COVID-19 Response Update: Drew Virtual Time Extended, 3/17/20

COVID-19 Response Update: Drew Virtual Time Extended, 3/17/20

Dear Drew students and families,

After much reflection and consultation—and in light of the escalating situation involving COVID-19—Drew will not resume regular business operations at least through the remainder of the semester. Drew Virtual Time (DVT) with its associated virtual learning environment will continue at least through the first part of June (instead of April 3 as we had previously anticipated), and we are moving into a different phase with residential life. Students will now be required to seek an exemption to remain on campus. The health and safety of our community demands that we take these actions.

Last week, I wrote to you about our adoption of the practice of social distancing and the plan on which we were executing to transition to DVT, which successfully began yesterday. Since that time, the World Health Organization has declared a global pandemic, and the U.S. government declared a national emergency. The CDC now advises against gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, while NJ Governor Murphy implemented aggressive social distancing measures, including the closure of all schools. (Drew’s plan met the Governor’s executive order requirements before the announcement.) In addition, all NCAA Landmark Conference and non-conference play is cancelled for the spring.

In short—while there remain no reported cases of COVID-19 on the Drew campus—the situation has rapidly changed. The best course we have to meet our primary goals of safety and social distancing, while ensuring academic continuity, is to continue our virtual learning experience through the end of the semester and to require students to seek, and be granted, an exemption to remain in residence on campus. By having fewer people on campus, we decrease the potential health risk to the larger community.

Though the decision is clear, it was not an easy one to make. I’m particularly mindful of the implications this shift causes for you, our students, who are undoubtedly upset about losing time with friends and mentors and no longer having access to Drew’s research and performance facilities and immersive experiences, as well as missing out on time-honored traditions like athletic contests and Commencement, scheduled for May 9 (more on Commencement below). We’re developing new ways to come together virtually, creating opportunities to connect for curricular, co-curricular, and ceremonial reasons, and we welcome your ideas.

Some of you may be concerned due to personal or financial hardships, and we will work with and support you through this challenging time. You might find answers to some of your questions below and at our COVID-19 Student FAQ page, or reach out to stuaff@drew.edu.

With the suspension of most campus operations come practical and logistical questions. Answers to some of those questions are outlined below, and you can find full details at COVID-19 Student FAQ page, as well as a page specifically devoted to housing and moving logistics. There you’ll also find FAQ about DVT, including academic and technical resources and support. We sent out a communication to our students on Sunday evening outlining these resources and understand not all may have received it; you can find that email here.

Academic Continuity and Summer Programs

  • Online instruction began on Monday, March 16. For a list of technical support resources, visit the COVID-19 Student FAQ page.

  • There are no changes to the Summer Term schedule planned at this time. All summer school courses will be converted to remote instruction; more details to follow.

  • Drew’s International Travel Oversight Committee has made the decision to cancel all Drew-sponsored summer programs that involve travel components, either international or domestic. This includes all shortTRECs, theoTRECs, the Drew Honduras Project, the high school program in Ireland, and programs offered through Volunteers Without Borders. The NY Wall Street summer program will continue to be run this summer, even if in an adapted form. We realize the cancellation of certain credit-bearing programs, such as shortTRECs or theoTRECs, may have implications on your academic requirements, such as the off-campus requirement, cross cultural requirement, or credits required for graduation. The Center for Global Education or Dean’s office will follow up with guidance shortly. If you paid a deposit to hold your place in a program, Drew will provide a full refund of your deposit fee. The Center for Global Education will follow up with you as soon as feasible regarding refund logistics.

Commencement, NCAA Athletics, and Other Events

  • We’re exploring two options for Commencement, scheduled to take place on May 9, 2020—a virtual ceremony and a deferred in-person ceremony. Graduating students will receive a follow-up email shortly with a link to a survey that will help us gauge your preferences.

  • All NCAA Landmark Conference and non-conference play is suspended for the spring semester.

  • Through the end of the semester, all internal, institutional, and external in-person events are either cancelled or will be moved to remote technology. The organizers of these events will be in touch with their constituencies about specifics.

Moving and Housing

As described above, we are moving into a different phase with residential life. Students will now be required to seek an exemption to remain on campus.

