Recently, the Dynamo reached out to the University of Mount Union’s own President Thomas Botzman for a sit-down interview in which a series of questions regarding COVID-19 would be addressed. 

During our conversation, President Botzman elaborated on several aspects of campus and community responsibility throughout the academic year and how he felt the university handled a safe and successful year along with some hopeful optimism about the return for the upcoming Fall semester. 

We first opened up with the desire to hear President Botzman’s overall impression of how COVID-19 has been handled by all facets of the university. 

“I think overall it’s been really good. You know, you have a lot that you’re trying to do in a short amount of time in a university with a lot of different people who are sort of decentralized by design and who do sort of their own thing...I wish it had been better in many ways and I wished there had been more testing in the Fall so we could have kept more of you out of quarantine and safer but we didn’t have that and my hope is that we won’t need as much of that as we get to next Fall.”

Throughout the year, the university had seen occasional spikes in campus cases (refer to prior COVID-19 stories on the Dynamo for further reference) that seemed to threaten the operation of students and faculty remaining on campus. We inquired about said threat and if shutting back down was ever truly a consideration. 

“I think it was more every day when you get up and you think, ‘oh this could be the day where it all derails’, and talking to the presidents--there’s a lot of schools right now closing in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, so states that are not too far away from us...But we’ve always been very nimble and just thought about how do we just make sure everything just keeps going as much as possible and not worry too much about the stuff we can't do right now. But no, I don’t think we got close and hopefully we don’t get close, it’s not the same at the end of last Spring when it really became apparent that this was not a two-day or Spring Break canceling adventure.”

So what can students expect come next semester? 

“There’s nothing set in stone for next week. I truly hope that by next semester, the majority of our students, faculty, and staff have taken the opportunity to get that vaccine. Whatever vaccine they can, whatever is safe from them, if they can and if they choose to do so, to do it. So we basically get back to or as close to our normal as possible. That’s the plan for the Fall, that’s what we want to see in the Fall.”

Next, we wanted to inquire about how confident President Botzman felt about the chances of returning to some form of normal next time we’re back on campus.

“I put it at 80 to 90 percent. I really think that we are going to get there, but a lot of it depends on us continuing to do the things we need to do to keep each other safe now with wearing our masks and washing our hands and keeping our distance. I’m not going to be too sad when we take down all of our plexiglass in all of the classrooms.”

Lastly, we ended with a question regarding the availability of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine here on campus.

“My hope is that if the health authorities say that the J&J is safe, we can start back up again with that. We said we wanted 1300 doses and we have 360 people get it in the first few days because then we know more of what the Fall semester will look like. We better have a lot more people vaccinated by August or we are going to have a lot more problems.”

Continue checking back to the Dynamo for further news and stories alike. 


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