Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
There remain no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Clark campus.
Following extensive consultation with the Board of Trustees and the University’s COVID-19 Response Team, I write with important announcements about Clark University operations.
Over the past few days, we have been in continuous dialogue with public-health experts and others regarding the best ways to protect the health and well-being of students, staff and faculty, and to assist in mitigating the spread and impact of the COVID-19 virus at Clark, in our community, and more broadly. We have received thoughtful insight about the best course of action from health officials, the Board of Trustees, administrators, faculty leadership, staff, students and families. We have also learned from the experience of other colleges and universities about what has worked well, and about the challenges they have faced in responding to this crisis.
I also must stress something else: Throughout this crisis, we have received powerful testimonials from students about their amazing academic and co-curricular experiences all across our campus every day. Their comments are a moving tribute to this community and the way our students engage in their learning. They reference the profound impact of faculty mentorship, student research, artistic events, athletics, staff support and encouragement and many other varied opportunities to learn and grow. As someone who has dedicated his career to liberal arts education and to Clark University, and most especially to the student experience on this campus, I commit all of myself to stewarding this most precious mission and purpose at this exceedingly complex time. I have been reminded time and again in these days of how the Clark community cares for one another. What happens on this campus is life-changing, and the Board of Trustees and I will act accordingly.
As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, Clark has come to an inflection point. Following all our consultations and the careful consideration of the Board of Trustees and our COVID-19 Response Team, we have made a number of decisions. With respect for the imperative, above all, of protecting the health and safety of our campus community and, at the same time, with immense regret and disappointment, I must announce the following:
- As of Monday, March 23, all Clark courses will be taught in online distance-learning formats. Through this format, students will be able to complete their course requirements, and earn the related academic credits, this semester.
- International students: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has waived restrictions for international students completing their coursework in an online format. Clark’s International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO) will be in touch with our international students directly for further guidance.
- To facilitate the conversion to these formats, all classes are cancelled immediately and through the week of March 16-20. Students: We are asking faculty to be in contact with you tomorrow with their emerging plans for managing communications, instruction and other matters.
- Students will have to vacate residence halls as soon as practicable and no later than Sunday, March 22 at 5:00 p.m. Students: You should remove all belongings from their campus residence halls by that time. Detailed instructions on the process for vacating residence halls will be sent to you shortly, including around such matters as storage of belongings.
- Students living in Clark residence halls who are unable to return to their permanent homes due to travel restrictions affecting their options or other hardships may request authorization to remain in University residence halls. Note this is for the remainder of the Spring semester only, and information about summer housing will be made available at a later date. Students: Requests for exceptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and the University will strive to be as accommodating as it can for every student making such a request. When exceptions are granted, they will have to be on a conditional basis given how rapidly the COVID-19 situation is changing. Effective at 8:00 p.m. tonight, the request form (called COVID-19 Housing Extension Request) will be available under the applications, forms, and requests tab on the housing and dining self-service page. This URL will be posted to the FAQs of the Clark COVID-19 website as soon as it is available. Students must submit their request form no later than 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020.
- While we know some students will have no choice but to seek the above exceptions, we urge students to every extent possible to strive to vacate campus by March 22 or earlier if possible. All available information suggests that the global spread of COVID-19 will lead to increasing travel restrictions in the U.S. and internationally that may ultimately severely limit students’ capacities to return home to some or even many places.
- The University intends to refund on a pro-rated basis room-and-board charges for students vacating residence halls. Students: Details on the refund process and how this is calculated will be forthcoming shortly.
- We recognize that these decisions may create significant financial hardship for some of our students. The Board of Trustees has authorized the establishment of an Emergency Fund to mitigate these hardships where possible. Students: We will soon be sending you information about the process to be followed if you will seek assistance from this fund. Requests for assistance will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- Clark’s Center for Personal Growth (CPG) has developed plans for remote counseling services and for additional care for the emotional distress that students may face during these difficult times. Students should contact the CPG using firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-508-793-7678.
- The NEWMAC athletic conference has voted unanimously to cancel the spring regular season schedule and associated spring championships effective Monday, March 16, 2020. Clark is also cancelling all spring non-conference play and all associated practices.
- Study Abroad Programs: As of Thursday morning, all study abroad students studying in Europe and the United Kingdom and in CDC level 3 and 4 countries have been advised to return to their homes immediately and to complete their program courses online. In the meantime, the Study Abroad Office continues to monitor closely outbreaks abroad, work with partner programs on academic continuity plans, and is in contact with students studying abroad.
- Campus events: Effective Friday March 13th, campus events and activities with more than 20 attendees must be cancelled, postponed or shifted to video conference format. Video-conference technologies for meetings should be used wherever possible.
- The University will remain open. Faculty and staff: We ask that you continue your work and follow the guidance we have provided to University employees, including around such issues as telecommuting.
- We have not made any decisions at this time about how the University will handle Commencement and the awarding of degrees.
Before proceeding further, I must stress that, as with every other decision affected by the COVID-19 situation, all of the above decisions could change should further developments require doing so. If that happens, we will send you such announcements immediately.
Why is the University taking these steps at this time?
- First, the latest public-health advice anticipates an accelerated spread of COVID-19 in the United States. We are mindful that time and notice are important and that making decisions as quickly as conditions advise can help students and families manage through this transition.
- Second, with public-health advisories suggesting the great likelihood of further government restrictions on domestic and international travel, like those the U.S. government announced yesterday, the options for students and the University may well diminish markedly in the coming days and weeks.
- Third, epidemiological research has stressed that social distancing can help significantly impede the spread of the virus and the risks of growth rates that overtax health systems. We must do our part to support this vitally important societal goal.
- Fourth, by having students return home and complete their coursework in a distance-learning format, we are better positioned to support the health and welfare of students who have to stay on campus as well as of the faculty and staff, whom our students and the University so greatly depend upon.
We are all deeply disappointed to have had to make these decisions. We took extra time to explore all other options and have finally concluded that predicaments far beyond the University’s control leave us no choice.
- We know that we have not answered here many questions that result from these decisions. Our administrative team, staff, and academic leadership are working literally non-stop to provide further information related to these decisions. We are updating Clark’s dedicated website and FAQs rapidly with that information and will continue to do so.
- If you have checked that website carefully and still have questions, please send questions to email@example.com. As our team is prioritizing getting information to students, faculty, staff and our community as a whole, answers to individuals are likely to be delayed.
I know that in this time, the best of Clark will continue to assert itself. Thank you.
David P. Angel