I hope these last couple of weeks, have provided you a moment to catch your breath after an incredibly challenging spring semester. While the work of the university never stops, summer is usually a welcome interruption to the pace of the regular academic year. I enjoy the summer weather and usually appreciate a slightly slower pace, but I couldn’t have imagined how truly lifeless campus could be until these last few months. I miss the energy of our campus when it is full of life.
Thank you for participating in the survey sent earlier this week. If you have not taken it, please do so by Sunday night. It will only take a few minutes to complete, and your input is important.
In a recent message, I invited you to encourage students to apply for CARES Act emergency funding. Thank you for getting the word out. Our students are in great need and many of their stories have been heartbreaking. While it won’t ease all financial burdens, the CARES Act funding has helped nearly 4,000 of our students so far through direct payments and emergency aid. We will continue to distribute the emergency funding until all of the funds we received for students is gone. As a reminder, you can still direct students to the application.
We are working on many scenarios to move forward. The six COVID recovery planning working groups offered robust recommendations that give us many options. They provide the foundation for our COVID recovery implementation plan and prepare us to move forward. We will deliver the final plan to the campus on or around June 15. Prior to then, we will hold a virtual town hall on June 8 at 3:00 p.m. to share thoughts for moving forward. The link will be sent to you next week.
Even now, as the plan is developing, staff are hard at work preparing campus infrastructure to accommodate safe practices for being on campus. We are procuring the supplies we will need to support the personal health and safety of each member of our community. And, we are developing processes to ensure that we can adhere to CDC, PA Department of Health, PDE, and PASSHE guidelines. When we bring students back to campus, we will have the processes in place to house and educate them according to appropriate guidance.
While our goal is to return our students and our learning environment to campus this fall, any plans that we make as a university must adhere to the guidelines set by Governor Wolf’s process for reopening Pennsylvania, and each phase calls for varying levels of social distancing and limits on public gathering. At any time, our plans could be impacted by a change of status in our county. And it is important to note that the final green phase, the phase for moving forward as we contend with the long-term implications of COVID-19, is not at all clear. We will incorporate the Governor’s guidance into our plan and will be prepared to be flexible if guidance changes.
I know we all want certainty so we know what we need to do to best serve our students and our community. I share with you the feeling of not having all of the information I would like, but we must keep safety as our priority. We do know that when we are able to return to campus, it won’t look exactly as it did before COVID-19. Our national and state health experts have said that until, or if, we have a vaccine, we will need to remain diligent in practices that mitigate the spread of the disease. So, we work from that certainty.
There are many questions still needing answers, but a few things are certain. We are engaging the Ship community in developing a plan that is in the best interest of our students and our community. We are collecting information so we are data driven with our decisions, and we are following all appropriate guidance for how we should move forward. We are preparing the campus for a number of scenarios. We have students who desperately want to return to campus. We have faculty who are passionate about teaching them. We have staff who are poised to support them in achieving success.
This situation is challenging but we will get through it. We are Ship. We are Raiders. And working together to keep us strong is the Raider Way!
Stay safe, and have a great weekend,
Laurie A. Carter