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Crow talks graduation plans, sexual assault, COVID-19 in student forum

President Michael Crow said COVID-19 has been successfully managed at ASU

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President Michael Crow answers questions from State Press staff at the Fulton Center in Tempe, Arizona on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. The pandemic would later drive many meetings online, including the student forum with Crow.

ASU President Michael Crow addressed questions about spring graduation, the resources available to victims of sexual assault and more in an online student forum Tuesday.

Crow stressed the importance of people in the ASU community "being there for everybody" while giving his updates on the University. He said in these challenging times, many students have encountered personal, family, financial and psychological stress which is an issue he said will be a top priority to fix.

Crow also talked about the University's plan to resume in-person classes in the fall semester, and why he believes the school is on track to keep students safe.

READ MORE: ASU plans for in-person Fall 2021 semester

"With 10,000 students or so living in our residence halls we have … fewer than 10 people that are infected," Crow said. "If you follow our five or six Community of Care guidelines (and) if you care about other people, we can make this work and we are making it work."

Crow also said the University has experienced "significant" enrollment growth, and this semester, ASU will graduate the largest number of students in the history of the institution.

What are the plans for graduation this year?

During the livestreamed forum, one student mentioned GCU held an in-person graduation in December. Only students could attend, but nonetheless, graduates had the opportunity to walk across the stage.

Crow said the immediate plan is to make graduation at the end of this semester virtual, but he remains cautiously optimistic of those plans changing.

"Right now we're planning for virtual, but we can easily adjust that plan based on changing circumstances," Crow said.

"I understand that it would be disappointing not to have the opportunity after several years of hard work, to not be able to walk for your family," Crow said. "So we're going to look at that very closely."

Crow said the University still has a few more weeks before they make a final decision.

Will students be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to campus in the fall?

Crow said ASU is considering a COVID-19 vaccination requirement similar to the mandatory Measles and Rubella vaccines students must take, although no final decision has yet been made on this issue.

"It sort of depends on where we are relative to the virus itself," Crow said. "We may be requiring vaccines, we may be requiring testing, we don't really know yet."

Crow said his personal advice to students is to take the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them. 

Using the "swiss cheese model," he said taking steps to protect yourself, like wearing a mask and getting tested, are like individual slices of cheese that, when stacked together, create a solid layer of protection which can't be penetrated.

The vaccine is one of the "slices" necessary to fully protect students, he said.

What is ASU doing to support sexual assault survivors in response to the various advocacies regarding this issue? 

Crow redirected this question to Vice President of Student Services Joanne Vogel, who said she has met with the Women's Coalition, and said they're in talks with the group about creating a rape crisis center.

Vogel said outside of the potential crisis center, there are still multiple services already available to students.

"One of the things that I have grown to be more concerned about in my meetings with (the Women's Coalition) is the lack of awareness about some of the work that we are doing," Vogel said. 

"We have victim advocate therapy services and we also are working on the ability for students to access information about those services in an app," Vogel said. "In the fall semester (we) began a partnership working with the city of Tempe and looking at a family advocacy center in Tempe."

READ MORE: ASU’s sexual assault investigation process leaves survivors traumatized, often without justice

Would the school be willing to restructure the ASU Police Department?

In continuation of the sexual assault survivor resources question, a student said ASU PD "has a track record of thwarting, harassing and traumatizing rape survivors," and asked if Crow would consider any sort of reform.

"(My answer) doesn't necessarily mean that I'm agreeing with the premise of the question," Crow said. "What I'm agreeing with is that all police departments, including the ASU Police Department, need to modernize, advance and enhance the way that we work."

Crow said the University is interested in improvement — more specifically to enhance responsiveness to rape victims. This vision is not just within the police department, but within all of the social service-related areas at ASU, he said.

Many freshmen this year missed out on traditions like Welcome Week events. Will these students be able to participate in those events with incoming first year students in the fall?

Crow said those kinds of events are "important baseline" experiences for students, so he wants to ensure everyone is given those same opportunities.

"(I will) make certain that anyone that felt left out of anything in this academic year will have full access to anything that they would like to have access to next year," Crow said.

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