An Update Regarding Covid-19
Submitted on March 20, 2020
March 20, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Coaches,
Thank you for the kind, smart, and caring ways in which you have pulled together. We have an incredible campus community! Moving to an entirely online format for undergraduate students in such a short period of time has been a tremendous challenge. You all have made it happen. You make me proud to be a Georgetown Tiger!
In order to finish this semester with the same championship-level education we have offered all academic year, we will need to continue to rely on the best of every single member of our campus community. With the full trust that you will continue to meet the unprecedented health, societal, and educational challenges of today with a can-do resolve, the Executive Cabinet and I have decided to move all courses to online instruction for the remainder of this spring semester. The National State of Emergency declared by President Trump, the local State of Emergency declared by Scott County Judge Executive Joe Pat Covington, and the recommendations of the CDC and the WHO demand that we proceed with extreme caution and carefully avoid gathering in numbers of 10 and larger until early May. Dr. Sandberg, Dean of Students, will share additional information later this evening on campus housing and retrieving your personal belongings from the residence halls. Dr. Allen will be in touch with you early next week with any additional information you might need about completing course requirements.
All college events from today, March 20, through the end of April are cancelled or postponed. This means that we will not host any preview days or PAWS events on campus. In addition, off-campus events, like the alumni tour events and other special donor events scheduled during this time, are also cancelled. We anticipate that many of these events will be rescheduled for late May and June.
It is the Executive Cabinet’s prayer and hope that we will be able to host the Senior Banquet, Baccalaureate Service, and Graduation Ceremony on May 8 and 9, as currently scheduled (all other graduation activities are cancelled). We will confirm on April 29 if the Senior Banquet, Baccalaureate Service, and Graduation Ceremony can be celebrated as currently scheduled. It is possible we will have to reschedule these special events for later in May or even into June. We are delaying our decision until April 29 to give as much time as possible for the college to carefully arrive at a decision that will allow these events to happen as scheduled.
At this time, each Vice President is charged with determining which employees should be considered as “essential personnel” for various functions that have to continue across campus. As much as possible, between today and Monday, April 6, I encourage non-essential personnel to negotiate with your Executive Cabinet member and supervisor to find a way for you to work from home. Starting on Monday morning, all exterior doors on campus buildings will remain locked until at least April 6. During this time, off-campus visitors will need the prior approval of a member of the Executive Cabinet to visit campus. We will make a decision on April 3 about the continued need for these practices.
As nightmarish and unbelievable as this global crisis has been, please know that it will pass. Georgetown College is 190 years old this year. It has weathered wars, pandemics, financial depressions, and internal crisis. Together, we will make it through this. As I have weathered the storms of my own life, I have often relied on the reassurance found in scripture, in particular the words of Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Yes, I am dealing with the tragic fallout from this virus, but I am also looking forward to as strong of a finish to this academic year as possible. I am thinking about the contributions and success stories of our seniors and finding ways to celebrate you all. I am looking forward to July and August when we will welcome RAs, RDs, the SGA leadership, and fall student-athletes back to campus for early preparations and training camps. And, I am thinking about our Opening Convocation and welcoming all of you—students, faculty, staff, and coaches—back to campus for another academic year. What a wonderful celebration of our campus community it will be!
In the meantime, be safe. Please utilize great hand washing technique, practice social distancing, and take this moment to spend some time with your closest family and friends (in small numbers). If I can help you, please email me.
Peace and blessings,
March 11, 2020
Dear Faculty, Students, Coaches, and Staff,
Your health and safety are supremely important to me and the Executive Cabinet. As a matter of fact, it is our first priority. Therefore, it is out of an abundance of caution and concern for making your participation in our campus community as safe as possible that the Executive Cabinet has decided to extend spring break through next Wednesday evening, March 18, and move all classes to online and other distance learning approaches from Thursday morning, March 19, through Friday evening, April 3. In addition, the Good Friday Holiday (April 10) is being rescheduled as a regular class and work day on campus with a special chapel service that day. It is our hope that students will stay on campus Easter weekend and enjoy services at a local church.
Given that many in our community have spent the last week traveling, and the growing number of confirmed cases (including some in your home communities), we believe moving to an online format is prudent at this time. This decision will create several challenges, upset some of you, and likely result in some unintended consequences. However, all of you are valued and special members of our campus community. Your lives are all precious.
Why take this action?
Currently, more than 50 colleges and universities have moved to an online format (or canceled classes for the remainder of the semester), including the University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Ohio State, University of Cincinnati, Indiana University, Harvard, Berea College, and several others in our region. In addition, several large-attendance public events have been cancelled or announced limited attendance policies.
