July 1: Fall Opening Update and Commencement Announcement
Dear Merrimack College Community -
As Merrimack College continues its four-phased approach for reopening campus, the health and safety of our community will always be our number one priority. As we move toward reopening as a residential campus this fall, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with a few updates.
It has been a busy few weeks as the College is now finalizing our plans to open the campus safely and welcome back our community. Next week, we will be sharing information with the entire community about the Fall semester including a new academic calendar, residential move-in dates and protocols, new community expectations and support, monitoring requirements of health conditions, test and contact tracing protocols, contingencies for containment as necessary, and multiple modality teaching and learning strategies. Epidemiologic science now tells us that combining comprehensive screening and preventative strategies – such as testing – are the best ways to limit community spread, ultimately effectively safeguarding public health. As many students will return to our campus, participating in ongoing campus screening and testing will assist college students’ efforts to adhere to public-health guidelines.
As new science, technology and public policy are advancing daily, Merrimack is creating a campus reopening plan that leverages our expertise, our agility and our supportive community. In addition to our approaches on screening and testing, as well as social distancing, we are also adding new technology such as apps for food ordering and symptom testing, and creating new food venues and spaces for student events.
There is no question COVID-19 has changed our approach to what is normal. The fall will be different than in the past. Regardless, we are excited to invite students back to campus and we look forward to having a terrific semester. Please check your Merrimack email next week for important information as well as for the times and dates of Town Halls that will be held for students, parents, faculty and staff to learn more about our health and safety protocols and policies for the fall.
I would like to thank the faculty who are working hard this summer both teaching classes and preparing for multi-modality offerings during the Fall semester. The different modalities will allow students to participate in a combination of in-person and remote courses. Merrimack continues to finalize these plans and more information will be shared next week. Students will have the ability to review all adjustments with an academic advisor or success coach.
Finally, while we have great confidence that we will be able to operate the institution at its normal capacity during the Fall semester, it has become clear that holding a large, in-person commencement ceremony that more than doubles the normal residential and working population on campus has become more difficult due to the recent changes in the spread of COVID-19 across the country. Thus at the recommendation of health experts and epidemiologists, the only way to hold commencement in August would be to limit the number of attendees and exclude any family attendance. Faced with the choice of telling parents they can not participate in their student’s graduation or delay, we have decided that the August 8, 2020 commencement ceremony will be postponed until further notice.
I am very sorry about this decision as I had been looking forward to coming together and celebrating the accomplishments of the Class of 2020. I recognize how disappointing this news is for graduates and their families. The safety and wellbeing of our students, their families and the Merrimack College community is our top priority, and as such, bringing our community together would be near impossible without creating undue risk. Senior Week and Commencement for 2020 will be rescheduled to a time when it is safe to hold those events. It remains our intent to hold an in-person ceremony for our graduates and their families. We will come back to you with a strategy for holding such a ceremony as the circumstances in regard to COVID-19 warrant.
In the meantime, the College has made the decision to mail all 2020 graduate diplomas directly home to students in late July. Earning a degree is a tremendous achievement and we want to make sure you receive yours. If you have any questions regarding commencement, please reach out to the Task Force.
While the news about commencement is disappointing for all of us, I know we will celebrate together. Between now and then, our focus continues to be on our future, and the safe opening of the campus for a residential, academic experience. I ask that everyone look for our fall opening announcement no later than July 10.
I hope everyone remains safe and well. Happy Fourth of July. God Bless.