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COVID-19 messages to faculty

An archive of messages sent to W&M faculty from President Katherine A. Rowe, Provost Peggy Agouris and/or Emergency Management Team Chair Sam Jones related to COVID-19. - Ed.

May 28 | Campus operations through June 30, 2020
May 19 | W&M from May 16 to June 30, 2020
May 14 | Tenure Clock Extension Policy
May 7 | Appreciation and Updates for Faculty
May 6 | Operating under pandemic and planning for the coming academic year
April 28 | Campus Community message
April 24 | Flattening the curve on the financial impact of COVID-19
April 17 | A weekend for Commencement and May celebrations
April 16 | Information on Exam Proctoring
April 13 | Connection and Wellness – Reinstituting Open Office Hours Virtually with the Provost
April 10 | Serving our communities during COVID-19
April 8 | Standing with William & Mary
April 7 | UPDATE on Summer Instruction
April 2 | An update on Commencement 2020
March 31 | Resilience and kindness amid crisis
March 26 | Important update on policies, deadline and plans
March 25 | An invitation to a virtual Community Conversation and reflections from the past week

March 20 | Announcement of temporary adjustments to academic policy for Spring 2020
March 19 | W&M's COVID-19 Response: Important Updates for the Remainder of the Semester

March 16 | Letter of thanks to all who teach at W&M

March 11 | Faculty Support for Remote Teaching & Online Learning
March 11 | W&M's COVID-19 Response: Interim Changes to Instruction, Events & Travel

March 9 | Planning in Response to COVID-19


Campus operations through June 30, 2020

May 28, 2020

Dear faculty and staff,

First, thank you from the Emergency Management Team for your ongoing support in managing campus activities and programs as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move into the summer months, a few reminders follow.

At this time, campus buildings remain locked and closed to the public. As President Rowe mentioned in her May 19 message, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s Phase I reopening of state businesses does not change this. Teleworking is, and should continue to be, the norm on campus through at least June 30. Supervisors should continue to be flexible in this matter. Only personnel who must be on campus to conduct university business should be in university facilities.

Employees who must be on campus should continue to follow the CDC’s COVID-19 safe health guidelines. Consistent with those guidelines and the governor’s May 26 Executive Order, all individuals on campus will be required to wear a cloth face covering in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained and in all shared areas of buildings. In the coming days and weeks, additional signage will be going up in campus buildings as a reminder of these guidelines. 

For any employees who must be on campus, please remember to:

  • Lock doors behind you as you enter and leave any building;
  • Maintain a small, dedicated footprint (enter by the same door, visit the same office, use the same restroom);
  • Depart campus as soon as business is complete. Limiting your time on campus helps make the work environment safer for those who must be here.  Note that recreation areas remain closed.

We anticipate more specific guidance from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry and the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Work Group to be forthcoming and will update these guidelines, including those related to face coverings, accordingly.

The university’s Plan Ahead effort as well as the work of the Emergency Management Team continues as we prepare for students to return this fall.  We continue to monitor CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidelines as well as guidance from the governor as Virginia stages a phased re-opening. On campus, we are focused on being ready to safely re-open in the fall. The results of these efforts will be phased in throughout the summer.

Please continue to access the university’s COVID-19 website as the central source of information.

Stay well and safe.

Sam Jones, Emergency Management Team Chair

Ginger Ambler, Vice President for Student Affairs

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W&M from May 16 to June 30, 2020

May 19, 2020

Dear W&M Faculty and Staff,

On March 11, as we were beginning to understand the impact of COVID-19, I laid out four goals that would guide the university through the spring – through the rapidly changing conditions of an evolving pandemic. With extraordinary effort, over two months of quarantine, we held to that course: safeguarding the health of our community; continuing to teach and learn so that our students could complete the semester; adjusting our research and university operations so that W&M employees could keep working as long as possible; helping to slow the spread of the virus.

This past Saturday, May 16, we conferred degrees in the class of 2020 in W&M’s first virtual degree-granting ceremony. As I listened to students and colleagues last week, I heard hearts full of mixed emotions – joy and loss. I also heard a community fully present to each other. For this beautiful weekend, joy held sway: from a surprise alma mater serenade (waking the president early Saturday morning) to Instagram posts from thousands of graduates, justly proud of their ability to adapt.

As we turn to the summer session (online still), the university is rapidly planning for the 2020-2021 academic year. In my message on May 6, I shared our emerging thinking and the principles that will guide us in that process. This email outlines how the university will operate in the near term and shares a very preliminary picture of our financial position going into FY21. Fuller updates on academic planning and financial forecasts will come in June.

In Virginia, the Governor has issued parameters for a phased reopening, beginning last Friday. William & Mary will align with those guidelines. We are operating prudently, working in close collaboration with our City leadership, Commonwealth peers, the Secretary of Education, and Department of Health. 

