March 11, 2020
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
We write to provide clarification and additions to yesterday’s letter from President Jacobsen regarding the Colleges’ response to Coronavirus (COVID-19).
As President Jacobsen indicated, absent a change in the situation on campus or new instructions from authorities, the Colleges will remain open and classes will resume on March 23. COVID-19, however, presents unique challenges and not all faculty and students may be comfortable attending in-person classes, whether in consideration of their own health or the health and well-being of the community. Indeed, much of the advice delivered by public health officials to thwart the spread of COVID-19 suggests minimizing face-to-face interactions and large gatherings of people.
As a result, and in order to keep students on track to graduation, the Colleges will offer remote learning options starting March 23 for all spring 2020 courses for at least the next few weeks. Faculty may make the decision to offer just the remote model or both remote and in-person teaching. Provost Coffey has met with President Jacobsen, faculty leadership, the Deans, the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Information Technology to put together a plan to assist faculty in this work. Provost Coffey will send an email to faculty later today with details.
Students will have the option to attend classes in person (if offered by their faculty member) or remotely, which can be either from their residence hall rooms or from their homes, should they decide not to return to campus after Spring Break. This gives students the ability to choose whether they wish to remain on campus. Students can also return to campus at any time. Students will receive instructions regarding remote learning directly from their professors.
At this point, we do not know if we will be able to identify a moment in the semester when we will require all students to return to campus; it will depend largely on the nature of the virus’ spread. When and if we elect to do this, we will give students plenty of time to make appropriate travel arrangements. In this, as in all situations related to COVID-19, we take our cues from government health officials including the CDC and WHO.
As has been communicated before, students may remain on campus during Spring Break, whether to avoid travel to areas of the world or nation most affected by COVID-19, or simply to get a head start on studying for the remainder of the semester. We have extended the registration for on-campus housing through Friday, March 13 at noon. To make Spring Break on campus easier for students, we have worked with Sodexo to ensure that Saga will be serving brunch and dinner every day along with increasing the number of To Go options. For those registered to be on campus for Spring Break and who have meal plans, there will be no additional cost for this service.
We know this is an unprecedented move in the history of the Colleges, but it’s one that we and the senior leadership team feel gives faculty and students the most agency to make decisions about their own health and well-being, as we also ensure the continuity of our education.
This is a fluid situation that continues to shift and change on an almost hourly basis. Our goal is to provide a safe and equitable education at a time of extraordinary disruption. We will continue to do our best to get information out to faculty, staff and students as quickly as possible (see our COVID-19 website for daily updates) and thank you most sincerely for your patience, concern and good ideas.
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Vice President for Campus Life