March 15, 2020 – President Gormley’s Letter to Students and Families as the University Shifts to Remote Instruction
Dear Duquesne University Students and Families,
I'm writing to provide a critical update regarding operations at Duquesne for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, given the swiftly changing situation relating to the coronavirus. I appreciate your reading this message carefully.
I know how difficult and frustrating this unexpected situation has been for everyone, particularly our students, since it is occurring in the middle of the semester and disrupting our academic year in mid-stream. All of us at the University continue to do everything possible to make the most prudent decisions to ensure our students' wellbeing. As a community, we're thankful for the cooperation and patience you have shown every step of the way.
In my message last week, I indicated we would evaluate our plans by March 31, in order to decide whether we would resume face-to-face classes on campus before the semester concludes. Since then, the U.S. President has declared a national emergency. Pennsylvania's Governor has closed K-12 schools across the state and, over the weekend, encouraged institutions of higher education in impacted counties to do the same. As of today, we have four cases identified here in Allegheny County.
Throughout the weekend and again this morning, I have been meeting with my leadership team at the University. We have concluded that, given these recent events, it is nearly impossible that the situation will resolve by March 31. Therefore, I wanted to let you know that the University has decided to move entirely to online instruction for the rest of the semester. We also are asking students currently living on campus to return home, if they are able to do so, this week (with a few exceptions, noted below).
I have reached this decision after consulting with Allegheny County health officials, fellow local university presidents, my leadership team, our Student Government Association president and other student leaders. This approach, I believe, will provide our students and families a higher level of certainty and a better ability to plan.
Starting tomorrow, March 16, we will facilitate the transition for on-campus students still living in their residence halls, enabling them to finalize plans to move out in an organized fashion. We recognize that this will require some time and coordination, so we want to allow as much flexibility as possible for each family. For those students who do not feel they have a safe place to which they can return, or who are unable to return home, we have created a simple form to request continued on-campus housing and meal services. These services will be scaled down as we take steps to minimize any health risks.
I'm truly grateful for your patience, support and help. I deeply appreciate the work of our staff and faculty-many of whom have been working around-the-clock as we adapt to a situation that is unparalleled in modern history. These are extraordinary times we all are facing. By proceeding carefully and strategically, we will maximize our ability to safeguard our students and every member of the Duquesne community.
Our students bring life and a spirit of energy to this campus, and there is no joy in completing the academic year without many of them on campus. We are a family here. It will not be the same without them here in the upcoming weeks, including for me, personally, as I prepare to teach my own undergraduate course online. But our mission is to serve God by serving our students so that they, in turn, can serve others, so I am confident that this is the proper course to take.
Thank you for your patience, your persistence and your prayers as we get through these weeks ahead, as a Duquesne family, and emerge even stronger. If any new developments come to light, I will be sure to be in touch.
The Following Summary Provides Vital Information Information That You Should Review:
ABOUT SPRING CLASSES:
As previously announced, classes tomorrow, Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17, have been cancelled. This will enable on-campus resident students and their families to determine a timetable that works best for them to make an orderly transition back home this week.
- Online classes will be held, as planned, this Wednesday, March 18, and Thursday, March 19. This will allow faculty and students to get comfortable with this new mode of educational delivery and work out any issues that may occur.
- CLASSES WILL THEN BE CANCELLED ON FRIDAY, MARCH 20, TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL TIME FOR STUDENTS AND FAMILIES (PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO LIVE AT A DISTANCE) TO MOVE OUT AND GET SITUATED.
- Starting Monday, March 23, Duquesne will continue with online learning for the remainder of the spring semester.
ABOUT RESIDENCE HALLS:
The Office of Residence Life will coordinate an orderly process to help students move out of the residence halls starting tomorrow. We aim to accomplish most of this process by Sunday, March 22. However, an additional week will be available for those who need more time to make the transition.
Appropriate University-owned housing and dining plan charges will be prorated and a credit toward a future semester's charges will be issued as follows:
- Departure today through Sunday, March 22, pro-rated credit of 43 percent.
- Departure Monday, March 23, through Sunday, March 29, pro-rated credit of 37 percent.
- Departure after Sunday, March 29, no credit.
- We ask students to make this transition as soon as possible, and to let the University know the details of when they will depart.
- We have established an online site to record the day and general time period (morning, afternoon, evening) students plan to move out. This will help us ensure we have sufficient parking, staff members to assist, bins for moving, etc. Please go to the following link to indicate which time will work best for you:https://duq.edu/life-at-duquesne/residence-life/residential-student-move-out-information
- Duquesne's Office of Residence Life, resident directors and RAs (resident assistants) will communicate with students starting Monday, to assist them in making their plans.
- It is helpful to know of each on-campus student's plans as soon as possible, and no later than Sunday, March 22.
Some students may need to remain. We understand that some students will have no alternative place to which they can safely return. We will make accommodations, in specific cases, for students who have a valid reason to stay on campus. A simple form will be made available to make such a request. For those who need to remain:
- Please go to https://duq.edu/life-at-duquesne/residence-life/residential-student-request-to-remain-in-university-housing to make a formal request.
- Beginning next week, once a sufficient number of on-campus students have left the residence halls, the University will conduct an enhanced cleaning of the buildings. The University will then move students who need to remain into a single residence hall, most likely Towers, and assign as many students as possible into single rooms to comply with social distancing recommendations of health officials.
- If students are prepared to move earlier and space is available, the University will help them as soon as space is available.
- Students who will remain on campus should understand that, for safety purposes, not all buildings and amenities will be operational at the University if they remain on campus. Indeed, the University will be scaling back to essential operations. For example, the work-out facilities in the Power Center will not be open for use. Likewise, Food Services, University Health Services, and the Student Union will operate with more limited services.
Please remember to use good judgment, safe practices, and show respect for others. All students-whether living on campus, living in off-campus housing, or living at home-should follow best practices to prevent exposure to the coronavirus. Follow this link for guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html.
Students returning from a country on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Level 2 or Level 3 warning list are required to self-isolate off-campus for 14 days. Please take this requirement seriously.
If you already have left campus and are experiencing symptoms, or are currently self-isolating, please DO NOT return to campus. We will help you make alternative arrangements to have someone retrieve your belongings. The health and safety of all members of the Duquesne community remains of utmost importance.
Students with parking passes can contact Duquesne's parking office at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding pro-rated credits against a future semester's parking pass.
ABOUT UNIVERSITY OPERATIONS:
The University remains open and operational for the rest of the semester. We will continue to provide the best services possible under these extraordinary circumstances. Our goal is to enable our students to complete their coursework in a timely and effective manner despite these unplanned disruptions.
Some Duquesne employees who are able to work from home and who have made necessary arrangements with their supervisors may be permitted to do so. The University will continue to provide services throughout these challenging times.
Any employees returning from a country on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Level 2 or Level 3 warning list are required to self-isolate off-campus for 14 days. Please take this requirement seriously.
ABOUT CAMPUS EVENTS:
All campus events are cancelled until further notice. We know there are concerns and questions about the University's May 8 commencement. We know how important graduation is to students, parents and the entire University community. Once we have successfully transitioned students home or to other living arrangements, we will turn our full attention to events later in the semester. If the current health situation abates, that will certainly make the decisions less complicated. You can expect communication before long regarding spring Commencement decisions and other end-of academic year events.
Thank you for your support and assistance in carrying out this updated plan for the safety of our students and the entire Duquesne community.