Positive outlook on COVID-19, progress on redesign of University Seal discussed at Academic Senate Meeting

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Photo by Benjamin Wells

The Academic Senate was held virtually.

The redesigning of the Marquette University seal was discussed at the second Academic Senate meeting of the spring semester Feb. 15.

“Over the last eight months, our group has been working toward updating the university seal,” Karen Parr, art director for Marquette University, said at the meeting. “It’s embedded into high profile spots on campus.”

Currently, the university seal is a painting of Father Marquette with a group of Native Americans. The seal crops Father Marquette overlooking an unfaced Native American. The seal highlights Father Marquette pointing and overlooking an unidentifiable Native American.

The decision to update the seal comes after protests last summer that called for the country to relook at national symbols. The Washington football team was the first example of such a team changing their team logo and name due to its problematic nature.

Alumni Amanda Harris started a petition that kickstarted the discussion to change the seal. The petition was started July 13 and has collected over 500 signatures

Key constituents were consulted for the redesigning of the seal including Indigenous artist consultants Kristelle M. Ulrich and Emil Her Many Horses and members of the Marquette community, like senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and president of the Native American Student Association Alex Liberato.

The new seal plans to “move away” from the representation of Father Marquette above an unfaced Native American, and instead include tribute to the three Indigenous tribes of Milwaukee (Potawatomi, Menominee and Ho-Chunk) and the inclusion of the three rivers in Milwaukee: The Milwaukee, the Menomonee and the Kinnickinnic.

The phased implementation of the seal is expected to begin this summer and continue into 2023. The class of 2021 will be the first class to have the new seal on their diplomas if approved.

“We want a seal with a sense of history, purpose, pride, and healing that supports the efforts of institutional change, progress, and reconciliation,” Parr said.

A concept design of the new seal has yet to be revealed nor has a date been revealed.

At the virtual Senate meeting, Provost Kimo Ah Yun gave a monthly report on the university’s response to COVID-19.

“Things are going well for us this semester,” Ah Yun said. “We learned a lot from the fall semester that we’re rolling into the spring semester.”

Ah Yun also praised the new surveillance testing system the university has put into place this semester. This process selects 500 students for weekly random testing. While tests totals remain high, cases at Marquette remain low.

“Our positive tests remain low … all of our ‘gates’ are firmly green right now,” Ah Yun said.

There have been 36 positive COVID-19 cases at Marquette in the past 14 days. Over 1,000 tests have been done in the past two weeks, which is already a third of the total amount of tests done last semester.

Currently, Marquette University is a vaccination point, but Ah Yun said vaccines are on pause for the moment until all members of Group 1A have been vaccinated across the state. Group 1A consists of those older then 65 and healthcare workers.

“Our hope is that our fall 2021 semester will look similar to the fall 2019 semester,” Ah Yun said in terms of normalcy.

Alix Riley, director of institutional research at Marquette gave a presentation on the key takeaways from the 2020 fall semester academic instructor survey.

According to the research, 80% of the instructors surveyed said that technology was efficient in most classrooms, although “technology challenges” were one of the biggest concerns among instructors.

“ITS (Informational Technology Services) received all problems related to technology on campus,” Riley said. “IT heard in the comments that using Teams brought instructors to bring in two monitors during hybrid instruction so instructors can see both their students and presentations.”

ITS will continue to communicate better functionalities to instructors as Microsoft Teams updates.

Almost all of instructors also said they had to make “accommodations” for students who were in quarantine. This included adjusting due dates and changing lab dates.

Over half of instructors in the survey also said they faced an increased workload along with balancing work and family due to academic changes because of the pandemic. More than half of faculty also said they felt “isolated from their peers at Marquette.”

Mental health was a concern among a majority of staff members as well.

“It is truly going to take a concerted effort to continue this campus culture of ‘care’,” Janice Welburn, dean of libraries, said.

The next academic senate meeting will be on March 22.

 This story was written by Benjamin Wells. He can be reached at benjamin.wells@marquette.edu