March 16, 2020
Important COVID-19 update
Dear Willamette Community,
Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines that recommend cancellation or postponement of events consisting of 50 or more for the next 8 weeks. While we do not have any known cases of COVID-19 on campus, the CDC guidelines require changes to the plan that I announced just last week. We have decided to extend the use of digital learning through the remainder of the semester. We remain committed to maintaining our academic programs; classes will continue to the fullest extent possible so students can continue their coursework and make progress toward fulfilling graduation requirements.
Our residence halls remain open, but as previously noted, students may leave campus immediately if they so choose. Particularly given this afternoon’s recommendation from the federal government that groups larger than ten be avoided for at least the next 15 days, students remaining should be prepared for limited on-campus services, including reduced dining hours and options. Also, in accordance with the new CDC travel guidance and to protect the local community, students leaving the Salem area should not return to campus without prior approval of the Housing Office.
No decisions have been made about commencement or other end-of-year activities, which are beyond the 8-week window addressed by the CDC. We are actively considering various ideas and options for a modified ceremony, but I am afraid that some changes in the schedule or nature of year-end events seem inevitable. As I told you yesterday, we will make and communicate a decision by April 3.
As an additional response to the new CDC and state guidance, I am asking supervisors to review campus operations and, when possible, transition employees to remote work. To the very greatest extent possible our goal is to continue to provide services to both our local and distributed students, so offices should remain open, even virtually, and should share updated contact information through their web pages and office signage.
These changes are difficult, and I am personally sad for our students, especially for our seniors, who were planning for a very different spring. Please know that there are many people working hard to think about ways in which signature events like SSRD may find alternate expression, and we will continue to update you on these plans.
At this point, I also recognize that we all still have more questions than answers. Like all of you, we are working in a fluid and unpredictable environment, with rapidly-changing public health guidance. Willamette’s COVID-19 task force meets at least daily, focused first on community health and second on continued fulfillment of our educational mission. We will continue to provide daily updates to the campus and at least weekly updates to the extended community, and we continue to ask for your patience in these extraordinary circumstances.
Non nobis solum,