Smeal Update: April 10, 2020

Dear Smeal Community,

Welcome to another edition of the Smeal COVID-19 Update, which includes important information regarding the University’s response to the pandemic and the impact on Smeal.

Our Smeal Coronavirus FAQ page contains links to the University’s faculty/staff FAQs and other pertinent information.

I would like to take another opportunity to compliment your continued determination in helping Smeal meet the academic needs of our students. Please watch this video.

 University unveils commencement plans

  • Penn State will hold one livestreamed ceremony on May 9, to include remarks from University leaders, a representative of the Alumni Association, a Board of Trustees member, music, video elements, and conferring of degrees. Smeal and all other colleges will have a portion of the website, which can include digital slides recognizing each graduate, a written message and videos.
  • The University is also committed to inviting the Class of 2020 back to campus for in-person celebrations when public health guidelines allow.

Regarding Zoom Security and Disruptive Online Behavior

  • Recent news reports of security concerns have generated much discussion nationally and internationally regarding the use of Zoom as a communication mode for teaching, learning and communication.
  • At Penn State, some instructors have experienced online classroom disruptions by participants who are not enrolled in the course or at the University. This practice, termed “Zoom-bombing,” is a type of online harassment where a stranger hijacks a video conference that is available via public link to wreak havoc, such as using screen-sharing features to show offensive or malicious content or spouting hateful or threatening language. 
  • Read a letter from Richard Sparrow, acting chief information security officer, Office of Information Security. 

Smeal Community survey deadline nears

  • For those who haven’t already, please take some time to participate in the Smeal Community survey, which was designed to get a sense of what individuals might be lacking or craving during these trying times. 

The impact of COVID-19 on sustainability

  • Erik Foley has announced that the Sustainability Advisory Board meeting has been postponed. Instead, Foley has organized a virtual fireside discussion at noon April 15: “ The Impact of Coronavirus on Sustainability and Social Impact.” 

CSCR continues to share supply chain expertise

  • The Center for Supply Chain Research® has scheduled its next virtual town hall for 11:45 a.m. April 16. In addition to CSCR’s weekly COVID-19 review, Jim Thomas, the Elliott Professor of Risk Management, will deliver a prerecorded presentation titled “Decision Making in Times of Chaos.”

Need a new virtual background?

  • Penn State’s Office of Strategic Communications has shared some new virtual backgrounds you can download via box. Visit the Zoom Help Center for usage instructions. To ensure backgrounds display properly, uncheck the “mirror my video” option in your Zoom virtual background settings.
  • Penn State Smeal virtual backgrounds are now available in this Box folder.

Keep a watchful eye out for students in distress

  • The pandemic has created some acute challenges, especially for students. If you are aware of a student who is experiencing emotional distress, financial hardship, food insecurity, or a similar challenge, please consider the following:
  • Referring them to Penn State Counseling and Psychological Services, which is operational and providing services via telephone at 814-863-0395.
  • Donating to the Student Care and Advocacy Emergency Fund.
  • Donating to the Lion's Pantry, for students residing in the State College area.

If you have information regarding COVID-19 and its impact on Penn State Smeal and would like to share it through this update, please email it to Andy Elder, manager of public relations, at