Dear St. Thomas community,
Over the past several weeks, we all have faced difficult – sometimes draining – decisions related to the impact of COVID-19 on our university. At the core of our decision-making has always been a desire to act in the best interests of our students, faculty and staff. Your health and safety have been, and always will be, our top priority.
The COVID-19 situation is literally changing by the hour. Please be aware there are no confirmed cases within our St. Thomas community, and the information we have received to date from health officials indicates the risk to our community is low. We know from watching events unfold in other countries and regions, however, that this illness can spread rapidly. We also know that social distancing – limiting gatherings of people – can help to slow the spread of COVID-19. Given this, and a host of other factors, we are taking the following measures in an effort to help safeguard the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and surrounding communities.
All classes will temporarily move online starting this coming Monday, March 16. No in-person classes will be held until Tuesday, April 14 (students’ first day back from the Easter holiday), at the earliest. All students will hear from their professors regarding specific steps for switching to online learning. Additionally, our Dean of Students Office will assist any students who do not have laptops or internet access. While we hope to resume in-person classes on April 14, we will continue to assess the situation and will extend this period as necessary. Additional information for students about going online is available on OneStThomas.
RESIDENCE HALLS AND DINING
During this period of online instruction, the university’s campus, including the residence halls and dining halls, will remain open. Resident students will receive additional communication from Residence Life shortly.
OTHER PREVENTATIVE MEASURES
St. Thomas is conducting additional cleaning and disinfecting on campus. We will share more information on social distancing and other preventative measures on an ongoing basis.
FACULTY AND STAFF
Because our campus is remaining open, faculty and staff are expected to come to work. Employees who have special circumstances or needs (such as those who may have underlying health conditions) may request accommodations through the Benefits Office. Employees should meet with their managers to discuss their questions.
Starting Monday, the university will cancel all events on campus that involve gatherings of 50 or more people. We also will not conduct any group tours for prospective students during this time. Event contacts will receive communication shortly. Please note that events scheduled for this weekend will continue to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Student athletes can expect to receive communications from the Athletics Department regarding athletic events.
Effective immediately, we are enacting restrictions on all university-related domestic air travel and overnight travel within the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Vice presidents must approve all travel associated with their departments. This restriction will remain in effect through at least April 14 and will be reevaluated. As stated previously, all university-related international travel must be approved by the provost.
While the next few weeks will feel unfamiliar, I have the utmost confidence in our faculty and staff to successfully guide our students through this period. Our Academic Affairs team has been meeting daily to work on the process of transitioning to online learning, and many of our faculty are already well-versed in online teaching.
As of now, the university should prepare to resume regular in-person class schedules on April 14. As mentioned earlier, however, the COVID-19 situation has been changing rapidly. In the event we need to extend the period of online courses, we will notify the community using various means, including the USTALERT system.
On a final personal note, I want everyone to know that I feel the rising anxiety in our community. Any students or employees feeling vulnerable should consult with their health care professionals, professors and managers. I want everyone to feel comfortable bringing forth their concerns. At the same time, I cannot stress enough that we are committed to maintaining a safe, healthy environment and will do everything possible to make decisions that are in the best interest of our community. The university will continue providing regular updates in the coming days. Please continue to refer to our Center for Well-Being’s COVID-19 website for resources.
In closing, please pray for and exhibit compassion towards those most directly impacted by this illness. We are a strong community, and I am very proud of the dedication and care of all of those who are stepping up to help lead us through these challenging and changing circumstances. I am especially grateful to our faculty who are adjusting their teaching and ensuring academic continuity for our students. Through our action, resilience and God’s grace we will emerge from these present challenges as a stronger university in continual pursuit of the common good.
With warmest regards,
Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D.