Dear Students, Staff and Faculty:
For the past several weeks, and especially during the past 48 hours, the COVID-19 Incident Response Team and I have been focused on how best to protect the safety of the Smith community, given the expanding spread of COVID-19. I am writing now to let you know that we have made five significant decisions:
- In-person classes will be offered on campus through Friday, March 13.
- Spring recess will be extended by one week through Sunday, March 29.
- Alternate modes of instruction will be offered for the curriculum, beginning on March 30. Students will receive more information in the coming days.
- All students must move out of their on-campus housing beginning on Saturday, March 14, and must be moved out by Friday, March 20, at the latest. Students should not expect to return this semester. Students in study-abroad and study-away programs will remain in place.
- Room and board will be provided only to students who have no option but to remain on campus, including those from countries with travel restrictions, those whose legal residence is Smith College and those with other extenuating circumstances. Please fill out this form if this applies to you.
There are many unknowns about the COVID-19 disease, but two things are clear. The first is that social distancing is one of the best protections against the spread of the virus. The second is that the virus has the potential to spread rapidly in communities. Both of these pose challenges for each and every college campus, including Smith.
You may be wondering why we are making this decision now, given that there are no known cases on our campus and few cases in Massachusetts. We believe that spring recess travel presents a potential threat to Smith. Because so many members of our community are planning to leave, their return, from many places, could present a significantly increased risk of exposure to the virus.
These were not easy decisions to make, given our commitment to the residential liberal arts college model. I know that these actions are extremely disruptive for all of us. However, we have a duty to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us—those students, staff and faculty on the CDC’s list of those who are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19.
Students, I know that many of you will be disappointed to leave a place that many of you call home; my heart breaks especially for the seniors. We will do our best to support your studies while we will seek ways to support virtual connections with one another and this campus.
Staff, your work may change in the days ahead, but I know I can count on your partnership, as I have these past seven years. Going forward, we will need everyone’s best ideas to keep our community strong as we support our teaching and research mission.
Faculty, the extension of spring recess is intended to give you time to work with ITS on transitioning your courses to alternate modes of instruction. One example might be to offer lectures and discussions via Zoom. I recognize the special challenges this presents, especially to those of you who offer courses with labs, experiential opportunities and performance instruction. You will receive more information from the Office of the Provost later today about how we will support you through this shift.
Each and every Smith department and team is working to address the ramifications of COVID-19. For example, the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness is preparing to support sick and well students; dining services is transitioning from self to plated service; facilities has implemented enhanced cleaning protocols across campus; Information Technology Services has mobilized all hands on deck to support the shift in academic and administrative operations; and so much more. We are fortunate to be a part of such a committed community.
Importantly, the college is not closing. We will continue to offer the services necessary to meet our core academic mission and serve the needs of our community.
Smith is a strong community with a vital mission: educating engaged global citizens and leaders to address society’s challenges. In that spirit, we will continue to meet this challenge with resilience, creativity, and abiding care for one another.