March 16, 2020: COVID-19 Update

Dear Members of the University Community,

I write to convey important further decisions necessitated by national efforts in response to COVID-19. The University will move to remote learning for the remainder of the spring semester, shift to remote work for employees to the greatest extent possible, and celebrate the Class of 2020 Commencement at a later date this year.

These are decisions that we do not take lightly, but that we nevertheless believe are important. They are undertaken in response to the now clear guidance from the Centers for Disease Control recommending that throughout the United States for the next eight weeks, any gathering consisting of 50 people or more be cancelled or postponed.

I know how disappointing this news about classes and Commencement is, especially to our graduating students and their families. During our initial planning, we held open the option for students to return to campus to complete the spring semester and to hold Commencement in May as scheduled. However, the continued rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United States and the quickly evolving guidance from public health officials have forced us to conclude that these options are no longer possible. I regret that these circumstances require us to significantly change how we live, work, and study together this spring.

Remote Instruction Extended Through Remainder of Spring Semester

I am so grateful to our exceptional faculty and staff for their efforts to transition to remote instruction while maintaining our standards of educational excellence and close collaboration with our students. The care and concern that our faculty and staff have for our students is a hallmark of a Richmond education, and that commitment will continue to guide us as we teach and engage with students remotely through the regularly scheduled semester and exam period.

In line with the strong recommendation of public health authorities, I am also notifying the students currently remaining on campus to make plans to return to your home. We recognize each of you has a different situation and some of you may need to reside on campus. Be assured we will take care of you and work with you to find the best possible solution for the remainder of the semester. In the next day or two, Student Development professionals will write to you with further information.

Students who are no longer on campus will receive detailed instructions in the next couple of weeks for moving or storing your belongings that remain in University housing. Should you have an immediate need for academic materials or medications, please complete this form. I ask that you do not return to campus to retrieve belongings until instructions for how to do so are communicated to you by Housing and Residential Life.

I know this decision will significantly inconvenience those who traveled to campus to retrieve belongings over the weekend. I am sorry we were not able to make this determination sooner; as you know, public health guidance has changed rapidly and significantly with yesterday’s announcement from the Centers for Disease Control.

In addition, the University will determine the most appropriate and expedient ways to process prorated adjustments for room and board expenses, as those fees assumed students would remain in residence for the remainder of the semester. More information about this process, which we know is very important to students and families, will be forthcoming as soon as feasible.

Class of 2020 Commencement Celebration

As noted above, in line with the updated CDC guidance regarding limiting gatherings, the University will celebrate the Class of 2020 Commencement later in the year. I deeply regret this outcome. Members of the Class of 2020, you have worked so hard and deserve every celebratory moment that traditionally accompanies the final weeks of the semester and our Commencement exercises. You will always be a special class for us, known for your grit and ability to weather difficult circumstances, people you want by your side when there is a challenge. Hear me when I say that I and other University leaders will do everything we can to reunite you on campus and celebrate your many accomplishments and your unique place in University history as soon as we can. We will be in touch directly with information as plans develop.

Shift to Remote Work for Employees

As noted above, for our staff and faculty, we are shifting to remote work to the fullest extent possible until further notice. Thank you all for your determination, dedication, and ingenuity in adapting at breakneck speed to support our students and the community. I am especially grateful to those who have worked to ensure the well-being of our students who have remained on campus, those working to ensure the operations of the University continue smoothly, and those supporting our faculty in transitioning to remote education. While we ask that those who can work remotely do so, and at the direction of the leaders of their division, the campus will remain accessible to employees and to students preparing to transition off campus. Facilities such as labs, computer rooms, studios, practice rooms and classrooms, however, are closed to all except faculty who need them for remote teaching and/or research.

Employee Payroll and Leave Adjustments

To our faculty and staff, we know the rapid and near-constant changes to the ways we all go about our lives at and outside of work are causing significant distress and difficulties for everyone. We have extended the Interim Pay Policies for non-exempt employees through April 11 and we have broadened employee eligibility for paid leave. Please refer to the University’s Interim Policies for more information.

Conclusion

In the days ahead, I humbly ask for your empathy, patience, and understanding. This global public health crisis has upended so many established norms in so many aspects of life, including those that have long governed university life. Responding has required change at a pace unfathomable just a week ago. But please know that caring for our community and delivering on our educational mission will always guide our decisions.

We realize that this communication will leave you with questions and concerns. We pledge to remain in frequent contact with you in the days ahead, and urge you to visit our COVID-19 response website regularly for updates. I hope that you and your families weather this threat in good health. Please take care of yourselves and one another.

Sincerely,

Ronald A. Crutcher
President