March 03, 2020
Dear Members of the University Community,
I want to use this opportunity to communicate with you regarding some measures we have taken regarding the worldwide health threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Foremost, we have decided to bring home all of our students currently studying abroad. We have also decided to cancel all spring break academic and service trips that involve international travel. Spring break trips to domestic locations will go on as scheduled, but we will continue to monitor the situation. We will consider other options if the situation changes.
None of these decisions was made easily, but all were made with the best interests of our community, especially our students, at heart. I understand students’ and parents’ anticipation of and investment in the experience of learning and living abroad. We only decided to curtail foreign studies when our judgment, informed in part by U.S. government and global public health experts, counseled in favor of coming home.
As I know you understand, our challenge is to manage sometimes imperfect information, and a unique disease dynamic that public health experts are still trying to figure out, to determine what actions best serve our students and our educational mission.
Beyond the potential that some of our students might contract the virus, we were concerned about access to health care, and local or international travel restrictions over which we have no control. I share in the disappointment of those who are studying overseas, and those who have prepared so diligently and prayerfully for service trips and other experiences outside the U.S.
We will work closely with returning students so that their academic experiences this semester come to a satisfactory conclusion. We are asking all returning students to return to their homes to wait out the 14-day incubation period for the virus, after which, with clearance from a healthcare provider submitted to our Student Health Center, the students can safely return to campus. We hope that all who are able to return to campus will do so.
In cases where that is not possible, we will offer a variety of ways to meet the academic requirements for completing the semester, including distance education, special assignments from professors, and supplementary education by University professors.
University professionals in the Provost’s Study Abroad office, the Registrar and Student Affairs offices, and others across campus will coordinate with all returning students and their families to smooth the process of returning home and rejoining the community of which you are such an important part.