Dear ENC Community:
Last week we announced the decision to suspend all face-to-face classes and move to fully online instruction until at least Monday, March 30th. Our intention at that point was to preserve the option of resuming normal campus operations if that became feasible. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and deepened in recent days, it has become apparent that a resumption of face-to-face instruction on March 30th is unrealistic, unwise, and unsafe.
While it would be an option at this point simply to postpone our earliest start date to sometime in April, it seems increasingly unlikely that we will be able to reopen anytime soon. The ongoing ambiguity is also not helpful for our students, faculty, or staff. Therefore, after an extensive review of the guidance from a variety of external agencies and in collaboration with our emergency response team, the cabinet, and our academic leaders, we have determined that the most prudent course of action at this point is to suspend all face-to-face instruction for the remainder of this semester. We remain fully committed to the academic success of our students and to the effective delivery of all of our courses, but this unprecedented public health crisis requires us to take this unprecedented step of finishing the semester online.
I regret deeply the disappointment and disruption that this decision will inevitably bring to all of our students. In particular, I am saddened for our graduating seniors whose college years will end in a way that falls far short of their hopes and expectations. Students — I can only hope and pray that you see this decision as one that is made in the interest of your health and safety, and that in time you will see how even this detour has been used by God to advance his purposes in your life. Rest assured that we will continue to be here to support you on that journey.
Please note carefully the following additional items about the rest of this year:
- We will keep Young Hall open for the remainder of the semester for traditional undergraduate students who are unable to return home.
- Campus offices will remain open to serve all of our students, although with some adjustments to services and hours as we identify ways to help our employees work from home. Consistent with the ongoing need for social distancing, we encourage you to conduct your business with campus offices by phone and email as much as possible.
- The dining commons will remain open for our remaining residential students only; all others are asked to refrain from utilizing the dining facilities. Meals for students will be available on a take-out basis only.
- The Office of Student Development and the Office of Spiritual Development are in the process of developing virtual means (e.g. podcasts, videoconferencing) of keeping students engaged with the College and one another.
- All athletic contests and post-season tournaments have been cancelled. You should assume that all other in-person, on-campus events for the semester have also been cancelled, although some may be held virtually (e.g. Academic Symposium on April 16).
- Final decisions have not yet been made about commencement. We are committed to providing some form of meaningful commencement celebration for our graduates, but we may need to be open to a change in date, location, or modality. Various alternatives are under consideration, and we will inform you as soon as a decision is made.
- The Finance Office and the Office of Student Financial Services are jointly exploring the possibility of partial refunds for room and board fees. The college is facing additional pressure on both revenues and expenses as we grapple with COVID-19, yet we also want to be sensitive to the financial needs of our students and parents. There is no easy answer here, and I ask for your patience as we seek an appropriate solution.
I began the semester by announcing in chapel that I hoped to take a selfie with every student on campus; who could imagine that ten short weeks later we would be making an announcement like this. Personal interaction and close community are at the heart of the ENC experience, yet now we find those values being compromised. I encourage you to find new and creative ways of staying close to one another in the coming weeks. Social distancing does not have to lead to the erosion of relationships. Continue to care and pray for one another. Encourage and support one another. Be gracious and helpful to one another as we navigate this uncertain time together.
Please let me know if I can answer any questions or provide any assistance. Our faculty and staff have my ongoing gratitude for their flexibility and faithfulness in responding to these challenges. May God continue to guide, bless, and provide for us all.
Jack Connell, Ed.D, D.Min.
Eastern Nazarene College