A Message to Students From the President and the Dean of the College, March 11, 2020
We would like to explain some key factors that led us to yesterday’s announcement — an announcement we are not alone in making.
We regret we cannot give all students a choice of whether to stay on campus. Let us explain why.
If there were an outbreak of COVID-19, having more students on campus would increase the likelihood that our staff would be overwhelmed and unable to keep themselves and students safe. We are as concerned about the health and safety of our employees as we are for you, our students.
To focus our resources on those most in need, we have resolved to minimize the number of students on campus so that we can:
- Ensure that, should a case of COVID-19 affect our campus directly, we have sufficient space available for quarantine and isolation given the number of students remaining. Each quarantine/isolation space requires its own room, restroom and the relocation of close neighbors
- Prepare for a high rate of employee absence and reduction in services should COVID-19 spread within our community
- Enable high-risk employees to begin working remotely or take advantage of the college’s leave policies.
We will first attend to the most vulnerable among us - those students, staff and faculty who fall under the CDC’s guidelines for high-risk complications from COVID-19.
We recognize that vulnerabilities extend beyond the CDC’s clinical definitions. Some members of our community may not have a home beyond Smith. Others have homes to which they cannot return for a range of personal reasons. This is why students have been given the opportunity to request to remain on campus.
We must emphasize the critical importance of minimizing that number to meet our duty of care for students, staff and faculty alike. Our preventative actions today will impact not only the Smith community but also communities far beyond the Grécourt Gates.
Other questions have rightfully turned to the effect these changes will have on work-study students. As we write this, members of our Student Financial Services team are meeting to formalize a plan that will address the needs of work-study students.
We know that not every question about the college’s COVID-19 response has an answer yet. We are continually updating our FAQ. Please know that this is an unprecedented challenge in Smith’s history - but one that we can meet together with proactive planning and a shared responsibility for each other’s safety.
Susan Etheredge ’77
Dean of the College and Vice President for Campus Life