Mar. 11, 2020

Important Message Regarding COVID-19 and the Spring Semester

Dear Members of the Conn Community,

Connecticut College is a community of character and a community of care. When faced with extraordinary circumstances we think about each other, coming together to work out solutions that are in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff. The unprecedented outbreak of the Coronavirus COVID-19 and the global public health crisis it has spawned is one of those extraordinary circumstances. I am writing tonight to share some recent actions the College is taking that will affect the next several weeks of the semester.

While there are currently no known cases of COVID-19 on our campus, the situation is evolving so quickly that we cannot be certain how it will change. This week, we saw the number of confirmed U.S. cases of the virus reach a new milestone, along with public emergencies declared not just in Connecticut but also in our neighboring states of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York. That has led us to reflect on the best ways to ensure continuity of education for our students.

As a residential college with 99 percent of our students living on campus, we realize that, should a future outbreak occur, we would be challenged to contain the rapid spread of infection among 1,800 students living in close proximity. Therefore, we have decided that, at the close of our spring break, we will suspend residential instruction and transition to remote modes of teaching until at least April 30.

We have taken this decision to preserve the health and safety of our campus and of the broader New London community. To be clear, the College is not closing. Faculty and staff will continue to report to work as usual. We are simply asking students to return home after the spring break and complete their courses remotely. Remote classes will begin Wednesday, March 25. This decision, of course, affects each student quite differently. Dean of Students Victor Arcelus will be sending a letter tomorrow with more information about how we plan to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Honestly, this has been a very hard decision to make. Everyone in the senior administration wishes that it could be otherwise—that we could enjoy the arrival of spring on our beautiful campus together. For our seniors, especially, I feel a great deal of pain. But I believe this is the most responsible decision for everyone’s wellbeing.

We will continue to assess the situation in the coming weeks so that, by April 30, we can inform our seniors about how we plan to celebrate the Commencement of the Class of 2020.

Other campus activities will also be affected. In addition to a shift to remote teaching, we are recommending:

  • that all large lectures and events planned for the remainder of the term be canceled;
  • that all College-sponsored domestic and international travel be suspended;
  • that access to our campus be limited to Connecticut College personnel and other approved contractors;
  • that admission tours cease until further notice, and other admission activities, including Camel Days, be offered through alternative means;
  • and, with the recent announcement by NESCAC presidents, that our spring athletic season be canceled as of March 15.

We understand the hardship that these changes place on all of you. And I want to thank you for your patience, understanding, and resilience as we all work through the next weeks.

Future communications

Our deans will be reaching out to students and faculty to clarify the questions that this letter inevitably raises for you. Students can expect to receive an email from Dean Arcelus tomorrow with many more details about moving arrangements as well as accommodations for students who for different reasons cannot easily return home.

Faculty will hear from Dean of the Faculty Jeff Cole with information about resources for effective remote delivery of courses, including ongoing workshops provided by our Instructional Technology staff.                                

Most important, employees who are concerned about their own health situation in light of the COVID-19 virus are invited to submit this form to request special work accommodations.

I want to end by thanking all of you for your patience as we worked through this decision and for the passion and energy that so many of you brought to bear on a very uncertain situation. I appreciate especially the notes I have received and the good ideas you have shared, which reflect, as always, the very best of the Conn community.

Yours,

Katherine Bergeron
President