The Covid-19 pandemic caused sudden global turmoil. Brac University identified the risks from the pandemic as early as January. Vice-Chancellor Professor Vincent Chang invited IEDCR Director Professor Dr. Meerjady Sabrina Flora to a seminar on the ‘Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19)’ on February 19, 2020, to discuss preventive measures and deliver valid information about the virus. The seminar took place even before the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Bangladesh, on March 8, 2020. Measures like temperature checking and distribution of hand sanitizers were practiced during the weeks before the shut-down in March.
The shut-down was followed by Brac University’s first major decision to finish the spring semester 2020 timely for the sake of students’ welfare, while maintaining academic integrity. This decision was followed by two additional student-centric initiatives, namely the launching of both Student Assistant Fund (SAF) for the summer semester and the Brac University online learning platform called buX.
Continuing Student Assistance Fund
The Vice-Chancellor was most concerned about the welfare of the students and launched in May the Student Assistant Fund (SAF) for the summer semester 2020 to ease students’ financial burdens. Initially, TK15 crores (US$1.8 million) were committed for the Fund in the summer. That sum was adjusted to TK23 crores (US$2.7 million). Every student received full non-tuition fee waivers and 10% tuition scholarships. Some received more than 10% and up to 100%.
Now, as the fall semester is approaching, the pandemic remains a challenge. Super cyclone Amphan and the flooding in July added to the situation. Professor Chang therefore decided again to pool various funds to keep SAF running, although the university itself has faced very tight financial constraints.
The components of the SAF for the upcoming fall semester will be similar to those for the summer semester: Every student will receive full non-tuition fee waivers and 10% tuition scholarships. Some may receive more than 10% in the form of additional help.
Continuously Improving buX
In June, Professor Chang introduced Brac University’s online learning platform buX. Brac University is first to provide the students with an in-house learning platform. The university understands the difficulties of remote learning that students face, like low bandwidth and difficult accessibility in remote areas. buX aims to tackle those issues and give all students access to university teaching. Adjusting to the new platform has been challenging for both students and faculty. So, Professor Chang is committed to continuously improving buX.
“Our students are our top priority. buX is the heart of ‘Brac University X’, our new virtual campus. It shall enrich remote learning and be accessible to all students. It is our intent that with SAF and buX, we leave no one behind,” said Professor Chang.