“Moving to Distance Learning” Letter sent to Beloit Students
COVID-19 Important Change - Moving to Distance Learning
Alas, over the last two days, all the news about the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. has dictated that the option of continuing in-person instruction is no longer available to us. You will complete the semester with your courses taught at a distance, not in a campus classroom. The rate of growth of confirmed cases in Wisconsin and Illinois; the declaration of a national emergency; the closing of all K-12 schools in Wisconsin, Illinois, and elsewhere are of one piece. This is an extraordinary sequence of events, and we are responding rapidly, responsibly, and resolutely.
This turn of events is profoundly disappointing for all of us. This is hard. It is beyond difficult to imagine the campus this spring without you filling the sidewalks, bantering with your friends as you enter labs and seminar rooms, or laughing about the lousy weather and freezing Sigma Chi pool that inevitably accompany Spring Day. Yet, the core of a Beloit education teaches creative problem-solving skills, agility, and an eagerness to be productive together. This is, indeed, a challenge, but it is a challenge that we will collectively rise above. Way above. The delivery of your education will be different, and we will make it great together.
Since the onset of COVID-19, we have focused on your safety while maintaining your opportunity to learn and stay on track for graduation. We never wavered from those foci. We know the decision to move to instruction at a distance is disappointing for all of us, as is the disruption of the residential life that is such an essential part of a Beloit College education. The situation will be particularly difficult for seniors. My heart goes out to you. Faculty and staff are equally heartsick. However, we will continue to be a learning community, even at a distance—a community with deeper connections to each other.
This change provokes many logistical questions. I will anticipate a small number here and leave a much larger number for the COVID-19 Taskforce to answer over the next several days. As of March 23, all of your classes will be taught at a distance, continuing in that format through the completion of the spring semester. All students are expected to be away from campus by March 22 unless they are unable to be elsewhere. Students who have applied to remain on campus will be notified by this evening. Some of our international students and others with unique circumstances will remain in the residence halls and will take all of their classes using the same distance methods as those of you away from campus. Students studying abroad in spring 2020 have each been contacted; their plans to remain in place or complete courses from home are being confirmed.
Among your first thoughts will likely be how you are expected to retrieve your belongings from your rooms. If it is possible for you to come to campus, we are asking that you schedule a time by completing this form. If you are unable to come to campus, we will retrieve and ship your necessary academic items. All of your other items will be stored and ready for you when you return to campus in the fall.
You will also surely be concerned about what will happen with your room and board charges. The college will make prorated adjustments for all students who will no longer be staying in the residence halls and eating on a meal plan due to COVID-19. Students who must remain on campus will not receive an adjustment to their room and board. Because your classes will continue and you will receive academic credit for your work, tuition and fees will not be adjusted. Accordingly, students will also keep their financial aid and scholarships. More detailed information will be available on the website by Monday morning.
You may have questions about your ability to participate in online classes due to internet access. Recently you were asked to complete a survey about your access to technology. If you have not yet completed the survey, I urge you to do so this weekend. The college is committed to making sure that you have what you need to participate in your classes. Your faculty will be contacting you soon with information about how classes will be conducted.
Of course, for all the reasons that countless similar decisions have been made around the country and the world, there will be no public events on the campus between now and the end of the semester. This includes athletic events (both home and away) and artistic performances. When these events return this fall, they will be among the many essential parts of Beloit College life we cannot wait to have back. Importantly, we do not yet know what form commencement and Spring Symposium will take, but we are committed to and already creatively thinking about how to make both of these signature events as meaningful as possible. Decisions about the format of commencement will be made by April 15.
As I write this note, I know two things. First, our faculty and staff—who are completely committed to your futures and your success—will make the next two months meaningful, purposeful, and memorable. You will get to know each other in new ways and generate new ties with each other. Second, I, and others, will miss your physical presence more than we can say. While this is true for all of you, it is so viscerally true for seniors. This is not how any of us could have imagined your last two months as a Beloit student. I am so sorry that this is the way the world has turned. We are thankful beyond measure that you were on campus for so much of the last four years. We are all lucky that you are a Beloiter now and will be part of the Beloit family forever.
Off we go now into uncharted territory. Like all expeditions, it will include surprises, some bumpy spots, and growth. Together, we will seize all of the possibilities that the next two months will offer us. And, when the history of Beloit College is next written, you will be one seriously well-read chapter in it. Please continue to pay attention to the website in the days and weeks ahead and remember that questions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.