Jax State town hall recap: Angle Hall, vaccines, CARES Act funds

JSU President Don Killingsworth speaks with students at the President's Open House on October 10, 2020. Killingsworth and other administrators met on Wednesday to field questions from the JSU community. (Grace Cockrell/JSU)JSU President Don Killingsworth speaks with students at the President's Open House on October 10, 2020. Killingsworth and other administrators met on Wednesday to field questions from the JSU community. (Grace Cockrell/JSU)

Ally Morrison, Correspondent

Jacksonville State University administrators met for a town hall on Wednesday to field questions from the JSU community, where they discussed plans and events for the semester and recapped last week’s Board of Trustees meeting.

In attendance were JSU President Don Killingworth, Provost Christie Shelton, Athletic Director Greg Seitz, Chief of Program Operations Jeff Ryan, Vice President of Finance and Administration Jim Brigham and Vice President of Student Affairs Terry Casey. SGA President Jerod Sharp moderated the forum.

Trustees recap

Killingsworth highlighted the decision of the recent Board of Trustees meeting, including the name change of the Department of Drama to the Department of Theatre and Film.

“That recognizes the current standard and to incorporate the film initiatives that we have going on,” said Killingsworth.

The trustees also approved the purchase of the Brookstone Physician Center for $2.6 million, a facility adjacent to the JSU RMC complex. The purchase of Brookstone was tabled last year, but the university is moving forward with its purchase which “took a lot of negotiating on our end,” according to Killingsworth.

“That property is important for us as we develop our South complex for our School of Health Professions and Wellness,” said Killingsworth. “This has been a priority for us.”

Killingsworth said that the trustees also moved forward with plans to build the Randy Owens Performing Arts Center.

“Additionally, they allowed us to start the design phase for remodeling formerly Wallace Hall,” he said “We look forward to working with Dean Lindblom and School of Science as we move through that process.”

Renaming of Bibb Graves Hall to Angle Hall

After months of discussion amongst JSU administrators and SGA prompted by a student petition, the trustees approved the renaming of Bibb Graves Hall to Angle Hall.

Graves served as governor of Alabama from 1927 to 1935. He was also a grand cyclops of the Montgomery chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, prompting JSU student Matthew Reeves to start a petition to rename the facility after Barbara Curry-Storey, JSU’s first Black student.

However, the university instead awarded the name of the administrative building to JSU benefactors Marcus Angle Jr. and his wife, Mary, who made a private donation to secure the naming rights to the building.

The university will honor Curry-Storey with a marker in front of Angle Hall.

The petition garnered over 3,000 signatures, and led the SGA Senate to unanimously pass a resolution recommending Bibb Graves Hall be renamed. A month later, the Faculty Senate also approved the resolution unanimously.

“I charged the SGA to go and study the names of buildings around campus and come back with recommendations that are offered by the student government,” said Killingsworth.

Killingsworth explained that “it was not an easy decision,” but that the trustees’ goal is to move the campus forward.

“We know this change needs to be made to move forward and have a more unified campus,” he said.

The bust of Bibb Graves will remain in the building and a marker will be placed outside clarifying Angle Hall’s former name, Killingsworth said. He also said that the university is planning to incorporate a fountain in front of the newly-renamed Angle Hall to be called the “Unity Fountain.”

“What are the plans for the dedication ceremony for Angle Hall and will the event be open to the public?” the first question to Killingsworth read.

Killingsworth said that the dedication ceremony will take place either April 19 or April 20 to coincide with the next trustee meeting.

“The public will be invited,” he said. “So, stay tuned for more details.”

Vaccine distribution on campus

Last month, the university requested 10,100 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“Our plan is to move forward and to establish an operation on campus very quickly,” said Ryan. “We’ve decided that Kennamer Hall, the old weight training facility, is probably where we’re going to be setting this up.”

Ryan clarified that the university will be following vaccination guidelines and prioritization provided by ADPH. Last week, the state announced it will move forward with offering the vaccine to people age 65 and older, teachers, food workers and other essential workers starting Feb. 8.

“When we receive, if we receive our allocation from state public health, we will follow the prioritization scheme,” he said.

CARES Act funding for students

Brigham announced that JSU students will be eligible for CARES Act funding this semester, as with last semester, where many students received $800 credited to their student account.

The CARES Act — or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — was a bill signed into law last year to provide “fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses,” according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Last year, the university dispersed around $3 million in direct payments to a “select group of students,” according to Brigham, and another supplemental Act was signed in December to provide JSU with another $3 million.

“The range for funds for our [full-time] students based on need goes from $800 down to $100,” said Brigham. “Our part-time students, it goes from $400 per student down to $50 per student.”

Graduate students will be eligible for funding this time around, Brigham said, with a range of $200 per student to $100 per student.

Brigham expects the funding to be available to students in the second or third week of February.

JSU athletics; new conference

As for the future of sports, Athletic Director Greg Seitz provided insight into JSU’s recent decision to return to the Atlantic Sun Conference after 18 years in the Ohio Valley Conference. 

“The university made the decision to leave the Ohio Valley Conference due to geographical reasons, and will continue in July with the ASUN Conference,” he said.

Seitz explained that Jacksonville State is the most southern school in the Ohio Valley Conference and that one-way mileage to all OVC schools adds up to 3,996 miles. The new conference brings that down to about 1,300 miles, Seitz said.

Seitz detailed the university will now have the opportunity to play against its biggest rivals, such as Kennesaw State University and the University of North Alabama. 

Seitz also said students will now have to claim their tickets to athletic events and games due to the restrictions set in place due to COVID. 

“Free of charge, students can claim their tickets to games on their myJSU accounts,” he said.

Other updates and announcements

Shelton announced that students will be able to attend the inauguration ceremony of Killingsworth on April 9.

An RSVP for the event is expected to be sent out around Feb. 17, according to Shelton.

Shelton and Casey detailed events taking place on campus the week leading up to the inauguration, which will begin March 28. This will include a campus tailgate for all faculty and staff, a family fun day including a color run for the Jacksonville community and a student-wide community service project with a cookout at the President’s house to follow.

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