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The University of Oregon conducted listening sessions for students in the last week of July, where students of different backgrounds answered questions about how COVID-19 impacted them and what the university could do to help.

“We were just trying to figure out ways we could figure out what the students were feeling right now in terms of, what are their issues in terms of basic needs? What are they thinking right now? What are their main concerns, issues?” Dr. Jimmy Howard, Assistant Dean of Students for Prevention and Response, said. “The idea for the listening sessions was kind of born out of that.”

UO held 11 listening sessions throughout the last week of July, each for 90 minutes. Each day had at least two different sessions for different groups, such as LGBTQIAA+, Asian and Pacific Islander students and non-traditional students. While over 160 students were interested, UO limited the number of students to 10 per session, according to Howard.

“Each community is feeling this very differently,” Howard said. “Each community has something unique to share and I think it was important for us to make sure that we provided that opportunity.”

Howard said students’ three main concerns were safety, access to resources and financial wellbeing. Students wanted to know more about the safety of in-person classes and what digital resources they could use, as many rely on equipment loans, book checkout and on-campus study space to succeed. They were also eager to know UO’s plans for spring term, he said.

The student crisis response group wants to use the responses to prepare for incoming students in the fall, Howard said. On a larger scale, though, they will use the information in a collection of surveys as part of larger initiatives at UO.

“We’re hopeful that it will have an impact, because we have students that are willing to share with us what’s going on with them and at the end of the day we want to make sure that information is used,” Howard said.

He said they may dedicate a specific section to college parents in the future, as they heard from staff and students that they wished they had a separate time.

Students who did not attend the listening sessions, but still may have a comment for the university, can contact the Office of the Dean of Students, which can connect with other university departments where the problem can be resolved. There is also a UO COVID-19 website that has links to remote resources for students, as well as federal and university aid.