In order to support the practice of social distancing, Drew has developed a phased approach to housing and moving:

  • Phase 1, which relates to any student currently remaining in residence on campus as of March 17, is outlined in detail below and at the housing and moving logistics page of the COVID-19 site. (Students who have left residence halls are not yet permitted to return to retrieve room contents, see below,)

  • Phase 2, which relates to those who have already departed, is broadly outlined, with details to come after Phase 1 is completed.

Please visit the housing and moving logistics page of the COVID-19 site for information and procedures. You’ll also find FAQ specifically related to housing and moving.

Of note:

  • When you are packing your room and moving out, we request that any family remain in their car and loading/parking area. Should you need assistance, please practice safe behavior as you work together with your classmates and others already present in the Drew community who have been in residence on campus to move your belongings out of your residence halls. This is for the health and wellness of all community members, and we appreciate your cooperation.

  • If you are being picked up by family members, please ask them to wait in the parking/loading areas. Please ensure that anyone coming to campus is not experiencing symptoms of illness, including fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Anyone who lives in or travelled to areas with large numbers of COVID-19 cases should not come to campus.

  • Unless you have received written permission from the University to remain in your residence hall, you are not permitted to live on campus and must vacate by Sunday, March 22 at 7 p.m. Any student who has other concerns should email reslife@drew.edu.

  • Not all students are in a position to leave campus. If you need to remain on campus for the rest of the semester, please complete this exemption request form and a University official will be in touch to discuss your situation.

Dining

  • To follow CDC and State guidelines, the Commons has moved to “grab-and-go” service. During move-out, The Commons will be open during the following times:

    • Breakfast,  8 a.m.–9:30 a.m.

    • Lunch, 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

    • Dinner, 4:30 p.m.–7 p.m.

  • You may also grab-and-go from:

    • Starbucks, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

    • McLendon C-Store, 6 p.m.–midnight

  • As on campus occupancy changes, our dining offerings will adjust accordingly. Those who are granted housing exemptions will be notified of these specific changes.

Questions Regarding Refunds

Drew University is devoting all human and financial resources to ensuring the safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and that we comply with all Executive Orders or requirements from Madison, the State of New Jersey, and the Federal Government.

Our singular focus now is on what needs to be done to ensure that all students complete the semester, and that graduating seniors and graduate degree candidates receive their degrees on time.

Recognizing the many complex issues that arise from the impact of the coronavirus on higher education, and our commitment to faculty, students, and staff, Drew is working to assess how to best ensure that our colleges and universities remain accessible and stable.

Among the most pressing issues resulting from COVID-19 are the very serious financial questions, including the various hardships faced by many of our own students and staff. As we address these, the University must act responsibly to avoid inadvertently forfeiting any financial relief coming from either the public sector, our insurance carriers, or our vendor contracts by making premature decisions.

Rest assured, I am working diligently to address these issues, while prioritizing the safety and security of our entire campus community.

I appreciate your understanding and will have more to share on these issues in the coming days.

Building Access

Many buildings are closed, including the Simon Forum. You can find a building access list here. For student-athletes, you’ll hear from your coach with instructions for both locker-room access (to retrieve personal belongings) and equipment return.

Mail Service

All students moving off campus must complete the Mail Forwarding Information Card and return it to either the Commons Mail Room (open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or email it to khealy@drew.edu by Wednesday, March 25. All mail received on-campus will be forwarded to the address provided. Packages that have arrived via USPS will also be forwarded to the address provided. Any packages received from alternate couriers (e.g., UPS, FedEx) will be returned to the shipper.

Resources

  • Visit University’s COVID-19 website for up-to-date information on all University prevention practices, policies, information, and resources. Academic and technology support information is also available here.

  • For concerns about bias or harassment, students can submit an incident report using this form.

To reiterate my sentiments from last week, when I wrote about the transition to distance learning, I acknowledge this is a deeply disappointing situation for you and your families. Your education and community experience is second only to your health and safety when it comes to priorities. And so our goal is to act now for the best chance for a return to normal life in The Forest. In the meantime, I wish you all the best as you continue with the semester.

No doubt you have additional questions. Provost Liebowitz will have regularly scheduled drop-in hours each week so that you may ask questions related to the implementation of Drew’s distance learning plan or about other courses; look for communications from her about those drop-in hours. And we pledge to stay in touch with you as we work through this staggering situation.

With sincere wishes for your continued health and safety,

MaryAnn Baenninger
President