Spring Return to Campus Update
Dear Goucher Community,
I hope you enjoyed a restful break with family and friends over the holidays. I imagine that, like me, you have been disturbed by the events unfolding in our nation’s capital today. However, I hold great hope that much like the pandemic we have experienced this year, we will come through this as a nation whole. I also remain optimistic that we will have much to celebrate in this new year.
Here at Goucher over winter break, we have continued to follow national and local trends as the coronavirus pandemic has played out. Unfortunately, the trendlines have not moved in our favor. With the current Maryland testing positivity rate at just shy of 9.5% and Baltimore County at around 7%, we are well above the Return to Campus criteria we established last summer, in alignment with CDC guidelines, of less than 5% positivity. After much discussion, the Cabinet and I have agreed that for the safety of all our students, faculty, and staff we need to remain online for the spring semester.
I understand that this news will be deeply disappointing for many. We are equally disappointed. Goucher places special emphasis on the unique place-based learning experience our beautiful campus and community offers our students. We wanted nothing more than to welcome everyone back to campus this spring. However, our community's health and well-being remain our highest priority. We cannot ignore the science and public health data that indicates a return to campus would not be in our community's best interests.
Consequently, we will proceed with a compressed 13-week spring semester schedule, commencing as planned on Monday, February 8th with the overwhelming majority of our classes delivered online, and not offering a residential housing option for our students this spring.
For staff or faculty who might be wondering what that means for them, let me just add that we do not anticipate any changes to our staffing plans at this time.
As in the fall, students who have continuing extenuating circumstances and require housing on-campus will be able to remain on campus this spring. The Office of Residential Life will also send out more information by the end of this week inviting any additional students who believe they meet the criteria to request housing to submit an application by January 25 for review.
Because of our decision to remain a non-residential college this spring, starting this week expect Student Financial Services to send out revised financial aid award letters to students who had intended to reside on campus this spring. These updated awards will reflect any adjustment in financial aid based upon a revised cost of attendance.
We also recognize that there may be specific cases where access to College facilities and equipment (e.g., biology and chemistry labs, art studios, etc.) is an essential part of the learning experience. Consequently, our Provost Dr. Elaine Meyer-Lee will be working with the faculty to identify those most critical areas to see how we might support some limited in-person learning on campus this semester. We will also be looking at how we can make other campus-based resources such as the library available for use by local Goucher students while we remain in a primarily non-residential mode this spring. Stay tuned for additional details by January 25.
With our decision to remain virtual for the entire spring term, we do not anticipate being able to participate in Landmark conference competition for the remainder of the academic year. Already we have seen several other conferences cancel their entire season. The Landmark Conference college presidents will meet this Friday, January 8th and make a final decision. However, regardless of any decisions, all student-athletes should know that they will retain an extra season of eligibility under the updated NCAA Division III rules.
Spring is traditionally a time of grand celebration, especially for our seniors. We will discuss Commencement and other events and make and communicate a decision about how to proceed by March 5. We are also working on scheduling special online events and speakers that will be exclusive to members of our College community.
Again, I know that this is not the outcome any of us wished for this spring. However, it is the right decision. Please trust that this decision was made after engaging in thorough discussions and considering the diverse perspectives of the students, faculty, and staff who served on the spring re-opening taskforce. Expect to receive additional, periodic updates as we make more decisions in the coming weeks, and as always be sure to check the College’s return to campus website.
Thank you for your patience and perseverance. Despite these setbacks, I am excited about many of the new developments we already have underway and will be announcing later this spring. I am also more confident than ever that Goucher will emerge from this pandemic stronger and better prepared to face the challenges ahead together.