May 28, 2020
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
With the spring semester successfully completed and Maymester courses now underway, I write to provide an update on our progress regarding planning for the next academic year.
It continues to be our intention to open this fall for residential instruction. With the Finger Lakes region now in phase 1 of Governor Cuomo’s 4-phase, staged reopening for the State of New York, opening this fall is well within our capabilities, and we are looking forward to welcoming our students, faculty and staff back to campus. What is emerging from our planning is a conscientious in-person learning and living community, one that adopts the latest guidelines from health care officials and that is built for maximum flexibility should our understanding of the COVID-19 virus shift.
We hope to resume faculty laboratory research as early as mid-June and to begin bringing some staff back to campus in July, with the remainder of faculty, staff and students arriving in August. We intend to follow a schedule for the fall that tightens the semester without decreasing intellectual contact between faculty and students. The goal is to limit travel to and from campus once students have returned, and to have most students back home by Thanksgiving in case there is a late-fall resurgence of COVID-19. We therefore expect Fall 2020 semester classes to begin as scheduled on Monday Aug. 24 and residential instruction to occur through Tuesday Nov. 24, after which Thanksgiving break will begin. Final exams will be administered using remote techniques with most students staying home until the spring semester. Campus will remain open so as to ensure that those students who need to stay will continue to have access to wireless technology and dining, among other services. Sports teams would continue on whatever league schedules are developed and would have access to the campus throughout their season schedules.
We are considering expanding Winter Break programming to include remote learning options similar to what we are offering now via our successful Maymester courses. Spring semester would run on or very close to standard schedule, with a possible one-week-later start and subsequent dropping of our weeklong Spring Break if the virus’ course makes that plan preferable.
This plan remains just that – a plan – until we submit our full reopening document to the State of New York in mid-June. Once we have State approval, we will share full details on everything from academic and residential life to screening, testing, isolating and tracing protocols. We understand that for some in our community who have preexisting health issues, the residential education model raises reasonable concerns. We are working now to determine the ways in which the Colleges can best assist in these situations and will have more information throughout the summer. Although Hobart and William Smith are located in a geographic area that has avoided significant infection, the health and wellbeing of our entire community and of Geneva will always be my top priority.
Although life on campus this fall will be somewhat altered to support the health and safety of the overall population, I can assure you that the spirit of community and collaboration we all so deeply love about the Colleges will not be changed. Students should expect to return to a group of faculty and staff who have dearly missed them and who are working now to bring the curriculum to life in new and energetic ways. And we will find ways to gather safely, some planned and others spontaneous, some that will continue to enrich the intellectual journey and some for just plain fun.
I am grateful for the work to date of our three task forces whose analyses and recommendations have shaped the Colleges’ approach. The senior staff and I continue to be in daily contact with higher education colleagues and health care professionals across the state and nation, and their insight and thoughtful perspectives have been extremely helpful as we finalize our planning and prepare to enter our implementation phase. We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves and adjust our short- and long-term planning accordingly. I will be in touch throughout the summer with details on our progress and, as always, you can contact me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joyce P. Jacobsen