Weekly Community Update from President Harring

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

As I walked across campus this week on my way to record my remarks for Honors Convocation, I thought of how much our community is longing to return to campus, to our College home. In this week’s message, I want to give you an update on the planning that we are doing for the fall semester. Like you, I hope that we will be back on campus in August. 

Much of the news has begun to focus on the reopening of businesses in various states and the current tension between the economic and physical health of the nation. Here in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf has proposed a phased plan to slowly reopen the state all the while being cognizant of the developing public health picture. We are closely monitoring changes in the state orders and the guidance from the governor's office. 

Until we have definitive information on the status of the stay-at-home order, we are planning for a full range of contingencies for the fall semester from a full reopen to continued remote learning and everything in between. Our priority remains the health and safety of all members of our College community. One thing we do know is that at a minimum, some type of social distancing will remain in place long beyond the beginning of the fall semester. That means that when we return, life on campus will probably not be the same as it was before COVID-19.

We need to plan for how we will operate given a wide range of possible situations. Our planning takes into consideration local conditions, campus needs and circumstances that affect individual members of our campus community. We are gathering information from our faculty and staff about a range of possible scenarios to ensure that whatever plan we need to implement will meet the needs of our students, faculty, and staff. Keep in mind, that as we move forward, we won’t be planning for only one scenario. That means we need to take some actions now, even before a decision is made. 

This spring we needed to move to remote learning quickly. The courses that were in progress had been planned for face-to-face instruction. Typically faculty who plan to teach online participate in an intensive program to understand digital learning and how to develop courses for an online space. Last week we announced that faculty will go through a digital learning program over the summer so they are prepared should we need to be online at any time or they need to support any student remotely. As we plan for a reopening, we will continue to take steps that will make us more nimble and able to effectively implement a response to each possible scenario for the fall.

We fully understand that how we move forward has implications for each member of our community. Some of you are eager for resolution, but the last thing we want to do is make a decision based on incomplete information. We are only now at the beginning of planning for the fall, with a goal of sharing a decision by mid-summer. We will continue to update the College community as plans take shape.

As we reach the final week of classes, I am glad to know we can still share in some traditions, even if they are in a different format. I invite you to participate in the virtual launch of Honors Convocation this Saturday at 3 p.m. I hope you will join us as we celebrate the achievements of our students, faculty and staff.

Once again, I invite your questions to presquestions@muhlenberg.edu so that I can answer via video in my next message—here is this week’s video update:

Please remember that when we review the questions you send, we look for themes so I can try and provide answers to some of the questions that many of you raise. If you have specific questions for a College office, please contact that office for a more detailed answer. Contact information for relevant offices can be found on the College website.

Please continue to stay safe and healthy.

Kathy Harring
Interim President