March 13: Coronavirus Update
Dear Students, Parents, Faculty and Staff,
We are reaching out to update you with regard to Merrimack’s response to COVID-19. It is important for you to know first and foremost that there are currently no presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Merrimack College. Second, the College needs to do its part to mitigate this problem and to help flatten what they call the coronavirus “curve” by increasing social distancing and decreasing social density. With that in mind, the College has made several decisions in order to ensure the safety of its students, faculty and staff.
COVID-19 has created one of the greatest public health crises in my lifetime. There is no question that the spread of this disease will impact many, and thus we must look out for one another as we all navigate this time of uncertainty.
While our daily lives must change in response to this crisis, our primary priority is, and will always be the health, safety and well being of our students, faculty and staff. Tied to our primary priority is to ensure the orderly operation of our institution, even in a moment of global crisis. With more than 6,000 students, faculty and staff to care for, we have made the decision to take a phased approach in our response to a public health issue that is changing by the hour. This means that we are moving incrementally and thoughtfully through our response as we make major decisions that impact this campus, our faculty, staff and students; and our surrounding community. A phased approach has given us an opportunity to remain nimble and ready to adjust our practices to respond safely and appropriately to shifting realities around this virus.
This past Tuesday, we made the unprecedented step of extending spring break until March 22. The purpose of this decision was to allow us time to understand the breadth of this crisis, protect our students, faculty, and staff and to develop a robust response to this unprecedented crisis that allows our students to continue their education with minimal disruption and also allows our faculty to do what they do best, which is to teach and educate safely.
With that said, the College has made the decision to move all classes to remote formats beginning Monday, March 23, 2020, at 8 a.m. and continue this practice through Monday, April 13th, the Monday following Easter Break. On-campus classes are expected to resume on Tuesday, April 14th. However, this unprecedented global crisis is fluid and the College may be forced to alter its plan. We will notify the campus of any changes to the on-campus return date by no later than April 10 should an additional change be warranted.
Effective close of business today, Friday, March 13th, all non-essential personnel will be working from home. All in-person internal meetings scheduled should be conducted remotely and should be kept on schedule. Video technology is available. See below for more information.
While the campus remains open, there are essential staff who have to be here every day to ensure the campus is operational. I want to thank the Facilities Department and the Merrimack College Police Department who are essential personnel and who show up every day, rain or shine, and during every single crisis including this one. They are the folks that will keep the campus safe during this time until we return to normal operations.
The campus will remain open and operational with a significantly reduced workforce. The goal of this reduction in workforce is to lower social density on campus and increase social distancing. Employees should speak with their supervisors around alternative schedules and staffing for each division. In addition, anyone who is concerned about their safety, or if they have a pre-existing health condition, or are not feeling well or living with someone who is not feeling well, should work from home.
Effective immediately the Elm Street gate is the only entrance open to enter the campus, as all other entrances will be closed until further notice. All buildings will be locked and will only be accessible to staff and faculty who have swipe access. All students will be prohibited from academic buildings and residence halls. Faculty and staff will have access to their offices over the next 30 days should they need to access teaching and or work-related materials. Please remember to bring your Merrimack ID with you. More information for students looking to pick up their essential items on campus can be found below in the student section. The College is also working to assist those students who do not have access to technology. If you fall into this category please contact firstname.lastname@example.org who will assist you.
We will be using the additional week of Spring Break (March 15-20) to speak to and work with faculty and students on plans that will work to mitigate the impact on teaching and learning. There will be no classes or expectation of student work during March 15-20, unless you are in a specific online degree program at the graduate or continuing education level. Faculty should have no expectation of any work from students during this time. Due to this adjustment, the semester will be extended an additional week and will now end on Friday, May 15th.
The on-ground classes which are now operating remotely will run within the normal academic hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at their regularly scheduled times as if they were meeting on campus. Should faculty members need to alter the times of classes, they will be in touch with their students directly.
The College will keep you informed on a regular basis on the status of on-campus operations as well as developments of the COVID-19 disease and the campus’s response. I am planning to continue online faculty and staff town halls. I will also be scheduling virtual town halls for students and parents to answer any questions that may arise.
This global public health crisis has become a major disruptive event in all of our lives and it is our goal to help minimize the long-term impacts by being thoughtful and deliberate in our decision making. The health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are paramount to all of our decisions. The need to decrease social density and increase social distancing on this campus is why we have made the decision to transition to remote learning.
The risk of contracting COVID-19 on College campuses is very high due to the close proximity and the residential aspect of a college campus. In an effort to protect those members in our community who are at high risk, we must maintain social distancing. It is important to self-isolate if any staff, faculty or student have come into contact with someone with the virus or has come in contact with someone who has the virus. In those situations, we ask that you self-isolate at home, call your medical doctor and self-report to the Task Force. The actions the College is taking now is how we are doing our part to decrease the spread of the virus and also so that we can get back to our daily lives as quickly as possible and have our students and faculty return to campus when the crisis passes.
The actions taken by Merrimack College today, and thousands of other institutions and organizations around the world, will have a major impact on the spread of this disease. Please continue to be cautious and careful with your interactions with others, minimize travel and take precautions to ensure your health and safety.
If you have any questions or concerns as a student, faculty member, employee or parent please do not hesitate to contact the Task Force who will respond to your question in a timely manner. We are all trying to do our best during this time of uncertainty.
