Dear Campus Community,
As you are aware, colleges and universities across the country are beginning to announce their plans for the fall semester. Those plans are wide ranging: some of them have already committed to an early start, while others will continue with online learning. I recognize you are all eager to hear Ursinus’s plans for the fall. We believe that Ursinus can advance a safe return to campus in the fall, so we are planning with that intention in mind. Many details need to be resolved, and as at other residential campuses, various options are being weighed, but we expect to communicate the structure of the fall by mid-June, to allow faculty, staff and students time to prepare.
The challenges brought upon colleges by the novel coronavirus have been complex, including financial challenges, and Ursinus is faced with many of the same questions affecting other colleges. Our smaller size works to our advantage, allowing us to be more flexible in our decision making, whereas larger universities are more rigid. And, while we prepare to make it possible to return to campus, we’re confident that we can better manage testing and social distancing than larger universities, especially during a phased return.
We have closely monitored recommendations from health agencies such as the CDC, and read the news of other institutions decisions, but we’ve gone beyond that already to advance a robust set of measures to enhance safety. For example, we’ve met with LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics to explore different testing options and will soon be ready to move forward with a decision. We have engaged the presidents of other Montgomery County colleges to share best practices and informational resources with one another to assist in our decision-making process; and we were the first college to reach out to Montgomery County Commission Chair Dr. Valerie Arkoosh and County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alvin Wang to help coordinate county-wide efforts. We have faculty and staff who are taking the Johns Hopkins Coursera online course in contact tracing, so we can work together with Montgomery County health officials.
In closing, our circumstances now surely heighten the need for and the effectiveness of the kind of education we provide. An Ursinus education goes well beyond simple conveyance of information; it has a personal, reflective nature and it helps students develop the habits of informed, ethical decision-making that comes from looking at issues from multiple perspectives, which mirrors our own planning process for the upcoming semester. We help our students deepen their understanding of what happens in the world, and to use that to find direction in their lives. I read of students who think it would be wise to take a gap year; I am convinced that our global challenges make it an essential time for students to be in college, especially at Ursinus.
Please continue to check both the faculty/staff webpage and the coronavirus webpage for daily task force updates. Be well and thank you again for your hard work and patience during this time.