Coronavirus Update from President Dobkin for Staff and Faculty

March 20, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I'd like to share the message below, which was sent to students today.

Ten days ago, we told students they should not plan to return to campus after spring break and that we anticipated a week of remote instruction, beginning tomorrow. We chose March 27 as the date that we hoped to resume our regularly scheduled activities. Shortly thereafter, we provided options for faculty and staff regarding working remotely.

Much has changed since then. Elementary and secondary schools have closed. State and national restrictions on social contact and gatherings were instituted. Parts of the country have gone on "lockdown" or "shelter in place." More people have died; many more have gotten sick. Everyone will continue to be touched in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic for the foreseeable future.

The cabinet and members of our emergency planning group continue to monitor developments by the hour. Staff play a unique role in the continued support of our students; we have facilities to operate, services to provide, meetings to hold, and planning to do. We are currently working to define essential operations that need to be in place through the end of May Term, and which of those operations can be performed adequately off campus so that we can reduce the need for people to leave their homes. Please know that as we adjust working conditions for staff and faculty during this pandemic, we are committed to doing all that we can to support you. We will share additional information to staff on continued remote work and scheduling options early in the coming week.

Westminster is more than home to our students, more than a collection of workspaces, and more than a community gathering place. I remain open to your thoughts and suggestions; please continue to reach out to me in the way that works best for you. Thank you for your courage, patience, and support as we navigate these challenges and keep Westminster whole.

Regards,

Beth

Message to Students

Dear Griffins,

At the end of spring break, I expected to welcome you back to campus. Instead, a week later, I’m welcoming you back to classes, but not to campus – not yet, anyway.

For the next month or two, you’ll stay connected to faculty, staff, and friends virtually. The experiences will probably be both exciting and frustrating, as people from around the globe try to use the same websites, conferencing tools, and videoconferencing platforms. We’re all going to learn more about the possibilities of remote instruction, and we’ll also start missing some things.

We’ll miss seeing you in Shaw, HWAC, and Bassis, studying in the library, hanging out in the residential village, and playing on Dumke field. We’ll miss applauding your performances, hearing your research presentations, seeing your studio work, and attending events together. We’ll miss the senior dinners, outdoor trips, and impromptu conversations in classrooms, offices, and on the commons.

All of that will come back, and more.

While you’re gone, many of us will still be on campus, in our offices and meeting in (small, socially distant) groups, planning for the events and experiences that make Westminster remarkable. We’ve kept things going, such as preserving student financial aid awards, which in many cases have increased. We’re doing what we can to keep student employees working and accommodate students’ residential needs. We’ll continue to look toward the fall, with plans to increase student wages for many on-campus positions and to turn more of those positions into true internships. We know that the priority of serving students’ needs for mental health care is still with us. Our staff and faculty are working hard to adjust to the challenges of the next several weeks while also planning for your return by designing an “integrated wellness hub,” bringing together mental, physical and financial wellness into one suite of services. As the spring and summer go on, I’ll continue to share news about these and other college initiatives.

When you come back to campus, we’ll be more excited than ever to see you and get back to an even better Westminster.

I know you can’t drop by the office or catch me on campus to let me know what’s on your mind. I’m still here, ready for a phone call, Facetime, email, or chat by MS Teams, Skype, Zoom, WebEx – whatever works for you. Give it a try.

Happy spring,
Beth

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