I hope that you have had a chance to review the message sent earlier from President Knapp outlining a change in our plans for the fall. As you are well aware, we are preparing for a year that won’t look like any other at W&J. Many challenges lie ahead, and although we’re working to tackle all of them, we know this isn’t going to be a normal year on campus. There will be more virtual events rather than in-person gatherings, some internships will be remote experiences, and travel to-and-from campus will be limited. There will be changes to dining and housing. We’re also preparing for the possibility that we’ll have to monitor public health and state and national guidelines closely to ensure that we continue to provide you the safest learning environment possible.
Nevertheless, we see opportunities to work through these challenging times together and grow stronger as a community. As always, we cherish the times when we are together as a full community. As we prepare to return to campus, we want to let you know about a major change to the start of the academic year and to campus housing that we are implementing to help keep our community safe.
It is becoming increasingly evident that having students return to campus, as we hoped and planned for, presents compounding risks regarding safety. Not only have we witnessed a rise in COVID-19 cases in southwestern Pa., we know that more states are experiencing surges and are now considered hot zones. Additionally, information has emerged which highlights newly identified safety risks to people in the 18-35-year-old age range. Recently, Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, indicated that it is critical for colleges to utilize testing to ensure a safe return to campus. We are also mindful that the CDC currently classifies dense living arrangements and large gatherings as high risk.
Furthermore, we know from conversations with students that there is a need and desire to be on campus to engage with in-person classes, participate in internships and off-campus athletic (albeit limited) matches. We also know that for some students, life on campus is a desirable and necessary option. In order to provide a safe living and learning environment on campus, we feel that we must adjust our plans to do more to ensure safety of our residential community members considering the elevated concerns over COVID-19.
Updated Fall 2020 Re-opening Plans
For the Fall of 2020, the residential configuration will be modified to provide single rooms to every student who opts in for a residential experience. We believe that single rooms allow us to de-densify the campus to safe standards. More importantly, this housing configuration allows for maximum safety as students can control their own space and, if needed, isolate with privacy and lack of exposure to others.
With the exception of our approved commuter student community, will be asked to opt-in to housing starting this Friday, August 7 through Monday, August 10; you will receive follow up information from Office of Residence Life. Please know that priority will be extended to students who need to be physically on campus for a host of reasons. The opt-in process will invite you to indicate not only your interest in living on campus but also the reason why. It is critical that you know that in order to be assigned a room, each student in residence is required to sign the Pledge to Promote Safety, which will indicate agreement to follow guidelines for safety. Before opting in, it is imperative that each student understand the conditions and expectations of living on campus this fall. Students will:
- Live in a single room (all assignments will be handled by Residence Life)
- Follow a scheduled move in process
- Adhere to a 10-day quarantine (meals will be provided)
- Be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival (provided by the College), at the end of the 10-day quarantine and throughout the semester, as needed.
- This means that you will not be permitted to leave your residence hall room for any reason during your quarantine period.
- All students will successfully complete quarantine by September 4, 2020.
- Participate in courses virtually during the quarantine at the start of the semester and at other times, if applicable. All classes will be virtual for the first 2 weeks in consideration of our students who will quarantining.
- Complete daily screenings before attending class, work and/or leaving one’s room.
- Refrain from hosting guests (including non-W&J community members; W&J students who are not in residence are considered guests)
- Limit travel away from campus to essential travel (internships, work, acquiring essential items, etc.)
- Agree to quarantine if travel away from campus involves being in a hot spot
- Follow the guidelines as outlined in the Pledge to Promote Safety
- Adhere to policies as outlined in the Addendum to the Student Handbook
Please note that both the Pledge to Promote Safety and the Addendum to the Student Handbook will be available within the next few days.
Because of these changes to the residential housing, we have made the decision to start classes on Monday, August 24 rather than August 17. All classes will be virtual for the first two weeks of the semester and resume as a hybrid model on Monday, September 7. The faculty have been preparing throughout the summer to provide in-person and virtual learning instruction to our students.
We know that agreeing to come to campus under the conditions outlined above is a major decision. I ask you to honestly reflect on the expectations being asked of you as it will take a vigilance of each individual to ensure safety on campus this fall. We believe that the conditions we have structured provide the best opportunity to mitigate risk. Of course, there is no way to completely eliminate risk.
We know that this is a different experience than what you were planning for, but we believe it is the best and safest way to provide you with the high-quality academic and social experience you expect from W&J. You can find additional information about this plan on the reopening webpage.
Vice President of Student Life & Dean of Students