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To: Wellesley College Community
From: President Paula A. Johnson
Re: COVID-19 Response
Date: March 12, 2020

It is said that Wellesley shows its best self when facing a difficult time that requires our community to come together. This is such a time, an unprecedented time in all of our lives at the College. While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our campus, public health officials have made it clear in recent days that dramatic steps are required to contain the virus and mitigate the risk of transmission.

As we weighed the right steps for the College to take, my colleagues and I have recognized that this is not just a public health crisis; it is also a painful interruption in the lives of our community, of our students, and especially of our seniors, whose final spring at Wellesley has been disrupted.

In the past few weeks, many across the College have come together to develop the best possible response. We have been guided by two priorities: to protect the health and safety of our community, and to make it possible for our students to complete their academic coursework and for our seniors to fulfill their graduation requirements.

Up until this morning, we had planned to continue classes through next week and begin spring break on time. However, in light of the newest information about the escalation in the number of cases and increased risk to our students, we have decided to accelerate our timeline.

  • Spring break will begin on Monday, March 16, and remote instruction will begin on March 30. Remote instruction will continue for the rest of the semester.
  • Students are expected to move out of campus housing no later than 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17. Students should not expect to return to campus this semester. The risks involved in having so many people travel and then return to the close quarters of a residential community are too great.
    • Students who are unable to move out by March 17 or who need financial assistance to travel home should complete the form in Star Rez.
    • We will send a follow-up communication within the next 24 hours that gives information to our students on campus regarding moving and other issues.
  • Students who have no other option will be able to remain in campus housing. This includes students who are nationals of countries to which they are unable to return, as well as students for whom returning home would be impossible or unsafe. Please refer to this FAQ for specific criteria. Students are asked to log in to Star Rez and complete this form if they seek to remain on campus.
  • In light of the travel restrictions being imposed by several countries, international students may leave as soon as they are able.
  • All athletic events after March 13 will be canceled.
  • The College is open. We will continue to offer the services necessary to meet our core academic mission and serve the needs of our community.
  • While we are on campus, all of us should practice social distancing, remaining six feet away from one another in classrooms, dining halls, meetings, and other gatherings.
  • The College will terminate spring semester study abroad in Western European locations. Study abroad programs in other locations are under active review.

My medical and public health training tells me these decisions are the right ones, but that does not mean they are easy. These changes will cause significant disruption in the lives of students and families, and they will require a tremendous effort from our faculty and staff. So while I know these are the right things to do, I also want to make sure we are doing everything possible to support our community with this transition.

We are working to ensure that students have access to computers and the internet so that they can complete their coursework. We will be training interested students on Zoom next week, and students can learn more about the videoconferencing program and sign up in the Zoom Room.

Health Services and the Stone Center will remain open and accessible to provide counseling and health care for students.

We sincerely want commencement to happen; given the evolving situation, we will make a decision by early May.

We also know that students and their families will have questions about the financial implications of these changes. The College will be in contact once we have finalized details, and we will share additional information in a follow-up communication as soon as possible.

We are grateful for the commitment and hard work of our faculty in preparing to teach remotely on a tremendously short timeline, and for a first-rate team in LTS that stands ready to offer support. Faculty have been reviewing and adjusting their course plans for the final month of the semester. They are already participating in training sessions to learn Zoom for videoconferencing, and LTS will be providing ongoing support in the weeks ahead. The Office of the Provost will be communicating with faculty in coming days with additional details.

For our administrative and union staff, these changes will require rethinking some of the basic functions of the College. We will rely on your creativity, flexibility, and, as always, your dedication to carry out the important roles each of you play in advancing the mission of the College. Administrative staff will continue to work on campus. We are working in partnership with union leadership to be attentive to the needs of our union staff. Human Resources will be reaching out to staff with additional details in the coming days.

We hope that this communication has answered some of your questions, but we know that you will have more. We also have developed this FAQ, and will be posting regular updates to our dedicated COVID-19 website.

My heart is heavy knowing that we will not be spending the spring here on campus together. While all of us feel a profound sense of loss, we know that students, especially our seniors, are feeling this most acutely as you prepare to say goodbye to your friends, your professors, and everyone who makes Wellesley feel like home to you. But we are not leaving you, and you are not leaving us. This spring, we will all experience a lifelong lesson in resilience and in building community. As Wellesley students, I know that you will inspire and guide us, finding new ways that we can connect with and support each other during this time.

These are remarkable circumstances for Wellesley, and for the world. I know we will face this challenge as we have any other: with care, concern, and respect for each other, and with a commitment to the greater good of our community. One of the most inspiring lessons I take from Wellesley’s long history is that the bonds forged here are strong, and transcend time and geography. We are in this together and we will do this together, because we are Wellesley.