Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
As you know, on Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf said that his stay-at-home orders in Pennsylvania would remain intact until April 30. At Ursinus, we’ve been working diligently to do our part during this difficult time and I again commend all that you are doing to make working and learning remotely a success. Of course, it hasn’t been without challenges, but what’s been so impressive is your willingness to make the best of the situation while upholding our strong sense of community.
In that spirit, please take a few moments out of your day to reach out to peers and colleagues. It’s important we find the time to connect and that we never underestimate the true meaning of community at Ursinus. Simply put, we are in this together and could not have gotten to this point without your unwavering dedication to one another.
The past week has seen several important developments. We can now report that two additional students, both of whom had been studying abroad, have contracted the virus. None of the five individuals who have reported positive tests to date have been to campus, and they are all safely in isolation at their homes in the United States. As members of our community, we continue to wish them a speedy recovery as well as our full support.
As for other areas of progress we’ve made together, here are a few other noteworthy updates. As always, please remember to regularly visit our website at https://www.ursinus.edu/coronavirus and email any questions to email@example.com.
1. On Friday afternoon, academic affairs announced a temporary change to the “S/U” (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) grading process. For this semester only, an “S” signifies that a student has earned course credits at any passing grade D- and above. Given the level of disruption our students have experienced–and knowing the unexpected transition to remote instruction has been difficult–we feel this change allows students to pursue an option that best reflects their individual circumstances.
2. We are incredibly grateful to our faculty and staff for putting our students first while they, themselves, are learning how to work remotely. An update last Friday noted how we are studying the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and its implications on employee paid leave and other benefits.
3. On Saturday, residence life sent out an email to students that outlines the timeline for the 2020-2021 online housing lottery. That process officially begins on Friday, April 3, for our upcoming seniors before shifting to juniors and sophomores, respectively.
4. I want to thank the enrollment team for their hard work in transitioning all of our recruitment efforts to a dynamic virtual experience, including our upcoming virtual Admitted Students Day. The way we’ve engaged with prospective students and their families, as well as high school guidance counselors, to assist in their decision-making recently earned recognition in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
5. This week, the Wellness Center issued a new health newsletter with important tips on how students can remain healthy, stay focused and make the most of a different learning environment. We think these ideas could be incredibly helpful for faculty and staff as well, so we will be sharing many of the center’s recommendations in the coming days and on a new webpage.
6. The most asked question to come into our COVID-19 email inbox has been around room and board. Yesterday morning, we updated our FAQ page with news that our decision will be shared no later than Friday, April 10. I know this news bears heavily on students and their families, and I’m thankful for their patience as we finish our collective due diligence on this important matter.
7. Also, yesterday morning, members of our biology and art and art history departments began collecting gloves and masks to donate to regional health care providers such as Temple University Hospital. We are proud to offer whatever support we can to community-focused organizations who are on the frontline battling COVID-19 around Philadelphia.
8. Our final update is regarding commencement. I’m proud to report that shortly after we announced the cancellation of our traditional commencement ceremony, a small team of faculty, staff and graduating seniors immediately began working together to explore alternative options. Yesterday afternoon, a survey was issued to all seniors, and we hope to use that feedback to determine what a May virtual program will look like-and what an on-campus event during Fall Break might become. While we cannot replicate the traditional commencement ceremony, the entire community is eager to recognize the Class of 2020 for their accomplishments and properly welcome them as Ursinus alumni. More information will be shared in the coming days!
I want to close by reminding you of an incredibly timely event that supports students in need, particularly in times such as these. Yesterday, you received an email promoting the Bear2Bear Benefit & Bash–a uniquely Ursinus community event that has quickly become one of our proudest traditions. The Bear2Bear Student Emergency Fund is 100% donor-funded, largely through this event. Please consider participating through Friday, April 3, at 9 p.m. Let’s make this year’s virtual event a rousing success! Visit https://www.ursinus.edu/support-uc/bear2bear-benefit-and-bash/.
Together, we’re accomplishing a lot even as events continue to change unexpectedly. Most important is our students’ academic experience which, though interrupted and now remote, continues to be our focus. Thank you to every student, faculty and staff member whose energy, resiliency and positivity are carrying the day. Please be well, stay healthy and remain safe.