These decisions, like ours, are being driven by the mortality rate and the rate of contagiousness for those infected. According to currently available information, the mortality rate is 10 to 40 times greater than the seasonal flu. (1% to 4% mortality for Covid-19 compared to 0.1% for seasonal flu). Correspondingly, so is the rate of hospitalization. And, infected persons sicken on average 2.8 other people, compared to 1.3 for the seasonal flu.
The U.S. has an incredible healthcare system. However, it is the rate of hospitalizations and the mortality rate that have doctors, epidemiologists, and political leaders concerned. If we have a significant outbreak, our healthcare system could be overrun. These facts that have led both Republican and Democratic governors to act to disperse the population and to slow the rate of infection.
You may have heard or read that the best way to currently help fight the virus, besides good personal hygiene, is to separate our population as much as possible. This will help to ”flatten the curve.” It is very likely that over the next two years, a super majority of the global population will be infected with the virus. The speed at which this happens is critically important. If a large number of people are all sickened at once, the healthcare system in Georgetown and across the country would be overwhelmed. If we can all work together to prevent a spike in cases, and “flatten the curve,” lives will be saved.
If all undergraduate students were on campus in attendance for face-to-face classes and we had an outbreak, the college does not have the staff or physical resources to quarantine large numbers of students. Keeping our faculty as healthy and as safe as we possibly can will help to ensure timely completion of courses. Our second priority, after establishing a healthy and safe environment for all, is to meet our educational mission.
What will happen now?
Again, we are immediately moving all face-to-face courses to online and distance-learning models until April 3. Undergraduate courses will return to their normal format and delivery method on April 6. In the meantime, you will hear tomorrow from Dr. Sandberg, Vice President for Student Life, about the process for retrieving any personal items from campus housing that you absolutely need during this time, primarily laptops and books. If at all possible, I encourage you to wait to retrieve other items and to keep away from campus for the next three weeks.
If you are a varsity spring athlete still in competition, an international student, or have a compelling personal reason, you will be given the option to continue your season and remain in campus housing and to utilize the dining hall with limited service options. The decision to remain on campus, or to continue to be engaged with intercollegiate athletics over the next three weeks, is personally up to each of you who fall into one of the special categories outlined above. I encourage you to make it with your family (or with your trusted mentors). Spring student athletes who choose not to participate will not be negatively impacted with their athletic scholarship. Students who fit the above categories and choose to remain on campus will do so with additional housing conduct expectations and requirements.
Given this is completely unforeseen and out of the control of the college, and we are nearly two-thirds of the way through the semester, the college is not in a financial position to offer any rebates on housing or meal plans for this three-week period (or the remainder of the semester, if we are in a situation that requires us to remain online beyond the next three weeks). This is the college’s policy and, given this historic situation, Georgetown will abide by the policy.
In addition, over the next three weeks, all students will receive four Nexus credits. If you are needing to make up Nexus credits in order to graduate in May, you will receive an email from Dr. Allen specifying how we will enable you to satisfy the requirements in time for graduation. The college also will credit students who were scheduled to work through campus labor or federal work study for the hours you would have worked during this three-week period.
If we are forced to remain online for the remainder of the semester and/or Governor Beshear limits the number of folks who can attend an event, we will still find a way to celebrate a commencement this May. My hope and prayer is that we will all be back together in May with all of the guests that we can physically accommodate for our outdoor graduation ceremony.
College operations are continuing as of this date and faculty, staff, and coaches must continue to fulfill your job responsibilities and students must fulfill your course requirements. This announcement will result in many questions, and I ask that you direct your questions to the vice president responsible for that area (Dr. Allen for Academics; Dr. Sandberg for Student Life and Housing; and, Mr. Evans for Athletics). There will likely be additional emails sent to specific groups of students and employees. It is very important that everyone closely monitor your email during this period. If you have not signed up for the college’s text alert system, please do so immediately. You can sign up by visiting https://www.getrave.com/login/georgetowncollege and filling in the appropriate personal information.
This next three weeks must be as successful for all of us as the last three (which saw our Mock Trial Team win a Regional AMTA Award and our Men’s Basketball Team win the conference regular season and tournament championships). It will require us to work together, to be as flexible as possible, and exemplify a can-do spirit. There will be challenges and difficulties, but we can overcome them, just as we have for 190 years through wars, depressions, recessions, and pandemics.
Again, we are making this difficult decision out of an abundance of caution, concern, and love for each member of our campus community. I pray all of you will remain safe and I look forward to all of us being together in person as soon as possible. In the meantime, please check your email daily for updates, focus on doing your part (students, please focus on doing your best and completing your classes) and practice good personal hygiene (everyone, wash your hands often!).
Peace and prayers for wellness,