August 14, 2020
Dear Members of the Chestnut Hill College Community,
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today and share that the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, the Vice Presidents, and I have made the extraordinarily difficult decision to move to a fully virtual experience for the Fall 2020 semester. As in the spring, residence halls will not be open and academic programs and all campus services and resources will be online.
As you know, College leadership has been meeting daily and working with a Task Force and sub-committees comprised of faculty, staff, and students. We have been reviewing changing federal, state, and city guidelines and studying the evolving research regarding the COVID-19 global pandemic. We have also been discussing the rates of infection, the complications associated with available and timely testing that many health professionals believe is critical to bringing people back together, and the recent medical concerns regarding possible long-term health conditions that may result from an infection. It was thought that an accurate, simple, rapid-response, inexpensive test for COVID-19 would be ready for wide-spread use by mid-July to early August. That expectation has not yet been realized and is another factor in our decision to continue to work remotely for the Fall semester.
FACTORS UNDERLYING THE DECISION
Since my communications began with you in March, we have continued to make decisions with the health and safety of all members of our College community as my guiding principle. We believed that daily self-assessments, testing, quarantining, face coverings, and social distancing would provide the structure for staff and faculty to create a safe space for learning on campus. However, given the significant and growing concerns that still exist, we believe the decision to delay our return to campus until January 2021 is the only appropriate and responsible decision we can make to honor our commitment to the health and safety of our community. We believe we need to make this decision today in order to provide our students and families the time they need to plan for these changes and to reach out to us with questions regarding their student experience.
There were multiple factors under consideration as this decision was made. The thought of quarantining students with suspected infections alone in a room at Loyola Lodge until tests results are available, then having to isolate students who test positive for at least fourteen days, causes us great concern for students’ mental health and general well-being. Having been separated from friends and desiring to make new friends, students naturally will seek opportunities to congregate. Keeping students from socializing in a manner contrary to safety protocols is extraordinarily difficult, perhaps impossible, as we have witnessed during these past months. Moreover, in the event of an outbreak, confidence in the availability and reliability of contact tracing is a continuing worry. Overall, this decision comes from an abundance of care for each member of the College Community. The campus experience at Chestnut Hill College is designed to be relationally rich and memorable. This cannot be the case for Fall 2020, and we do not wish to offer students an on-campus experience less than they deserve and anticipate.
The move to fully online learning will affect each student in a unique way. The majority of our students in the Accelerated Adult Degree Program (AADP) and the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) were already registered for exclusively online learning. Fewer than ten courses across both of those schools will need to move to online delivery, and we will be working with those faculty to support the move to an online model.
In the School of Undergraduate Studies (SUS), more than half of our courses had already been moved to a fully online format. We had also been able to accommodate over 100 SUS students (and practically all of the SGS and AADP students) with fully online schedules. We were also prepared to provide them with a full range of support services to continue their learning. We will now move all of those services to an online format for the period of time that the campus remains in remote operations. I am grateful to the faculty who have supported learning in online environments, and know that they will continue to work to achieve the best learning outcomes for our students. (More details about the delivery of courses will follow next week. Please watch for emails.)
The College will make every effort to provide a rich and meaningful array of activities for students through virtual means. Over the summer a Task Force sub-committee began creating virtual events and opportunities for students. While we will be living and learning remotely for Fall 2020, our commitment to co-curricular opportunities and engagement remains unchanged. In the coming week students will be receiving detailed information from the Student Activities Office (SAO) about Club Registration and a virtual Club and Involvement Fair, virtual Fridays After Dark and Fun at One, and a new virtual Leadership Development Series. New students will receive information about virtual orientation opportunities for the original dates of August 28th – 31st and will continue to have the opportunity to engage with their Orientation Teams and Orientation Leaders. We also will continue to plan for an in-person Orientation for new students in January 2021.
Career Development has planned a virtual workshop series, has already scheduled several virtual classroom visits, and are available for one-on-one meetings to help students with matching their strengths and interests to rewarding career paths, resume prep, mock interviews, and internship and job searches. We know that these opportunities will feel different from our individual computer screens, but we look forward to adapting the delivery of our programming while remaining steadfast in our dedication to fostering relationships and the holistic development of all students — both hallmarks of a Chestnut Hill College education.
Campus Ministry will offer programs that stretch the spirit and expand the heart while creating a warm, vibrant community among students. Our Campus Ministers look forward to engaging with remote ministry as they continue our mission to connect the members of our community with God and one another. The ministry team will offer opportunities for spiritual formation and personal enrichment through individual pastoral accompaniment, retreats, justice education dialogues, State of the Heart faith-sharing groups, and weekly prayer services, which will call upon the wisdom of various members of our community. This accompaniment will be more flexible in meeting times and gather groups of individuals diverse in race, faith, and all identities, which enrich our campus. Ministry at Chestnut Hill College is as necessary now as ever before. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to voice their spiritual needs and desires. The ministry team is eager to respond in service of the heart — creating spaces that will uplift the Good News, magnify stories of beauty and resilience, and offer space for grief and healing.
The Chestnut Hill College Counseling Center offers individual therapy, at no charge, to students in the School of Undergraduate Studies, Accelerated Adult Degree Program and the School of Graduate Studies and will continue to be available to students during the Fall semester. To set-up an appointment, please call 215-248-7104 or email Dr. Sheila Kennedy (email@example.com). You will be contacted by a staff member of the Counseling Center. For more information, please see the Counseling Center webpage: www.chc.edu/student-life/
Please also consider using the following tools to manage stress and anxiety during these difficult times:
- Wellness Society's Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook, A Tool to Help You Build Resilience During Times
- The COVID Coach — An app for managing stress, checking your mood, and learning about resources. Download the COVID Coach for IOS or Android
While there are many operational and instructional considerations that will result from this decision, we have come to this conclusion after great care and consideration for the health and safety of our community. We make this decision with deep sadness and disappointment because we know how difficult it is for you to receive this message. It is our deep care for each and every member of the College Community that prompts us to make this choice. Our decision is rooted in our mission, which exhorts us to be socially responsible, ethically and morally just, and to put the common good first. Please know we genuinely regret having to do this, but we also have a duty to each of you to make decisions based on the most current science and available data-driven information.
Chestnut Hill College remains committed to the health and safety of our campus community and to the transformational educational development of all its students. We know you will have many questions about this decision and how your experience may be affected. Consequently, we have included a number of resources below for you to use to assist with your questions. Please contact us and utilize these resources as you prepare for the upcoming semester.
Academic Affairs - firstname.lastname@example.org
Admissions - email@example.com
Financial Aid - firstname.lastname@example.org
Counseling Services - email@example.com
Registrar - Registrar@chc.edu
Residence Life - Housing@chc.edu
Student Life / Dean of Students - firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Accounts - email@example.com
I wish to thank the many members of the College community who have spent countless hours studying and developing our COVID plans, knowing the data and recommendations from CDC, NCAA, and government sources have been and continue to be provided in a fluid and sometimes conflicting manner.
I also wish to thank our students and their families for their understanding and flexibility. As President, my promise is my commitment to the safety, the health, and well-being of our campus community.
This will be a different semester than any of us anticipated. Each of us has had to overcome previously unforeseen personal circumstances during these unprecedented days. I am confident that our faculty and staff are prepared to address them with respect to our students’ experiences. As we pivot toward fully online instruction for the fall semester, please know that we remain committed to creating a supportive and safe environment to facilitate both academic and personal development. We look forward to the semester and to working with you our campus community to meet these next challenges with the resolve and determination of a Griffin.
May God Bless you and keep you safe,
Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D.