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WC housing staff busy helping displaced students

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While COVID-19 is displacing most of the world emotionally, students at Weatherford College will not be left without a home during the battle against the coronavirus.

With students occupying dormitories in colleges throughout the nation being asked to go home during the crisis, that is not always an option. Some do not have the financial resources to travel home, which could be a long distance, and in some cases not even in the United States.

For those, WC Director of Housing Faith Stiffler said measures are being taken to make sure they remain sheltered and comfortable.    

"Through a formal process, and with need considered, they are able to register to remain on campus by e-mailing me," she said. "I am receiving e-mails daily from students considering this option."

As with most colleges, WC has a number of foreign students on campus. Returning home to their native country is, obviously, much more of a challenge than other students.

"We currently have three international students that are unable to go home at this time," Stiffler said. "They are remaining at Coyote Village until they are able to return home. I check in with them daily, and they are able to e-mail or call me if any need arises."

All coursework will move to an online environment when classes resume March 30 and will remain so indefinitely during the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. However, with the campus closed, including the student center and cafeteria, the issue of feeding students in Coyote Village is being addressed with boxed meals as well as through the generosity of others, including the non-denominational campus college ministry C2, International Students Inc., and Baptist Student Ministries.

"We have had great support from community organizations. They routinely provide a network of services for all our students and are stepping up in this situation," said Mike Endy, vice president of instruction and student services. "For example, we are blessed to have a well-stocked food pantry hosted by our neighbors at the Wesley Foundation. We expect those resources to be needed more than ever now. We also have some wonderful individuals coming forward to serve our students.”

Through it all, President Tod Allen Farmer stressed student safety is the highest priority. Students who are moving out of the residence halls are being helped in the process, he said. While shutting the campus down was a tough decision, he acknowledged, Farmer said there was no other choice given the current societal environment.

"I have taken a little heat for closing campus prior to Spring Break and moving instruction online, but public safety demands decisive action during this unprecedented COVID-19 threat," Farmer said. "We will complete the Spring 2020 semester online and have postponed commencement until the COVID-19 threat has passed."

Stiffler said about a half dozen students remain in the dorms currently, with another 12 or so returning at the end of Spring Break. The students are spread throughout the facility, so there is no close contact. They are allowed to come and go as needed, following the same precautions as all others.

"We have just asked that they do not bring in any guests - students, residents or otherwise - at this time," she said.

Endy said a host of WC staff members have rallied to help the displaced students.

"The most important thing is that we are taking care of our students and our staff,” he said. “While we are temporarily shuttering most of our housing units to help fight the spread of COVID-19, we are also making arrangements to safely house those who will stay with us. We have dedicated international student, student life, and student housing staff members to keep in touch with our residents while they are physically isolated during this situation. We also have a number of professional staff members from across the college who are actively engaged with our international student organization. They have been coming forward to help.”

Endy added that Doug Jefferson, associate dean of student life, is working with staff to make sure students in dorms are being offered some forms of entertainment as well. For example, there are a variety of films that can be checked out from the library and the Anime Club has resources to share.

"While these are uncertain times, I am confident in my colleagues. The level of support and concern for everyone’s well-being has been extraordinary," said Adam Finley, executive dean of student services.

Stiffler echoed that support.

"Even though this time is challenging, it is an incredible time to be a part of the Weatherford College family and support one another," she said. "I have also been amazed by the patience and understanding from each of my residents and their parents during such an unforeseen and uncertain time."
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by Rick Mauch