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Ball State Opens New Year With Socially Distant Convocation, Believes Students Will Be Safe

By Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR News | Published on in Ball State, Education, Health, Local News
University President Geoffrey Mearns (Photo: Ball State University)

Ball State University has opened its new academic year with a traditional convocation ceremony – with an untraditionally small in-person audience because of the coronavirus pandemic.  As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, university officials thanked staff and students for adjusting to last year’s on-campus closure and promised good things ahead.


The university begins in-person classes on Monday.  Students this semester have the option to take classes on campus or online.  Ball State says faculty moved 900 traditionally on-campus classes online to make it happen.

Despite the pandemic changing the college experience and uncertainties about enrollment, university President Geoffrey Mearns announced good news.  Ball State’s retention rate – which maps how many students that begin to study at Ball State stay for a second year – is up five percentage points from the last academic year.

For the students and faculty returning to campus while COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide, Mearns says, “Because of the pandemic, we have come to realize that we are, in fact, increasingly dependent on each other – increasingly dependent on each other for our safety, for our health, and for our personal well-being.”

Like other universities, Ball State has adjusted its campus spaces for recommended coronavirus restrictions and sanitation.  It is requiring wearing face masks indoors and distancing everywhere.

Before classes begin Monday at West Lafayette’s Purdue University, that school announced three dozen students have been suspended for not following the school’s coronavirus restrictions.  In an IPR interview, Mearns said the student conduct code at Ball State allows any student to be disciplined if they cause harm or hinder the safety of another person, even off-campus.  That could apply to COVID precautions.

“So we are going to continue to monitor the compliance of every member of the university community with our protocols, and we’re prepared to respond if there are people who are not complying with those protocols.  And I’m confident that our students are also aware of the kind of conduct that puts their ability to stay on campus at risk, either individually or collectively.”

Off-campus and extracurricular socializing has seen a number of universities across the country move classes online temporarily or for the rest of the semester after only a short time on-campus.  State health officials say it could happen to any college, and have asked students to weigh the risks and benefits of any socializing event.