August 6, 2020
To the La Salle community:
The Fall semester is nearly here. Beginning Aug. 17, with the start of course instruction, we will usher in an academic year that is sure to present unique challenges and unpredictable circumstances. At every turn, flexibility will be key. The pandemic has driven us to develop plans and map scenarios that don’t merely account for flexibility, but require it.
After weeks of steady increases, COVID-19 cases nationally have been slowly decreasing. It’s important to note that young people—including those who are of college age—represent the fastest-growing infection group. This week, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) reported a slight decrease in the number of positive cases in the city. Similar decreases are being reported in most surrounding counties.
While this is reason for optimism, one week’s worth of encouraging data does not represent a trend. Parallel to this, we are seeing delays in the availability of testing and the receipt of results by those who have been tested. In addition, the PDPH is continuing to build capacity within its contact-tracing unit, an effort they expect to complete in the coming weeks.
After careful consideration, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to delay residence hall move-in for two weeks. Our intent to return to an on-campus, in-person experience remains. However, we are undeterred in our firm commitment to safety, and we are unafraid to adjust our plans when a pivot is warranted. This pause in our move-in planning allows us to monitor data in Philadelphia and surrounding counties, continue to refine our internal processes, and assess the preparedness and capacity of the city’s contact tracing efforts, availability of testing, and expediency of obtaining results.
The safety of our community begins with personal responsibility. Soon, we will invite our community to make an Explorer Promise, a community commitment to a shared responsibility to foster and maintain a safe and accountable environment to live, learn, and work. More information will follow next week.
Please review the following important updates and changes:
Residence hall move-in. As mentioned, we will delay our return to campus by two weeks, shifting residence hall move-in to Aug. 27–30. Our Housing and Residence Life teams will coordinate with all resident students within the next week to establish new move-in appointments that are in line with this scheduling modification. The fees and rates incurred by resident students for room and board will be adjusted. Students who already have paid their full balances for Fall will receive credits on their accounts.
Pre-arrival quarantine. Students, faculty, and staff are asked to quarantine at home for seven days prior to their return to campus. If you are traveling to Philadelphia from areas with high amounts of COVID-19 transmission, we ask that you remain at your current residence for 14 days prior to your return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester. This request excludes life-sustaining activity, like shopping for groceries and attending to personal health care needs. Additional information will be provided by the Student Health Center and the Office of Human Resources.
First week on campus. Just last week, I mentioned our intent to assign resident students to residential pods, comprised of those who live closest to them. This measure will be in place from Aug. 27–Sept. 6 upon resident students’ move onto campus, and applies to meal pick-up times and shared experiences like virtual gatherings and in-person activities. This is an essential structure to promote safety, phase in social interaction, and sustain wellness within our community.
Academic instruction. While the dates for residence hall move-in have shifted, the start of our academic term remains unchanged. Classes will be led through remote instruction for three weeks, from Aug. 17–Sept. 4. In-person instruction will begin Sept. 7.
International students. We will work individually with our international students to accommodate travel plans and ensure that Visa requirements are met. Please contact Vanessa Valenzuela, director of international student and scholar services, to discuss your individual situation.
Domestic students traveling via air. For students who have purchased their airfare and are unable to change their travel arrangements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The University will work with you to arrive at the best solution.
Explorientation. For new students participating in Explorientation, this revised approach will be incorporated into and accounted for in the Explorientation experience. You will receive more information and details in the coming days.
Employees. Slight modifications have been applied to the third and fourth phases of the University’s employee return-to-campus plan. Employees who had been set to return Aug. 10 will now report to campus beginning Aug. 24. Employees who had been set to return Aug. 31 will now report to campus beginning Sept. 14. These changes exclude employees whose allowances for COVID-19-related accommodations have been approved by their Vice President in consultation with the Office of Human Resources. Contact the Office of Human Resources, your area Vice President, or direct supervisor if you have questions.
These changes are likely to spark a range of emotions. For some of you, this announcement might cause disappointment. For others, this may reduce anxiety. We will continue to approach our decision making from a public health perspective. In doing so, we are leaning upon best practices, the latest data, and guidance from public health officials to help inform our next steps.
From the beginning, and with great intent, we designed our return plan to remain as nimble as possible amid constantly changing external circumstances. We are doing the best we can to preserve the health and wellness of our community, while providing the best possible student experience.
In these recent months of quarantine during which many of us have limited contact to our immediate family, any return to life outside of our homes carries an inherent risk. It is incumbent upon everyone to take responsibility for your personal actions as we prepare for a return to our community. Monitor your health with daily temperature checks. Restrict your public interactions to life-sustaining activities and avoid large gatherings. Practice physical distancing. Wear a cloth face covering, especially when six feet of physical distance cannot be achieved or maintained. Wash your hands regularly.
Our community is stronger together. Countless hours of preparation have been dedicated toward ensuring a safe on-campus experience for our students, faculty, staff, and Christian Brothers. Those plans can unravel if we do not hold ourselves accountable to the personal health guidelines recommended by public health experts around the world.
Continue to stay safe, take care of yourself, and pray for those who have been most significantly affected by this pandemic.
Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D.