Faculty, administrators stay prepared for swine flu

Professors at Oswego State are prepared to deal with the advancing threat of the swine flu, despite that fact that not many professors have become ill with the flu thus far.

Richard Skolnik, dean of Oswego State’s School of Business, said that the swine flu has not hit any professors, at least in his department, but they are nevertheless taking the threat of the flu seriously.If a professor feels sick, they should not come to class, he said.Instead, they should keep their students on track using Angel.He adds that professors can help prevent spreading germs to other faculty members by wiping down podiums in lecture halls and shared computers with antibacterial before and after class.

Oswego State Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Rhonda Mandel, said that when professors become ill, colleagues in the department tend to help pick up

"Other people in the department will help out and step up short term," Mandel said.

According to Mandel, the flu has yet to make a significant round in either the sciences or liberal arts department, and is not expecting that it will not have too big of an impact on professors.

"It doesn’t seem bad," she said.

Linda Rae Markert, Dean of Education, agreed with Mandel.While H1N1 has yet to strike a significant amount of staff, the department’s plan on how to combat it is the "same for the swine flu as it is for any illness," she said.

If professors cannot come in for class, the department will either try to find another faculty member to cover the class or hire an adjunct professor until the illness passes.

"We will find a way to cover it," she said.

Jean Grant, head of the Mary Walker Health Center, said that although the center does not have many interactions with the staff unless professors initiate it, they are trying to keep professors updated about their students’ health.When students are treated for the swine flu, they can sign a ‘practice agreement,’a release that lets professors see what date the student came in for treatment.

Grant also said that a round of seasonal flu vaccines have been distributed onto 950 students on campus. A special round for faculty has also gone out, and Jean Grant says that only 58 vaccines were given.The vaccine doesn’t protect against the swine flu, but H1N1 vaccines are expected to be available on campus soon.

According to Grant, if professors should get sick, the best option remains to just stay home and out of contact with other.

"They should do exactly what students should do," Grant said, including keeping their hands away from their faces, washing their hands often, and telling sick students to stay in their dorms.

Professors, meanwhile, continue to try to do what they can to fight against a classroom outbreak.Disinfectant wipes have been made available in most classes, and wiping down the computers, keyboards and desks in the classroom is being encouraged by staff to help slow the spread of the flu.

"My job with respect to the H1N1 flu is to inform students of precautions, such as using tissues and staying home when sick, especially with a fever; be prepared to provide alternative assessments if students who are feeling sick cannot come to a quiz or exam; get vaccinated; stay home if I am having flu-like symptoms, so as not to infect others," philosophy professor Jean Chambers said.

"There are Clorox wipes at the instructor’s station in each room, so that we can wipe down the surfaces that we will touch both before and after class. Additionally, we are encouraged to get vaccinated against H1N1," Benjamin Hance, a computer science professor said.

Professors are given sick time so that they can cancel classes to prevent spreading the virus should they become sick.If it happens on a day when class cannot be canceled, like for a midterm or final exam, "It generally would not be hard to find a colleague to administer the exam for us," Hance said.

Substitutes, however, might not be the best option for regular days of class, Hance said, because the individual professors define both the format and content of their classes.

Kal Alston, associate provost at Syracuse University, said that they have also asked sick staff to stay home.

"We also asked them to begin to develop strategies that would work, given the program and curricular dimensions, size of the faculty, etc., for the potential absences of the faculty members for their own illnesses or illnesses of dependents for whom they might need to provide care," Alston said.

Other colleges in the state are taking similar precautions.SUNY Brockport, Albany, and Fredonia all keep updated information on the H1N1 flu on their websites, for both the students and professors to access.