March 10, 2020
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
In the past few days, there has been a great deal of speculation and anxiety regarding the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Governor Andrew Cuomo recently declared a State of Emergency in New York and some colleges and universities across the nation have postponed in-person instruction.
At Hobart and William Smith, the health and safety of all members of our community – here in Geneva and abroad – remains our priority as we also ensure the continuity of our educational mission. Our goal is to provide reasonable guidance and advice to the community as we institute policies and procedures that are levelheaded and prudent.
To that end, the HWS Emergency Management Team has been monitoring guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, and have been in contact with local and state health departments. The team has also been working on contingency planning should we need to institute quarantine protocols or should we need to provide the academic program through alternative course delivery methods.
Although we have every expectation of resuming on-campus classes after Spring Break (starting March 23), the possibility exists that as a result of state or federal guidelines and/or the overall fluidity of this situation, we may need to either extend Spring Break or require faculty and students to complete the semester remotely.
For students, this means that if you are planning to leave campus for spring break, you should bring with you any materials you need to complete your spring semester classes. Should the Colleges have to move to a remote learning model, we would be in touch with instructions. Should we move to a remote learning model, those students planning to stay on campus for spring break or who, because of extenuating circumstances, must remain on campus until the end of the spring semester would be provided room and board.
For faculty, we know that potentially moving to a remote learning model is challenging. Provost and Dean of Faculty Mary Coffey has been working with the Committee on Faculty, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Information Technology to assist in this regard. Should we need to eliminate in-person classes, she would be in touch with details. In the meantime, she will send a message to faculty tomorrow with her preliminary assessment of what might be involved should we have to take this action. We intend to leverage the resources we have available – both via technology and human capital – to ensure that faculty and students have the tools necessary to finish their spring semester courses.
For all employees, I know that this is a challenging time and that, as always, you will do all you can to ensure that our students receive an exceptional education. We do not anticipate implementing a remote working protocol but are planning for it if necessary. In addition, members of the Human Resources Department are preparing a temporary sick leave policy intended to extend sick day benefits for those employees who are ill, caring for a sick family member, or who have been asked to self-quarantine.
Again, we do not intend to eliminate in-person classes, close the Colleges, or even disrupt the day-to-day activities of campus. It remains my hope that we will be able to return to campus from spring break and continue the semester as planned.
With spring break less than a week away, we are asking members of our community to be sensible when considering domestic or international travel. Please know that if you travel to a country identified by the State Department as Level 3 or 4 due to the Coronavirus, you will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before you can return to campus. Although we are waiting for guidance from New York State, there is a strong chance that the State may ask people entering New York from heavily infected areas of the United States to self-quarantine. We have created a website about the Coronavirus that includes links to state, national and international resources as well as frequently asked questions. This website is updated daily.
Finally, I remind everyone that according to the CDC, the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is by frequently washing hands with soap and water and staying home if you are sick – simple things all of us can do to ensure the health of the entire community.
Should you have any questions or concerns about the Coronavirus, please refer to the Colleges’ frequently asked questions on our Coronavirus website. You can also reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org; either a member of my team or I will answer your questions as quickly as possible.
Joyce P. Jacobsen