Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
The pace of the nation's response to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) scaled up exponentially over the weekend and today. As such, we must all do our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus – or as epidemiologists say, "flatten the curve" – by exercising significant "social distancing," such as avoiding public spaces, eliminating large gatherings of more than 10 people and generally limiting movement.
I write to inform you that as we follow the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and our federal, state and local health officials, Provost Brickhouse and I, based on the recommendation of Baylor's COVID-19 Task Force and in conjunction with the President's Council, have made the decision to extend online instruction at Baylor University for the remainder of the spring semester. This difficult and unprecedented decision – one being faced by colleges and universities throughout the country – was made with the health, wellbeing and safety of our students, faculty and staff in mind.
Here are some important things you need to know:
- As communicated at a White House briefing earlier today, Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10 people, schooling should be at home and discretionary travel and social visits – including eating at restaurants or food courts – should be avoided over the next 15 days. We ask that you make the best decision based on your own health and safety; however, we strongly encourage students that you not return to campus or to Waco, as available activities and services are becoming more and more limited. If you are home for the extended spring break at your permanent residence, you are encouraged to remain there. If you have returned to Waco and have the ability to return to your permanent residence, you should seriously consider doing so as soon as practicable.
- Starting today, we will be restricting access to residence halls to a limited number of students – those who have no other option than to be here – through the end of the semester. If you left the residence halls prior to spring break, please do not return to retrieve your belongings until we establish a safe and orderly process to do this later in the semester. We have limited access to many places on campus in order to meet social distancing requirements and to protect the health and safety of those who are still living and working on campus. Be assured we are keeping your rooms locked and your belongings safe. We know this is important to you, and we will have more information in the coming days.
We have developed the following criteria for students who will be allowed to return to the residence halls for the remainder of the semester:
- The student's permanent residence is outside of the United States and s/he is unable to travel to their home country.
- The student's academic department has deemed their internship, clinical or practicum will continue and requires their on-site presence and s/he has accepted that arrangement.
- The student has personal circumstances preventing her/him from returning home, some examples include:
- The student is an independent student.
- The student is part of the foster care system.
- The student/student's family does not have a permanent address.
- The student's home community is quarantined.
- Returning to home represents a health/safety threat to the student or those at home.
- Returning home will prevent the student from accessing their courses remotely because of insufficient internet and technology capabilities.
Again, only the students who meet one or more of these criteria will be able to return to the residence halls this semester. We will make an application form available for such students in the days ahead.
Additionally, dining options on campus will be significantly limited, primarily to grab-and-go options at one location, and recreational opportunities will be unavailable, including those in the McLane Student Life Center.
- We will not have a specific plan or answers related to unused portions of on-campus housing and dining plans for a couple of weeks. We understand this is an important issue and will communicate with impacted students and families in the near future.
- With the CDC's Sunday guidance that no mass gatherings with 50 people or more should be held in the United States for the next eight weeks, our May Commencement ceremonies have been impacted and unfortunately postponed. I share in the disappointment for all of our students on pace to graduate in May. Please know that Baylor will still confer degrees in May for those who satisfy their academic requirements. We also know how meaningful it is for graduates to walk across the stage at Commencement, and we plan to extend that opportunity to our spring graduates at an August ceremony.
- We have extended the University suspension of events through the end of the semester. This includes all University activities, events, conferences and large gatherings. As announced earlier, the Big 12 Conference has canceled all athletics competitions through the end of the academic year, including spring sports that compete beyond the semester.
- Please continue to take the preventive actions as recommended by the CDC, including washing your hands, covering coughs with your elbow/sleeve, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Also, please avoid groups and keep a physical distance from others.
I suspect that this news is alarming for many of you, and I know will generate many questions. We pledge to share more information and instructions for you in the days to come, and we will continue to provide updates by email and on our dedicated website www.baylor.edu/coronavirus. You can also email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we walk through these significant challenges together, let us remember to heed Jesus' command to "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). Let us be kind, gentle and compassionate and help each other through these difficult and emotional circumstances. This is new to all of us, and we are forging a path forward together.
I am deeply grateful for your prayers and support, and I want you to know that I continue to pray for each of you. Despite the "social distancing" requirements, our connections are eternal as members of the body of Christ and the Baylor Family.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.