March 11, 2020
To: Members of the Campus Community and Holy Cross Parents
Dear Members of the Campus Community and Holy Cross Parents,
As you know, the College’s Emergency Response Team has been closely monitoring the ongoing spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). We have been in constant communication with public health and infectious disease experts, colleagues across higher education and our faculty and staff about the possible and proper ways to mitigate the spread of the virus among our community here on campus, in Worcester and beyond. At this time we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19. Health Services is working with two individuals who are experiencing viral symptoms and we have well-developed protocols in place for this circumstance.
It is our responsibility to all members of our community, both on campus and in Worcester, to slow the spread of the virus. While the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are our first priority, it is also incumbent on us to do our part to ensure that the healthcare system does not become overwhelmed so that they are able to tend to the most critical needs. Yesterday, in declaring a state of emergency in Massachusetts, Governor Baker said that our shared goal is to slow the spread and impact of this virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci ‘62, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested at a congressional hearing today that Americans make changes to their typical practices in order to avoid exposure and prevent spread, saying “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a state that has no cases or one case — you have to start taking seriously what you can do now, if and when the infections will come. And they will come.” By instituting mitigating and social distancing protocols, we are hoping to do our part to slow the spread of the disease before we see large numbers of infected people in Massachusetts.
Therefore, based on public health leaders’ counsel, we have made the difficult and painful decision to move classes to a distance learning format and to make significant changes to our normal operations. Again, our overarching goal is to protect the health and safety of all our community members through minimizing exposure on campus. Fewer people on campus protects both those who remain on campus and those who can work and learn remotely. At the same time, we maintain our commitment to our students’ academic progress, including providing ways for our students to complete their coursework for this semester.
Here is what you need to know:
- After 5:00 p.m. this Friday, March 13, we will not be holding in-person classes. All class meetings will transition to a distance learning format for the remainder of the semester. Faculty will use the week of March 16 to adjust their syllabi and determine how to best adjust their courses to a distance learning format.
- We will shift to distance learning for all classes beginning Monday, March 23. We will continue classes in this format for the remainder of the semester. Between now and March 23, students should regularly check their Holy Cross email and the MOODLE site for their courses to look for messages from their faculty regarding assignments and modifications to their classes. The ITS help desk is prepared to assist faculty and students with technical questions and needs.
- Students are required to move out no later than Saturday, March 14, at 5:00 p.m. taking all belongings with them. However, we encourage students to move out as soon as feasible. We understand that this will be difficult for some students, particularly those from other countries. These individuals may petition for an exception using this form. Petitions must be received by tomorrow, Thursday, March 12, at 3:00 p.m.
- Classes will continue this week for those who remain on campus. Students should reach out to their professors if they will miss class on Thursday or Friday.
- We are committed to maintaining advising and support services for students. The Career Center, Chaplains Office, Class Deans and Counseling Center are working to determine the best way to support both students who need to remain on campus and students who will be at home and will be communicating with the student community. Faculty will arrange to hold office hours online.
- On-campus events will be canceled beginning Thursday, March 12, for the remainder of the semester. This applies to the Joyce Contemplative Center as well. The Patriot League is actively assessing the spring athletics season, and more information will be provided shortly to those impacted. The Chaplain’s Office will follow up with information regarding campus liturgies.
- Beginning Monday, March 16, all employees who can work at home will transition to working remotely. Each Vice President and division head will work with their divisions to determine how best to support this new way of operating.
- Our campus will not be closed. Faculty will have access to office, studio and lab spaces as needed to conduct their courses or continue their research. Staff members will also have access to their offices as necessary. Employees who are responsible for life and safety will continue to come to work on campus. Most facilities, including dining, the library, and health and wellness facilities will remain open, only for those who have been given permission to remain on campus, although operating hours may change.
- We have taken steps to protect our community members. Facilities has put enhanced cleaning protocols in place, disinfecting common areas such as classrooms and bathrooms daily and focusing on high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs. Health Services has protocols in place for evaluating patients who exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19. If you are experiencing fever or respiratory symptoms and have reason to believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19, please contact Health Services at (508)793-2276.
- You will receive further communications shortly about moving logistics, housing, academic expectations, technical support, financial aid, employment and other topics to address your questions. Those communications will include information about who to contact with further questions. Please be patient for the next 24 hours as we work to get this information to you.
I fully understand that this is a radically different way for the College to operate. We are asking our students to upend their semester, leave classes, activities, friends and mentors abruptly. We are asking our faculty to creatively, and quickly, alter their planned coursework to ensure our students can finish the semester. We are asking our staff for flexibility as they continue their vital work to support our students’ education.
These are very difficult steps to take, particularly here at Holy Cross, where we place such value on the strength of our on-campus community. Being together is a large part of who we are. Because of the close bonds that we have, faculty, staff and administrators also are finding these decisions challenging but very necessary. We are particularly concerned about our seniors who are coming to the end of their four years here on Mount St. James, and will feel a tremendous sense of loss. This is not how any of us expected this semester would end, but we are in the midst of a global pandemic which requires painful choices for us all. I am confident that we will find creative ways to function as a community and to support each other even when we are not physically in the same place. And as people of Faith in this season of Lent, I believe that eventually we will find new life coming out of the sacrifices we are sharing together for the sake of the greater good.
I expect there will be many additional questions regarding teaching and learning, future events including senior week and commencement (about which no decisions have yet been made), human resources and financial issues. I ask that we all exercise patience as we work out the many details necessary to both mitigate the virus, protect the health of our community and to ensure students are able to finish their coursework for the semester. We will get answers to you quickly and continue to communicate with you regularly as we navigate this together. We will also continue to update our website with the latest information at holycross.edu/coronavirus.
I want to thank the many faculty and staff who have been working tirelessly over the past several weeks to protect the health and safety of our community, and I am grateful for the work they will do over the coming months to ensure that students are able to continue their studies throughout this rapidly evolving period of uncertainty. We have difficult times ahead, but I have seen time and time again the commitment of this extraordinary community to supporting and caring for each other and I know that this time will be no different. Thank you in advance for your flexibility and your patience as we work through this together.
Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.