Conditions continue to change weekly and uncertainty remains. So we will approach our decisions in a phased way going forward, as we have done all spring. Working in a phased mode, we benefit from the most knowledge possible, to make the best decisions we can under the circumstances. I will continue to update the community frequently, with deep gratitude for your patience and your attention.

Some things we understand much better today than we did two months ago – bringing clarity that is both sobering and hopeful. We now know that the coronavirus will be with us for months to come. There will be no swift “snap back” to life as we knew it in 2019. 

There is clear evidence that the actions we took this spring helped flatten the curve of this pandemic and saved lives. Moreover, months of quarantine have gained our health care and scientific communities time to respond. Every day, our physicians and scientists increase our understanding of COVID-19. Testing capacity and PPE supply are expanding, treatments are improving. We have time to prepare now, using our growing knowledge, that we didn’t have this spring.

Much important work lies ahead. As the semester wraps up – and as we pause for a four-day Memorial Day weekend – I hope you will take time to rest and recharge. W&M has accomplished much during these difficult two months of quarantine, due to the dedication of our students, their families, our faculty, and our staff.

As I shared with the Board last week, navigating a pandemic well takes extraordinary effort, creativity, and compassion. No one could sustain such effort as successfully, alone, as we have done together. William & Mary is blessed with a campus community that pulls for each other. 

Stay well,

– Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe


University operations through June 30, 2020

With Phase I of the Governor’s reopening begun and his “Stay At Home” order set to expire June 10, W&M will continue to exercise prudence in university operations. More university-specific details may be found on our COVID-19 website but here are the headlines:

  • The Governor's Executive Order # 61 (2020) provides the following guidance, effective through June 10, 2020: “Institutions of higher education shall continue to cease all in-person classes and instruction and cancel all gatherings of more than ten individuals. For purposes of facilitating remote learning, performing of critical research, or performing essential functions, institutions of higher education may continue to operate, provided that social distancing requirements are maintained.” Theaters, museums, arts centers and other indoor entertainment centers remain closed.
  • The City of Williamsburg will also be moving through parallel reopening phases
  • For the present, W&M employees should expect to continue to telework under current practice at least through June 30, 2020 – an extension from the previously announced June 15 deadline. Signage reminding employees of the current practice guidelines will be posted in buildings across campus. 
  • University buildings will remain in a “locked, but not closed” status at least through June 30. Only employees with authorized key/card access are allowed to enter buildings. Employees who need to access a building should lock the door behind them.
  • As local guidance changes, we will update faculty and staff.
  • Systematic cost avoidance efforts will continue through the end of the fiscal year. Deans and managers will also continue to provide guidance specific to your schools and units.

Outlook for FY21 

The financial outlook for FY21 remains uncertain so we are planning with that in mind. We will know more in June, as we finalize our plans for the Fall Semester and once the Commonwealth closes its books for FY20. At that point, we will share additional approaches to flatten the curve of financial impact. For now, here is our preliminary view of the challenges ahead. 

  • The revenue picture. Because student tuition and fees remain W&M’s largest source of revenue, our ability to ensure that W&M continues to teach and learn will have a direct impact on our financial position next year. Beyond the question of whether the pandemic allows us to conduct classes in person, a number of other factors will also come into play. Our research programs will be affected by funding from the federal government and other external sponsors. Philanthropy will be influenced by market performance and the impact on personal wealth. And the impact of COVID-19 on Virginia’s economy undoubtedly will impact the level of state support we receive next year. 
  • Commonwealth context. In prior recessions (2001, 2008) VA higher education saw state funding reductions of 20% or more. The initial projections from the Commonwealth are sobering. Last week, the Secretary of Finance reported that state revenues for the month of April fell $700 million compared to April revenues in the prior year. Although difficult to predict, the Commonwealth appears to be on track for a $1 billion revenue shortfall this fiscal year.
  • National context. Some higher education industry analysts project COVID-19 related enrollment declines as high as 20%. The potential for ongoing travel bans may limit options for international students or domestic students seeking study abroad. High unemployment levels may constrain some families’ options. Modifying our operations to provide for the safety of our students, staff, and faculty during a pandemic also increases costs.

In the face of the above uncertainty, we must plan for declines in revenue between 5% and 20%. To give you a sense of what those percentages mean: reductions at the lower end of this range mirror many of the budget conditions W&M has navigated in prior economic downturns. At the higher end, we recognize the potential for dramatic shifts across multiple revenue streams at the same time, paired with the increased expense of operating under pandemic conditions. 

We are planning for the worst case scenarios while driving towards the best case. The thoughtful and focused effort of so many on campus this spring – to eliminate discretionary spending, freeze hiring, adapt operations, and remain focused on our educational mission – has made a difference. 

