March 12, 2020
Information about Willamette's response to COVID-19
Dear Willamette Community,
It is with great concern and sadness that we watch the suffering and disruption that the spread of COVID-19 has brought to people around the world. Although for many individuals, especially young people, the disease can be relatively mild, serious cases occur in all age groups, and especially for older adults and those with underlying health conditions, it can be devastating. Each of us has a responsibility to do all we can to limit and slow its spread.
Transition to distance learning.
We have had no cases or known exposures in the Willamette University community, and the Oregon Health Authority continues to advise colleges and universities to remain open. However, to limit the number of people on campus to help prevent further spread of COVID-19, and to ensure that all students and faculty continue to have access to our educational programs, Willamette University will shift all of its instruction to distance learning in all schools beginning Monday, March 16, and continuing through Monday, April 13.
Although our campus will remain open, the shift to distance learning allows our community to practice the “social distancing” recommended by health officials to prevent further spread of the virus. It also prepares us in case the Oregon Health Authority changes its recommendations for schools.
Students may leave campus at any time. If returning home is not feasible or desirable for some of our students, they may remain on campus. Students who remain on campus will still take their classes remotely and essential services such as Bishop Health and campus dining facilities will continue to be available to them. Our goal is that all core services, including advising, student academic support, and career development will remain accessible whether students are on campus or participating remotely.
Events and Meetings.
Last night, Gov. Kate Brown announced new guidance that gatherings of more than 250 people in Oregon will be canceled for the next four weeks in an effort to minimize potential opportunities for the virus to spread. In accordance with this guidance, we are suspending events that bring large groups together until April 13. We will share information and guidance regarding events taking place after April 13 once we have a better understanding of the situation in the days and weeks ahead.
We have already made the difficult decision to cancel the annual Social Powwow on Saturday and all sessions of the Institute for Continued Learning have been suspended. We are reviewing other events scheduled on campus and will inform organizers of any necessary changes as quickly as possible, but guidance may evolve as the external situation and understanding of COVID-19 continues to develop.
Following a decision made by the Northwest Conference this morning, Athletics will limit attendance at all home competitions to only athletes, coaches, athletic officials, and other essential personnel. For now, our conference plans to continue practices and competitions, but the choice to continue to participate rests with the individual student.
Study Abroad and Travel Restrictions.
Based on the new travel restrictions announced Wednesday, Willamette is also recalling all study abroad students from Europe. We are in communication with our study abroad students in other parts of the world, ensuring that they are aware of any changes and equipped with the information they need to make their own decisions about whether they want to continue their programs or return home.
Additionally, we are suspending university-related domestic and international travel for all faculty, staff, and students unless an exception is granted by the provost, a dean, or vice president. Personal travel to international locations is strongly discouraged.
Faculty and Staff.
Please watch for a separate communication by the end of the week from Human Resources discussing workplace adjustments.
We will continue to monitor the situation, and provide operational and policy updates as needed. Plans beyond April 13 will depend on the progression of the disease and any changes to public health agency guidance. We will communicate these plans no later than April 6. Updates can also be found online.
I recognize that even a temporary move to distance learning is an extraordinary decision, which puts enormous pressure on our faculty and everyone else involved in supporting our students. I am very sorry for the inevitable disruption that all of these changes will bring for all of us and thank you for your patience as we navigate this new terrain together. I take comfort in knowing that Bearcats are generous and creative, and that even as we disperse in the weeks ahead we will be able to continue our outstanding educational programs and find ways to remain connected as a caring, supportive community.
Non nobis solum nati sumus,