FALL 2020 CAMPUS REOPENING
Mercyhurst University fully intends to return to in-person classes and residential life for Fall 2020.
The COVID-19 virus is expected to remain a fact of life for quite some time, and our faculty, staff, and students have demonstrated an abundance of creativity in working through the challenges posed by this pandemic. We are confident that that same innovative work ethic can be brought to bear on reopening our campus for in-person classes while maximizing safety for every member of our college community.
Restoring residential operations may take on various scenarios as recommended by government and public health authorities, and our COVID-19 Task Force has been busily preparing for this eventuality. We are acutely aware of the challenges COVID-19 presents to reopening campus and we are prepared to adapt instructional and housing models as appropriate to protect our college community while providing the life-changing Mercyhurst experience that so many students have come to expect from us.
We are also mindful of the fact that our plans may need to change depending on the trajectory of the COVID-19 virus. But, for now, we are looking forward to welcoming every member of the Laker family back to our beautiful campus while proceeding with the noble and essential mission of our university!
June 10, 2020
Dear Mercyhurst Community,
The challenges generated by COVID-19 have disrupted the lives of nearly everyone in our college community. Despite those hardships, our students, faculty, and staff have persevered in solidarity, sharing The Mercyhurst Experience in innovative and historic ways.
Just as we forged ahead through the uncertainty of spring, we now turn our attention to a fall semester that will be unlike any other in our 94-year history. And, as with the onset of this pandemic, we move forward united as we face yet another opportunity to rise above the challenges.
We remain committed to reopening campus operations and welcoming students to campus this fall. Just as the pandemic has altered our daily lives away from campus, our return to campus will require a shared commitment to health and safety, considerable changes in policies and practices, and new risk mitigation strategies.
I’m writing today to announce three important changes we’re adopting as we prepare for fall.
#1 – A REVISED FALL SEMESTER CALENDAR
Based on advice from public health experts, who say we could face a second wave of COVID-19 sometime in late fall or early winter, we are compressing our fall calendar. Most notably, we are starting and finishing the fall semester earlier than usual to attempt to stay ahead of that second wave. We are also eliminating fall break to discourage travel and the viral risk that travel might introduce on campus.
As such, key changes to the fall calendar include:
- Friday, Aug. 14 Freshmen move-in.
- Saturday, Aug. 15, through Tuesday, Aug. 18 Upperclassmen move-in.
- Wednesday, Aug. 19 First day of classes.
- Monday, Sept. 7 Labor Day — Classes will be held.
- Tuesday, Nov. 24 Last day of classes — Students should return to their homes after their last classes.
- Tuesday, Dec. 1, through Friday, Dec. 4 Final exams completed remotely from home.
Move-in times will be scheduled in coordination with Residence Life. More information will follow about scheduling your move-in. Athletics will comply with NCAA and conference standards to return student-athletes to campus. Decisions about intercollegiate competition will be made later and will be in conjunction with the NCAA and our respective conference affiliations.
We understand that this new schedule might disrupt your summer plans. Thank you for your understanding, and trust that we will do everything possible to offer flexibility and accommodations, as needed.
#2 – A FLEXIBLE INSTRUCTION PHILOSOPHY
Classrooms and laboratories will be configured to reduce crowding and maintain physical distancing. We will deliver instruction through a variety of face-to-face, hybrid, and remote means.
Specifically, fall academic programming will be conducted in a variety of instructional formats, including in-person and remote options using livestreaming and recorded lectures. Remote coursework will be designed to accommodate students and faculty with serious underlying health conditions and those who may need to be isolated due to virus concerns. These instructional approaches ensure maximum flexibility for students and faculty, allow for continuity of instruction, maintain Mercyhurst’s high academic standards, and enable our students to make continued academic progress. Moreover, they preserve the special relationship between students and faculty and the robust educational experiences that in-person and synchronous instruction afford.
#3 – COMMUNITY STANDARDS
Keeping our campus community safe will require a commitment from students, faculty and staff. The risk mitigation strategies each of us employs serve the greater good. We will ask our campus community to adhere to new Community Standards and public health guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Among those standards are physical distancing, frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers, maintaining clean spaces, and wearing masks. Generally speaking, campus will be reserved for use by our students, faculty, and staff. Outside guests will be discouraged.
Housekeeping staff will continue to clean offices and workspaces according to CDC guidelines, and “high touch” areas like doorknobs, stair railings, and bathrooms will be cleaned more frequently. Dining venues will have reduced capacity and new processes in place to control traffic.
These standards, which are currently being developed, require a partnership between all students, faculty, and staff to protect each other’s safety, health, and well-being.
MORE UPDATES AND POLICIES TO COME
Our COVID-19 Task Force and its subcommittees are immersed in preparing for the many scenarios associated with our return to campus. The cornerstone of Mercyhurst’s reopening plan is the health and welfare of our community. Our reopening plans are being informed by the medical and scientific expertise of the Erie County Department of Health and in accordance with local, state, and federal guidelines.
This announcement is just the start of our communications about your return to Mercyhurst. Please understand that this announcement is not intended to answer all of the questions that students, faculty, staff, and families might have about our return to campus, and it does not provide details on the many issues and decisions we expect to address in the weeks ahead. This plan is a work in progress. It will evolve as guidance and best practices are updated by medical experts, government authorities, and our public health partners. Please continue to monitor your Mercyhurst email and the COVID-19 website for ongoing updates.
We can create an environment that enables the right behaviors and reduces the spread of COVID-19, but a dynamic campus environment will only be sustained if everyone — students, faculty, staff, and visitors — takes responsibility for their own health and safety and the health and safety of those around them.
Thank you for your commitment to this important responsibility.
Michael T. Victor, J.D., LL.D.