‘We can’t get into a situation where they’re coming back’: Students who rely on WSU WiFi may have to get creative or drop classes


Noah Merrell

Sophomore Elijah Maples reads his textbook in the 24 hour study room in Ablah Library.

Campus isn’t closing, but students without reliable internet at home will have to make tough decisions about their health and academics as Wichita State prepares to shift all classes online for the rest of the semester.

Amidst the chaos of Wichita State’s Monday decision to call off in-person classes, The Sunflower posed a difficult question to President Jay Golden:

In an online-only format, all students will need internet access for classes. What about students whose only source of reliable internet is WSU’s campus? Should they come to campus to complete classwork or heed the university’s advice and stay home?

“Good question,” Golden responded, drifting off into thought for a full 10 seconds before referring reporters to other administrators.

“I’m sure Vice President Teri Hall and the provost (Rick Muma) probably have maybe more specifics, so I might reach out to them just for what their specific thinking is or what they’ve done on campus to help support that,” Golden said.

He later circled back to the question.

“Certainly, there are areas that you could just self-isolate on campus — especially if the weather’s nice — and reach WiFi, but I don’t want to make promises,” Golden said.

Muma acknowledged that returning to campus is far from optimal for students.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re trying to remove people from this campus, so we can’t get into a situation where they’re coming back,” he said.

“What I’ve been telling faculty and deans, department chairs, is that if they have students with no other option — they can’t go anywhere else, they don’t have a local library that has WiFi or whatever — then let’s determine who those people are and we’ll try to make some arrangements for them.”

Friday morning, Interim Chief Information Officer David Miller told The Sunflower that WSU can do very little to help students without reliable internet access at home.

“We don’t have any way to address that for them,” Miller said.

“The reality is, we’re not going to be able to solve every problem for everybody. That’s just the honest answer.”

WSU has purchased 200 laptops and 200 Chromebooks to loan to students and instructors who don’t have the technology they need to make the online switch.

Hall said students still have the option to rely on WSU’s technology and internet to complete online classwork.

“We still haven’t technically closed down campus, so the library computers would still be up and running and available for students as well,” she said, adding that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the Rhatigan Student Center, which has 13 computers, will also remain open to students.

But some students may be unwilling to finish out the semester on campus, either for their own health or for the health of family and loved ones who may be more susceptible to COVID-19.

Hall said the prospects for such students aren’t good.

“Well, that might be an issue of a withdrawal from a class more so than something else,” she said.

“You might want to talk to Provost (Rick) Muma about that, because if students are some place where they don’t have access to the internet and don’t still want to come on campus because they want to be safe, then they’re going to probably have to withdraw from the class.”

In an online-only format, that would probably mean withdrawing from all classes.

Muma said WSU will do everything it can to help students through these challenging times. If students have questions, he said they should reach out to their department chairs and deans.

“Basically, we’re dealing with these as a one-off as they come to us, and we’ll try to help the students as best we can,” Muma said.