The message below was emailed to the Bryn Mawr College community from President Kim Cassidy on March 11, 2020.
Dear Bryn Mawr students, faculty, and staff:
With you, I am watching as COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) increases its presence in the U.S. and in Bryn Mawr’s own Montgomery County. My thoughts are especially with those for whom this global public health issue is immediate, personal, and painful. For all of us, it is a time of great uncertainty.
I am grateful that our community is currently without confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. I am also mindful that, while we continue monitoring the spread of the virus, we must also act on the information we have in order to protect our community and the world beyond. I am writing today to share key decisions, made in collaboration with Haverford and Swarthmore, for the coming weeks.
To follow public health recommendations and contribute to the global effort to disrupt the spread of COVID-19, Bryn Mawr College will remain open but will deliver all undergraduate, graduate, and postbaccalaureate courses in remote format from March 16 to at least April 3. We will assess the progress of this effort as we move forward and communicate plans for the balance of the semester by March 30. We hope that we can return to in-person instruction this semester. We will also prepare, however, to continue with remote learning if necessary. As we face this unprecedented moment, our priority is the wellbeing of our community. We are also committed to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to complete the semester successfully.
During this three-week period, we ask all students who are home for break to remain there if they are able. Students currently on campus are also asked to go home if at all possible. Students who have internet access issues and who require course materials or equipment to engage in remote coursework from their homes should contact their deans. Students who are studying abroad should continue to follow the instructions of their host program.
We recognize that not all students have off-campus housing options. The campus will remain open; we will ensure that all students who have need will be able to stay on campus. Dean Walters will communicate by tomorrow to all undergraduates with instructions for requests to stay on campus. The College will continue to provide basic services, including dining and health services, for these students while mitigating the current health risks of communal living as best we can. During this period, we will cancel all campus events, including athletic and performance activities, or deliver them virtually. We will continue our efforts to reduce transmission in public spaces and will limit access to some buildings. Most activities will be curtailed to encourage social distancing.
To support this effort, faculty members are asked to modify their individual courses for remote learning. Spring classes will resume virtually as early as Monday, March 16. Not all classes will be ready to start by Monday, however, and some faculty understandably may need additional time to review educational technology options (summarized online) and prepare. This individualized approach to starting will allow for flexibility and customization of each course. Students should monitor their email for information from their professors about the start time and particular digital format for each course. We appreciate that for many students and faculty this is a new experience. The Provost’s Office and the Educational Technology team will reach out shortly to faculty with more information and opportunities for support.
Although we are moving to a remote learning format in the near term and student occupancy on campus will be greatly reduced, the College remains open, and staff are still important to keeping us functioning. Although we plan to keep standard hours/shifts for staff members as much as possible, we may need people to assist where there is the greatest need, even if it is not in their typical role or department. Of course, staff who think they may be ill should not report to work. Staff with health concerns that put them in special risk categories should contact their supervisors to make arrangements to work safely. We are exploring additional ways to disrupt the potential for virus transmission by modifying schedules and allowing some opportunities to work remotely during this time. Student workers may also contact their work-study supervisors to see what arrangements are possible.
We remind everyone, whether on campus or elsewhere, of health guidelines available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most important of these are effective hand washing and social distancing. We will continue to update our webpage focused on these issues and the online FAQs. In the coming days, community members may also find information about changes to campus services on our emergency service update site. Finally, you may also send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org; they will be reviewed and directed to the appropriate person or office.
Because this situation is evolving rapidly, we will continue to communicate with you in the days and weeks ahead. We are trying to anticipate all potential issues, but given the impossibility of that task we ask for your patience.
With you, I feel the sadness and anxiety of this moment. The decision to ask students to remain at home and to ask faculty to adapt classes to a remote format is not one that we made lightly. We and our BiCo colleagues weighed many options, and we believe that this is a moment when we must continue to think beyond ourselves and take action to care for each other and the larger world. I know that these sets of decisions bring challenges and strong emotions, and that they will affect each individual differently. I also know that our community is strong, as well as deeply committed to fulfilling our educational mission.
I thank you all for your partnership in this process and with one another as we make our way through these extraordinary circumstances.