Plans for Fall 2020
June 24, 2020
To: Students and Families
Dear Students and Families,
Last week we held webinars for students and parents and for faculty and staff during which we reiterated that we were on track to announce our intentions for the Fall semester in early July. Our Board of Trustees met on June 18th and endorsed our plan for the Fall semester, so I am able to announce it today, earlier than planned. While we still have many details to work out and communicate to you in the coming weeks, our plan for Fall 2020 is as follows:
- The College will open in the fall and will invite all students who are able to return to campus.
- All persons on campus will be required to adhere to a number of measures to comply with public health guidelines. These include, but are not limited to, wearing masks in public, maintaining six feet of distance, following all directives regarding use of elevators and other spaces on campus, and limiting the size of gatherings. In addition all persons on campus will be required to submit to the COVID-19 testing, tracing and quarantine protocols that will be established by the College.
- We recognize that some students will not be able or not wish to return to campus in the fall. We will offer those students the opportunity to advance their academic program remotely. Courses will be offered in a variety of formats: in-person, hybrid or fully online. Due to physical distancing guidelines, we are limited to larger classrooms and other large spaces on campus for in-person classes. Space considerations alone will necessitate limiting the number of in-person courses that can be offered. We will communicate the format for each Fall 2020 course and any necessary revisions to the course schedule by Friday, July 10.
- In order to de-densify the residence halls the College will limit occupancy to two persons per room. We will also establish isolation and quarantine spaces for students. Together, these measures will likely require that we secure additional housing off campus. Students will receive a notice to complete the next steps in the housing selection process from the Office of Residence Life and Housing within the week.
- Many faculty and staff members will continue to work remotely in the fall for a variety of reasons. Human Resources will work with faculty and staff by department, or individually when needed, to determine if, when and how they will return to campus. Information about returning to work can be found on the Faculty and Staff section of the COVID-19 Response and Reopening website.
I want to be very clear that our plan for the fall is still subject to the course of the virus itself as well as by the restrictions that may be imposed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the city of Worcester or CDC guidelines, and our ability to secure necessary testing, contact tracing resources, and housing capacity. We are starting to hear reports of resurgence of the virus in some states forcing a slowdown or reversal of some reopening plans. So while we are working intently toward the plans above, we will all need to remain flexible as we progress through the summer, and throughout the fall semester.
In addition, the Patriot League Council of Presidents recently announced the principles on which the League will develop a Fall 2020 plan. While we are working on our plans as they relate to non-league competition, Holy Cross Athletics will follow these principles as they consider their plan for returning to Patriot League competition:
- Student-athletes will return to campus at the same time as other students;
- Patriot League competition will begin at the end of September, with the expectation that League play will be completed prior to Thanksgiving;
- Non-League competition will not begin prior to Friday, Sept. 4;
- Patriot League member institutions will confirm that non-League competitors are following comparable health and safety protocols in advance of any contest; and,
- No Patriot League teams will fly to competitions and, with rare exceptions, regular-season competition will exclude overnight travel.
There are still many details to be worked out regarding reopening the campus. This is a complex process as some decisions are contingent upon information that we do not yet know. For example, we cannot complete housing assignments until we know how many students plan to return to campus. We will have new procedures for almost every aspect of campus life – from how and where courses are offered to move-in to dining to access to the library and wellness facilities to elevator usage. There will be significant restrictions on the services and opportunities we can provide and on our freedom of movement. Our return to campus will not be successful unless all members of the community comply with the public health guidelines that will be in place. Working groups have been established to plan and execute the details in each of the distinct areas of our Fall 2020 Reopening Plan. The groups and their membership will be posted on the COVID-19 Response and Reopening website by the end of this week.
The return of the majority of our students to campus in this new environment and the need to be prepared for contingencies will have significant financial and operational implications for the College. These realities will require sacrifices on the part of administrators, staff, faculty, students and their families. Indeed we have already imposed a salary freeze and mandatory vacation draw down on administrators and staff while many continue their regular work in addition to planning for the new realities this fall; and faculty have committed to working this summer to redesign their courses to continue to effectively engage students in a hybrid, on-line or socially-distanced in-person experience.
In approving the plan to invite all students who are able back to campus for the fall semester, the Board of Trustees endorsed a corresponding budget plan. This financial plan was built not only to offset expected revenue losses and increased costs due to COVID-19 and the required modifications to the College’s operations, but also, importantly, to support our students and families, many of whose financial needs have increased due to the pandemic. The plan includes the following:
- The College expects to spend an estimated $10-$12 million for additional cleaning, student housing, space modifications including classroom technology to facilitate hybrid and online learning, and to cover the costs of the required COVID-19 monitoring, testing, tracing and providing quarantine/isolation spaces and caring for students who may need to use those spaces
- The College will increase the draw from the endowment adding an additional $5 million to our operating budget.
- Summer operations remain limited and we anticipate further modifications to our typical operations in the fall. This has resulted in changes to resource needs in different areas of the College. As a result, there will be a number of furloughs of administrators and staff issued for the summer and fall.
- The College will be re-setting tenured faculty salaries to their 2019-2020 levels to align with the administrator and staff salary freeze we announced in April.
- Both Provost Freije and I will take a significant reduction in pay for the coming year. This savings will be used to establish an employee hardship fund.
- The College will suspend its contribution to the 403(b) plan for administrators and faculty effective August 1 for the remainder of the 2021 fiscal year. Employees will still be able to contribute voluntarily to this plan, but will not be required to do so. Funding of the defined benefit pension plan for non-exempt employees will remain unchanged.
- In recognition of the fact that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all of our students’ families, the College will eliminate the previously announced tuition increase and freeze tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year at the 2019-2020 rate. The College will also adjust its financial aid packaging model by eliminating the $2400 expected student contribution. We typically plan for this amount to come from student summer earnings, and we recognize that many students are unable to secure summer employment this year.
- The College will use a recent bequest to cover the estimated $3 million increase in need-based financial aid the College will be awarding.
I know that you have many questions, and many details are yet forthcoming. We will update the COVID-19 Response and Reopening website as we have more information. In addition, we will alert you to major updates by email each Wednesday through the summer, and we will host additional opportunities to keep you informed through webinars and town hall meetings with College leadership.
The fall semester will certainly feel very different from what we are used to on Mount St. James. But while we live, learn and engage in new ways, we will also continue to build an ever stronger community through this unprecedented shared experience. Together we will achieve something that has never been attempted before, and I look forward to this journey with you and the many opportunities, ideas and learning that we will gain along the way.
Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.