March 11, 2020: COVID-19 Update

Dear Members of the University Community,

I write with an update on the University’s planning regarding the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. As president of the University, my highest priorities right now are ensuring the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff — and making certain our students can complete their coursework this term.

To ensure we can continue to advance these goals, we will suspend classes next week to allow our faculty time to prepare for a likely move to remote instruction beginning March 23. Unless the situation regarding COVID-19 improves dramatically, we plan to continue remote instruction until at least April 3. We will be reassessing conditions during that period to determine opportunities to return to the classroom.

Students who are currently out of town for spring break should not return to campus during the period of remote instruction. Students presently on campus should return home immediately, if at all possible.

These are difficult decisions to make, but I believe they are necessary to fulfill our educational mission and protect the health of our community and the many other communities to which we are connected. Public health authorities predict COVID-19 will continue to spread, with potentially severe impacts on the healthcare system's ability to provide critical care. Our actions will minimize our community's exposure to the disease and ensure the ability of our students to complete their course work this semester. This action also reduces the risk of substantial disruption in university operations that might arise from a COVID-19 outbreak on campus. In particular, if COVID-19 cases occurred on campus, we would be unable to maintain a quarantine system that meets required public health standards for our students, and successfully conclude the semester. As those entrusted with not only the education but the care of our students — as well as the health of our faculty, staff, and community members — these are risks we are quite simply unwilling to take.

One of the hallmarks of a Richmond education is the close faculty and student collaboration in which we all take such great pride. I know our actions represent a significant disruption to our educational model, as well as to our daily operations and routines, and will require considerable sacrifices from each of us. I especially regret the impact a transition to remote learning will have on our graduating seniors, whose time remaining on campus is the most limited.

While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus, a case was diagnosed just today in nearby Hanover. We are taking the following immediate and proactive measures to reduce the risk of community exposure to COVID-19:

  • Classes will be suspended next week. If a student must return to campus to pick up belongings, we ask that they limit their time in their residence halls to no more than two hours. You may access additional information on our student instructions page.
  • Students with extenuating circumstances, such as international students, will have until Friday, March 13, at 5 p.m. to request an exemption to remain in on-campus housing. Those wishing to request an exemption from this directive must submit a petition (DUO login required). We expect that exceptions will be extremely limited.
  • Faculty will prepare next week for the transition to remote instruction beginning March 23. Our community should be prepared for an extended period of distance learning.
  • Currently we are not closing the university campus. We expect most buildings, such as the libraries, to remain open. Recognizing that the situation can change, deans and managers should consult their continuity of operations plans and assess functions that could be supported by faculty and staff working remotely, should that need arise in the future.
  • The University will continue to support a limited on-campus population. Students who are given permission to remain in campus housing should be aware that access to most facilities and services will be limited and student activities and gatherings suspended, until further notice.

We recognize that our community will have many questions in the days and weeks ahead and have established a dedicated webpage where you can find the latest information and announcements regarding our institutional response to COVID-19. We invite you to refer to the page regularly for updates. We will be in contact at the end of the week regarding additional aspects of our operations, including previously scheduled campus events and university travel.

I am especially grateful to our Emergency Management Team, who continue to work tirelessly to monitor the situation, assess the risks we face, and develop proactive contingency plans in line with expert public health guidance. I also want to thank all of you for your patience, understanding, and resilience during this challenging time for our campus, our nation, and indeed our world.

To our students, I know that being away from this place we all call home will be difficult. But I am confident that you are well-equipped to adapt to these unique circumstances and successfully continue to learn and grow.

To our faculty, I know that transitioning to remote instruction mid-semester presents many challenges. But I am grateful for the extraordinary efforts you will make in continuing to provide our students with the excellent education for which Richmond is known.

And to our staff, I know that responding to this situation will ask much of you as we work to extend the University’s operations in new ways. But I am grateful for everything you have done and will continue to do to ensure we fulfill our institutional mission and our commitment to our students.

While today we face a novel health threat, time and again, I have watched our community come together to care for and support one another through extremely difficult situations. I know this moment will be no exception. Take good care of yourselves, and each other.

Sincerely,

Ronald A. Crutcher