President's Update on COVID-19
Dear Santa Clara University Community,
As we continue to respond to the various impacts of the COVID-19 virus, I write with some important updates to the campus community. As I wrote in my March 9 email, we are in uncharted waters as a university and nation. Every day brings new information. To guide our decision-making, we have relied on the counsel of local health officials, our own university experts, and colleagues at other universities.
Bay Area “Shelter in Place” Order: Today, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and five other Bay Area counties issued an Order directing their residents to shelter at home for three weeks beginning March 17. This order limits activity, travel, and business functions to only those most essential for the health and safety of individuals and their families. Residents may leave their homes for limited purposes such as grocery shopping, medical care, to care for a family member, or to engage in healthy activity, provided they comply with social distancing. The Order permits educational institutions to continue functioning to facilitate distance learning and perform essential functions. The Order will be in place until April 7 and could be amended.
As of this writing, we have no confirmed cases of the coronavirus on our campuses. We will continue to update you on any suspected or confirmed cases. Given the exponential rate of infections in the Bay Area, we have mandated various forms of social distancing to help curb the spread of the virus. These include canceling meetings, arranging for work from home, and moving to virtual learning. At present, if our campus were fully occupied, it is highly probable that we would see the virus spread so rapidly that we would not have adequate space to isolate or treat individuals.
Remote instruction extended through Spring Quarter: In my March 9 email, I announced that we would offer instruction and exams virtually until April 13. My hope was that we could return to in-person classes at that point, but the latest information makes that highly unlikely. In order to offer some much-needed certainty, and after consulting broadly with academic leadership, we have decided to extend virtual learning and exams through the end of the academic year. Paramount in our decision-making is the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. We are also committed to contributing to the aggressive response of local communities in the Bay area.
I recognize that this transition, though expected by many, is not easy. Over 150 universities thus far have made a similar decision. Rest assured, we will continue to educate students with academic rigor in our Jesuit tradition and with attention to care for the whole person, learning from each other and best practices nationally.
To assist the transition for those on the quarter system, the Provost has designated the period from March 30–April 7 as Instructional Preparation time for faculty and students so that we can be successful when classes resume fully online on April 8. Depending on the course, students may be asked to get technology ready at home, download particular software, review educational materials, and prepare introductory assignments. Students, please continue to regularly monitor communications from your professors.
Residential students: With the decision to offer online instruction through the end of the academic year, we have decided to close most residence halls for spring quarter, with limited exceptions. We are aware that some students have extraordinary circumstances (including some international students) that require them to remain in on-campus housing. Certain exceptions will be granted. We realize that most students are away from campus now. Tomorrow, Jeanne Rosenberger, Vice Provost for Student Life, will send details to students and parents with additional move-out information. An initial move-out period will extend through March 28, and another opportunity to gain access to retrieve belongings will be offered in May to accommodate those students who live far from this region.
Because of the “shelter-in-place” Order, the Malley Center and Library are currently closed. Benson Memorial Center will remain open for dining and study. Designated quiet study areas where students can maintain appropriate social distancing have been designated throughout the building.
Spring quarter room and board fees: With the move to online classes and closure of most residence halls, many students will not be living on campus. For those who have already made spring room and board payments, the University will credit Spring Quarter room and board fees if the student is not approved to continue living on campus. Calculation and processing of these credits will happen in the next several weeks. More information will be forthcoming on our COVID-19 website.
Commencement: Our Commencement exercises range from late May until mid-June across our schools. We are not making any decision yet about how and when to celebrate Commencement 2020. After ample consultation, we will inform the community.
Guidance to Employees: We have already communicated to our valued staff and faculty that we will continue to pay all full-time and benefits-eligible part-time employees at their current base rate of pay through April 7 (the date of the Order noted above). This includes those regular employees who will need to continue working on campus because of the essential nature of their duties, those working remotely from home, others whose work is not conducive to working remotely, and those who have a temporary lack of work, and/or are at-risk with chronic health conditions or over 65 years of age.
Resources for students and employees: In these uncertain times, we want to be sure that all members of our Bronco family have sufficient food to stay healthy. If you do not have reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food, please do not hesitate to request access to the Bronco Pantry. In the true Bronco Spirit, many of our Alumni have already reached out to contribute to an emergency fund. More information on that fund will be shared at a later date.
Questions or Concerns: If you have questions or concerns, please consult our COVID-19 website and its “frequently asked questions” section. It is updated regularly. You may also email any questions to email@example.com. It is more helpful to write this email account than to an individual administrator as we use the “covid” email to track questions and concerns and send timely responses.
Let me close on a note of gratitude to our faculty, staff, and students who have so generously, patiently, and creatively responded to the demands in this unprecedented moment in our nation’s history. In all we do, we strive to balance maintaining our academic mission as a university with caring for the well-being of our community. These decisions are not easy, and I realize how particularly challenging these times are for our graduating students who imagined a very different conclusion to their time at Santa Clara.
As I said in my video to students last week, we are in this together, and in this conviction, we find our strength. Clear-headed, calm, and generous in spirit, we will get through this, with God’s help and the help of one another.
Our Santa Clara Community is daily in my prayers.
Take care of yourself and your families,
Kevin F. O'Brien, S.J.