August 15, 2020

Letter from the President: Remote instruction continues through end of semester

To all members of the Mary Washington community,

It would be difficult to overstate how unprecedented the last several days have been. Our lives and institutions have been disrupted in ways that we never could have imagined when the semester began. Like many of our colleagues across the Commonwealth and around the country, our decision to temporarily suspend face-to-face classes last week was done with the hope that such an interruption would be brief and that normal operations would return in a short period of time. It is now clear that this will not be the case as a more concerted national social distancing effort is needed.

Guidance from public health officials tells us that we should limit gatherings for several additional weeks as we all do our part to take the necessary steps to limit the spread of COVID-19. As a result, we have reached the very painful conclusion that we will not be returning to normal operations this semester. So, UMW will continue remote instruction through the end of the semester and final exams. In addition, all campus-based or sponsored events at Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Dahlgren are cancelled through May 15.

Remote instruction, academic advising and all other instructional support activity going forward will be done remotely through the end of the semester, with grades still being due on May 5. All current academic support areas, including the Teaching Center, Digital Learning Support, Library, Office of Disability Resources, Academic Services, Financial Aid, Registrar, etc. will continue at their current levels and hours.

Faculty and Staff

Thank you for your ongoing commitment and patience during this complicated time. Although we’re being challenged to alter the way in which we deliver instruction and conduct business, it is our intention and desire to keep our employees working and paid. Supervisors have been urged to make every effort to identify telework opportunities, even for positions that do not typically lend themselves to telework. These opportunities may include alternative duties, training and professional development, or both. We are also continually researching options for various types of leave and other resources that may become available as the state responds to the unique challenges employers are facing as a result of the spread of COVID-19. If teleworking faculty or staff need to return to their offices to pack up and take home additional materials, we encourage them to do that as soon as possible. When on campus, please observe social distancing and minimize interactions.

Students

Students will soon be receiving an email from Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair about the timeline and process for residential students to move their belongings out of their rooms and, for the students whose only option is to remain on campus, about the petition-to-remain process. Given CDC and Virginia Department of Health advisories and emergency actions and other advisories issued by the state and federal governments, we strongly encourage any student who can get home to do so as soon as possible. Public health officials are strongly recommending that people of all ages stay at home with limited outside contact with others.

Housing and Dining

UMW intends to give a credit or refund for housing and dining due to this announcement. However, we ask for your patience as we determine the appropriate amount of credit or refund for each student. With many of our employees working remotely and the variety of meal plans and housing fees to consider, this will take a little time to analyze.

Commencement

We are aware that Virginia’s prohibition, as of today, of gatherings of 10 or more people and the CDC’s recent recommendation on gatherings over 50 people for the next eight weeks will affect UMW’s commencement. We are exploring potential options and alternatives. As we know more, we will reach out about how we can best and safely celebrate our amazing graduates.

Community Programming

UMW regrets that it must cancel all remaining community special events and programming through the remainder of the academic year.  Through at least May 15, University and privately sponsored arts, cultural, and general special events and functions will be cancelled, including exhibitions, performances, and lectures. This action will include the UMW Philharmonic performances, Great Lives and ElderStudy lectures, and other fee-based or complimentary services and gatherings.

Let me close by telling each of you how much I appreciate the sacrifices you have made to be a part of the UMW community in the first place, and especially during the disruptive, even traumatic, changes of recent days and weeks. Know that I am proud of us and what we have done as a community to come together (even from a safe 6-foot distance). I am confident that we will survive these challenges, and UMW will be stronger than ever once the crisis passes.

Be well and stay safe,
Troy