said the university will decide on the fate of that ceremony next week.
On Friday morning, after the first week of on-campus classes concludes, Ball State said 231 students have tested positive through a university-hospital partnership or self-reported a positive test elsewhere. Mearns said he’s concerned, but,“It’s not yet what I would describe as a spike or a hot spot. But certainly those numbers have continued to increase, and so that is an area of concern.”
But on Friday afternoon, Mearns sent out a statement that spoke more seriously about the campus COVID cases. He said, “This concerning trend is apparently the result of poor personal choices some [emphasis his] students are making, primarily off campus. The actions of these students are putting our planned on-campus instruction and activities at risk. Simply put, if these students do not change their behavior, I may be compelled to temporarily suspend all on-campus courses or convert to remote instruction almost all on-campus courses for the remainder of the Fall semester.”
The university said many people are complying with campus safety protocols to stop the spread of the virus. But, Mearns said the school is investigating several complaints of students not following the rules. Those investigations could lead to student suspensions, as they have at other Indiana colleges.