Dear Goucher community,
It is with a great deal of disappointment that I write to inform you that, in consultation with the Fall Reopening Task Force and the Board of Trustees, I have made the difficult decision that our undergraduate students should not return back to campus this fall, and instead we should prepare to deliver this semester’s courses entirely online with the majority of our students studying from home.
From the start of this pandemic, I have made it very clear that at Goucher, the safety of our students, faculty, and staff comes first, and that we would rely upon the very best public health advice and science to guide our decisions. While examining the most recent public health data and consulting with public health experts, it has now become clear that the best decision for our campus community is to transition our fall semester entirely online.
Two months ago, when we began the process of planning for this fall, the public health data supported a decision to return to campus. The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths in Maryland and surrounding states was declining, and the availability of testing was increasing each week. However, much has changed in the past month. At present, the public health metrics do not meet the pre-arrival criteria set by the Fall Reopening Task Force that might indicate a return to campus was not only possible but a viable and safe option.
The Fall Reopening Task Force explored many options before coming to this difficult, but necessary decision. We all want to be living and learning together as a community, as is the Goucher tradition. However, we cannot ignore the scientific data that has guided us throughout this process.
To best prepare our students, faculty, and staff for a successful semester, I wanted to make this announcement as soon as possible, so we have time to prepare for the fall semester. Faculty have been thoughtfully planning for rich online learning and participating in ongoing professional development training all this summer and working with their peers to create dynamic online courses. We have also worked hard to expand our student support services for online learning, and you should expect additional information on all of these services in a separate email from our Provost, Elaine Meyer-Lee, on Monday.
As we transition to fully online learning this fall, we recognize that there is a need for some in our community to return to campus. We want to accommodate those students and offer limited residence hall availability to students who demonstrate a critical need for on-campus housing. Residential students will attend courses online and be expected to adhere to all campus health guidelines.
Please visit our Return to Campus website to review the full list of criteria for granting exceptions. The application for on-campus housing and limited dining options this fall will be sent by the Office of Residential Life on Monday, August 3rd. However, don’t delay. Applications are due by next Thursday, August 6th, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
We realize that this change may come as a shock to many in our community and will create many questions for students and parents, especially regarding billing and financial aid. Rest assured that this is a top priority of our Student Financial Services team and that updated bills and award letters will be sent out as quickly as possible and room and board charges will be removed from student accounts. Additionally, due to this just announced change, we have delayed our initial billing due date until Monday, August 17th, to give students and families more time to make final decisions.
To address the many remaining questions that you must have, we have also arranged for a Town Hall meeting for students and parents this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. EDT. We will be sure to record the session and make it available on our website.
Also, please continue to monitor the Return to Campus website for the latest updates. We will continue to update our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section with the most recent information.
Finally, let me say that while we have devoted these past months to preparing for our return to campus, all the planning has not been in vain. When it is safe for our community to return, we will be ready, and I look forward to greeting each of you on Van Meter Highway and reflecting on this moment in history together.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we all work together to prioritize the health and safety of our entire Goucher community.
President, Goucher College