I want to conclude by saying how sorry I am to everyone about how complex the world has become so quickly. I thank everyone, students, faculty, staff and parents for your patience, understanding, and support of our community during these most difficult times. As our patron saint, Saint Augustine once said, “Pray as though everything depends upon God. Work as though everything depends upon you.”
May God bless you all. May you and your families be safe and secure in the coming weeks.
More Information For Faculty, Staff and Students
Based on the information above, I would like to share more detailed information below and ask that you please read through as it covers many new decisions and policies that have been made in order to best support our students, faculty and staff during this time.
Information for Students
The College has made the decision to move to all remote learning beginning Monday, March 23, 2020, at 8 a.m. and continue this practice through Monday, April 13. We will be using the additional week of Spring Break (March 15-20) to speak to and work with faculty on their plans to mitigate the impact of remote learning on their teaching and learning in classes. No classes will be held during the week of March 15-20th, with the exception of a few graduate online courses that were already scheduled.
There will be no in-person classes held on campus until April 14. Our current intention is that all remote classes will be convened during their regularly scheduled times in what is called synchronous learning. More information regarding remote learning will be shared directly with students and faculty over the coming days as we prepare to go to remote learning on March 23 at 8 a.m.
Any students who have questions about their classes or concerns about remote learning can contact their faculty members or the Task Force directly. Any faculty who have questions may also contact the Task Force or the CETL at email@example.com.
Internships, cooperative education, service learning and experiential learning requirements
Many of our classes, both undergraduate and graduate, have service and or experiential learning requirements. Many other programs require project-based and hands-on learning experience for graduation. Over the coming days, the College will work with faculty and the Deans to identify those classes and will work with students to meet the requirements, and or wave them to ensure students are not penalized academically. Because of the breadth and depth of our experiential learning requirements at Merrimack, it will take a few more days to respond to this concern.
Remote Learning for Graduate Students
All on-ground graduate classes will move to remote learning beginning Monday, March 23rd. No graduate classes will meet during the extended week of spring break (March 15-20). These dates do not apply to the online MS in Management, the MS in Accounting, the MS in Business Analytics, the MS in Healthcare Analytics, the MS in Data Science and the M.Ed. in Teacher Education as these courses have continued to meet.
Graduate students who have questions or concerns about their programs should contact their Program Director. A list of Program Directors and their contact information will be shared with all graduate students next week.
Retrieving Essential Belongings
At this time, we ask students who are away from campus for Spring Break to remain off-campus. Communication will be sent to our residential students with further details on the retrieval of essential belongings over the next 24 hours.
Request to Remain in Housing
These requests will rarely be granted. Only in cases of extreme extenuating circumstances that restrict their ability to go home will a student be permitted to remain in housing. Any student with a need to remain in housing should reach out to the Dean of Students Office directly firstname.lastname@example.org by Saturday, March 14 at 5 p.m.
Housing and Dining Charges
In regards to housing and dining charges, we are working diligently to address any questions that come forth. The College will provide further clarification after April 14, 2020.
Student Support Services
All support offices will remain open and available to students virtually. Hours of operation as well as how to interact with Student Support Services will be finalized and shared with students in the coming days.
Consistent with recent NCAA and Northeast Conference announcements, all athletic activities including games, practices, intramurals and club sports are canceled for the spring semester. Student-athletes should follow the same procedures outlined for all non-athlete students. Issues related to student-athlete eligibility related to the cancellations will be communicated as they are developed and communicated by the NCAA.
Information for Faculty and Staff
Effective with the close of business today, Friday, March 13, the majority of personnel will be working from home.
Faculty and staff should anticipate a conversation with their supervisor, chair and/or dean in the coming days to better understand how offices on the campus will remain open and operational with reduced in-person staffing. It is expected that all employees working from home will be working, participating in meetings and interacting and responding to student emails.
While the campus remains open, members of the Facilities Department and the Merrimack College Police Department will be on campus working normal hours.
Remote Teaching and Video Conferencing
The College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) has created the Continuity of Education website for faculty questions in regards to remote learning. This site includes resources and guides that will help faculty move elements of their course remotely in the event that this becomes necessary.
In addition to being able to leverage Collaborate in Blackboard Ultra, the College has purchased an enterprise-wide license for Zoom teleconferencing, for those faculty and staff who want to engage in synchronous instruction on-line and would like to hold virtual meetings. The product will be widely available by next week. Log in and training information for Zoom will be posted to the Continuity of Education website next week. *Please note - do not create your own Zoom account as a link will be sent directly to all faculty next week to begin this process.
In addition to the resources above, the CETL, IT, McQuade Library, the Academic Success Center and committed faculty have partnered to create an expanded full-support team. All calls and emails will be routed through the Help Desk at 978-837-3500 and the call will be forwarded to the appropriate department. This line will be operating 24/7 for faculty convenience and support beginning Monday, March 16. In the meantime, if you have questions please reach out to email@example.com.
Faculty and staff will have access to the campus and their offices over the next 30 days. In order to support social distancing, the entrance to the campus will be funneled through the Elm Street entrance only.
In addition, there is a moratorium for all in-person on and off-campus athletic recruiting. Coaches may recruit virtually. Please speak with the Athletic Director for more information and clarification.