Release Date: 
Monday, May 18, 2020

VP of Student Affairs publishes journal article about HFC’s pandemic response

Daniel Herbst

HFC Vice President of Student Affairs Daniel Herbst recently published an article in the May issue of Perspectives on the Community College, a publication of Ferris State University. In his article, “Staying Safe Within the Pandemic”, Herbst wrote about the steps community colleges are taking in response to pandemic-related challenges.

Herbst spoke about how HFC leaders would meet daily, sometimes more than once, in the early days of the pandemic. Their top priority was maintaining the safety of the campus community while providing students with a quality education. Often, once a course of action was decided upon, it would become obsolete later that same day due to changes initiated by the government, the Department of Education, or health officials. HFC leaders would have to regroup and plan another course of action.

There was no precedent for operating in a pandemic.

“The responsibility to repeatedly make life-altering decisions was exhausting. Students, faculty, and staff began to express genuine concerns about their safety and the safety of their families. Soon, many began to stay away from the campus. On March 16, 2020, HFC halted all on-campus teaching and reduced student services. Students were delayed from returning from spring break by one week in order to allow faculty to convert all classes and services to online wherever possible,” wrote Herbst.

Working from home

When the Winter 2020 Semester began, HFC offered a total of 2,374 course selections. Of these, only 368 sections (16%) were online. HFC was able to convert 1,771 in-person classes (88%) to an online format in a matter of five days, allowing students to continue their education. The other 235 sections, which required students to utilize hands-on equipment and labs on campus, were postponed until further notice.

The Office of Student Affairs responded to this change by moving all student services to alternative formats where staff would be able to work from the safety of their homes. Registration, academic advising, counseling, financial aid services, Detroit Promise counseling, disability services, Veterans services, and early alert were converted to remote formats. Student Affairs staff used email, texting, telephones, and video chats and Microsoft Teams to stay connected with students.

“No one would have believed most Michigan community colleges would be operating from faculty and staff basements, kitchen tables, and home offices as 2020 began,” wrote Herbst. “I am willing to say that after barely more than a month of the great educational experiment, it is working better at Henry Ford College than anyone would have ever imagined – and at most community colleges across Michigan as well.”

An image of the article is below; you may access and read the article online here.