March 31: Remainder of Spring Semester 2020
Remote Learning Schedule, Remote Work Extension and Postponement of Spring 2020 Graduation
To the Merrimack College Community -
I write to you this evening knowing the information in this email is difficult for many of us to read, feel and experience. I would like to begin by saying I am very sorry to all students and faculty, but especially to our graduating students (seniors and graduate students), that your Spring semester is so radically different than you all expected when we began the semester on January 16, 2020.
I could not have imagined in my wildest thoughts that the world would be brought to a screeching halt in a matter of days and that we would now all be social distancing, remote learning and working from home, and Zooming to make the connections we all seek, want and need to keep some modicum of normalcy in our lives.
I am very concerned about the hardships and the toll this pandemic has created for many of our students and their families, and the impact of COVID-19 on our hundreds of employees who are so dedicated to Merrimack, its mission to you, our students.
I am also grateful for your patience and understanding as we make difficult and complex decisions as the external world changes by the hour. I am humbled and proud of our employees’ commitment to our students’ success and our mission to serve others and I am deeply impressed with the fortitude, perseverance and optimism of our student body which is facing this new challenge of remote learning with enthusiasm and gusto. The overall empathy and support all of our community members have shown toward each other is both inspiring and amazing, and we are all blessed.
I communicated to everyone on March 13, 2020 that we would go to remote learning on March 23. At that time it was my hope that a 30-day period of time, until April 14, 2020 would be enough time, based upon local and state government advice to alleviate the problem of COVID-19 and allow the College to return to normal operations in the middle of April. I also noted in our virtual town halls that our plan has been to take this crisis incrementally and break down our decisions and not under or overreact to the changing daily circumstances we find ourselves in with COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the outbreak of COVID-19 has rapidly changed our way of life and has become one of the largest public health crises of our time. The uncertainty that this virus has caused, the speed of its spread and its impacts on all of us is unprecedented. The health and safety of our students, staff and faculty is our paramount concern.
Since my email on March 13th, four major circumstances have changed over the past 18 days:
- The local, state and the federal governments have extended the stay-at-home/social distancing advisories until at least May 4, 2020;
- The spread and impact of COVID-19 on the residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is profound and growing exponentially, impacting thousands of citizens and placing harm on millions more;
- The local businesses that serve the College are closed until at least May 4, per the Governor’s stay-at-home advisory, making the starting up of the college near impossible;
- The spread of the virus has forced society as a whole to social distance because it is the only true way to keep us all safe. Under that direction, there is no clear way to guarantee the health and safety of our students, staff and faculty if we were to reconstitute in-person classes, move every student out of housing, or continue with our plans for graduation or senior week.
Therefore, effective immediately we are instituting the following policies to preserve the health and safety of our community and its members:
- Remote Learning for the Spring 2020 Semester is extended through May 15, 2020. Merrimack College will continue with remote learning for all students for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. The college will be open for business remotely and virtually for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.
- The Spring 2020 Graduation is Postponed. The Sunday, May 17, 2020 graduation ceremony and the scheduled graduation events of Friday and Saturday, May 15-16, 2020 are also postponed until the College can safely set a new date to bring back students and families to campus for major graduation events. It is expected that a new graduation date and senior week festivities will be announced by May 1, 2020.
- Senior Week Postponed. Our important traditions of senior week, for all graduating seniors previously scheduled for May 13-15, 2020 are also postponed and will be rescheduled to correspond with a new graduation event. It is expected that a new graduation date and senior week festivities will be announced by May 1, 2020.
- Remote Work for All Faculty and Staff is extended through May 11, 2020. Merrimack College will continue with remote work for all employees (except those employees deemed campus essential – police force, facilities, IT or as determined essential by the College) until May 11, 2020. The College will be open for business remotely and virtually through May 11, 2020, with the expectation that the May 11, 2020 date is tentative and may be extended again until local, state and federal government authorities and the College deem it safe to travel, work and reside on campus.
- The Physical Campus will Remain Closed and Access Limited. The physical campus will continue to be closed until at least May 11, 2020, with the expectation that the May 11, 2020 date is tentative and may be extended again until local, state and federal government authorities and the college deem it safe to travel, work and reside on campus.
- Access to Residence Halls. We understand that students want to return to campus to collect their belongings, but please know that residence halls remain closed. We will initiate a systematic move-out process when it is safe to do so. Residential students will receive specific information from the Dean of Students Office on the move-out process in the coming weeks.
- Housing, Board, Parking, Study Abroad Spring 2020 Expenses. Possible adjustments of Spring 2020 room and board expenses impact a student’s overall cost of attendance, and therefore their institutional financial aid award. The College is reviewing how to appropriately reimburse/credit students for a portion of their Spring 2020 housing, board and parking expenses in light of each student’s financial aid package. Additionally, the College is reviewing all study abroad and spring break academic trips. Student accounts will be adjusted by May 1, 2020.
- Summer 2020 Undergraduate Course Registration. The summer semester will begin on May 18, 2020. All undergraduate summer courses are offered through the Division of Professional and Continuing Studies. Each summer, more than 500 Merrimack undergraduate students take online courses at Merrimack to accelerate their degrees, make up for courses that they may have withdrawn from or take new courses they may need because of a change in major. Over 100 courses are offered online this summer for undergraduate students. There will be no on-campus undergraduate courses this summer. Undergraduate students who want to take a summer course online at Merrimack may find more information on our website.
Summer 2020 Graduate Courses. Graduate programs are preparing to run summer courses remotely on a program by program basis. Graduate students should contact their programs directly for more information. See our list of program contacts
- Girard School of Business - all graduate courses online for summer
- School of Education & Social Policy - graduate courses may begin remotely and convert to campus-based; that decision will be made by April 15, 2020. Current online programs will remain online.
- School of Health Sciences - graduate courses may begin remotely and convert to campus-based; that decision will be made by April 15, 2020.
- School of Liberal Arts - graduate courses may begin remotely and convert to campus-based; that decision will be made by April 15, 2020.
- School of Science and Engineering - there are no graduate courses this summer.
- 2020 Census Reminder - It is important that every student be counted in the 2020 Census. “Per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” As such, each residential student will be counted as living on campus. Those residential students who live on campus will be counted in the College’s reporting. For those living off campus, they are counted as anyone else who has a mailing address would be and should have already received their initial invitation letter to respond to the 2020 Census. They will be asked to respond online, over the phone or by mail. Due to the Coronavirus, the timelines for responses have been delayed/extended, including the College’s response on behalf of those living on campus (May 2), as well as the self-response of those living off campus (through August 14).
I know this information is hard, especially graduation and senior week postponement. These special moments in the academic year are simply our favorite week of events culminating in our Sunday morning graduation ceremony usually attended by more than 10,000 students, families and friends. I promise we will have a ceremony and other celebratory events, I just cannot confirm a date until we know more and we can do so safely.
It is my hope that each of you, and your families and friends, are safe and healthy; and that you are receiving the care and support you need during this trying time. If you have any questions or concerns please continue to email the Task Force who will get back to you in short order.
Be Well, Be Safe and God Bless.