  • Closing out FY20. I am pleased to report that our effort to reduce spending in this fiscal year is bearing fruit. We forecasted a $13M-$32M deficit by August; we are trending towards the low end of this range. Impacts to date have largely been in auxiliary services and were covered by auxiliary reserves. We will update the campus on our financial position once we close the fiscal year and will continue to update you as we learn more about the impact for FY21.
  • Positive signs in fall enrollments. Our initial look at fall enrollments is optimistic. Our deposits for the incoming class are strong and our returning students overwhelmingly have indicated that if they are able, they want to be with us in the fall. We want that too!
  • Our mission-critical review of budgets across all units will help us establish a shared understanding of how we currently use our resources. That understanding will help us prioritize expenditures if we are faced with limited resources in the coming year.

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Tenure Clock Extension Policy

May 14, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Please review carefully the following new policy, which was developed jointly with the Faculty Assembly and University Counsel, as well as with input from the Deans. If you have any questions, please consult with your dean or email provost@wm.edu.

William & Mary
Tenure Clock Extension Policy

Section III.C of the Faculty Handbook allows untenured instructional faculty members to petition the Provost for an extension of the tenure probationary period if they experience circumstances which could have resulted in significant periods of most types of non-academic leave. In March 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Public Health Leave Program was expanded to enable all state employees to access additional leave to address needs caused by both the CoVID-19 pandemic and the related public health response. Public health leave is akin to the types of non-academic leave the need for which may qualify faculty to submit a petition to extend their probationary period.

The Provost has determined that the pandemic conditions caused by CoVID-19 and the related public health response constitute circumstances that could result in significant periods of non-academic leave, including Public Health Leave. Accordingly, all current untenured instructional faculty are being granted the ability to petition for an extension of the tenure probationary period on the basis of this determination. Faculty members may submit one such extension petition up until March 15 of the contract year before the year in which their tenure review is scheduled to occur. Faculty members whose tenure review is scheduled for the 2020-21 academic year will have until June 30, 2020 to submit a petition. Any faculty member who has not previously received an extension of their probationary period and who submits an extension petition on the basis of the CoVID-19 pandemic shall receive a one-year extension of their probationary period. CoVID-19 extension petitions submitted by faculty members who have previously received an extension of their probationary period will be reviewed by the Provost to assure that the candidate is making adequate progress toward tenure while taking into account the impact of circumstances requiring leave, including the pandemic and the related public health response.

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Appreciation and Updates for Faculty

May 7, 2020

Dear colleagues,

As you embark on final exams this week, signifying the end of this highly unusual semester, I want to thank you for the resilience and positive spirit you have displayed in adapting so well to remote teaching under pandemic conditions. I recognize that it has been a herculean effort by so many, and I greatly appreciate all of your hard work and dedication to ensure the continuity of instruction for our students. Thank you.

Secondly, I would like to update you on a few matters impacting W&M faculty. Over the past two months, we have focused our planning attention on two critical areas:

1. Making temporary policy adjustments to give faculty greater flexibility due to potential disruption from COVID-19; and

2. Strategically analyzing “Mission Critical” expenditures and revenue sources to define a financial path forward in light of the economic challenges ahead.

This “we” includes members of the Faculty Assembly and other faculty governing bodies, Deans and members of the Provost’s Executive Team, and faculty who have provided input in a variety of ways. Our approach has been to collaborate within the organizational structure of the Schools while simultaneously drawing upon the value-added expertise of our faculty governing bodies in order to develop a prudent way forward.

These collective efforts are yielding two temporary policy adjustments due to COVID-19:

Tenure Clock Extension – There is agreement to extend the tenure probationary period for interested pre-tenure faculty based on disruption caused by Covid-19. I am hopeful we can announce the details of implementation very soon.

Student Course Evaluations – Modifications for the handling of Spring 2020 student course evaluations have been finalized. The changes observe individual School needs and permit faculty to choose whether their course evaluations collected during the pandemic will count towards merit/retention/tenure/promotion.

Both of these measures are intended to alleviate stress for faculty from disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Resource Planning: The second critical area we have been actively working on is that of flattening the curve of the pandemic’s financial impact. As you are aware, higher education is already feeling the effects of Covid-19, and projected budget shortfalls may be considerable. W&M is no exception. Our goal is to continue delivering essential elements of the curriculum and meeting the obligations of externally funded research, while also retaining our workforce to the greatest extent possible.

To manage the financial pressures ahead, the university has slowed the immediate outflow of funds by instituting a pause in hiring and a freeze on many areas of spending. We are, however, aware that exceptions need to be considered for some personnel actions that are currently in the pipeline. To help examine these exception requests, I created the Mission-Critical Exceptions Review Team (M-CERT) and tasked this group with reviewing and making recommendations to me on personnel-related requests for exceptions that are submitted by Deans in conversation with their faculty for the Summer and Fall semester.

During the past two weeks, M-CERT has worked with the Schools to understand the requests based on the Mission-Critical criteria and to gather additional information when necessary. The information coming to M-CERT from the Schools has been scrutinized by the Deans, with the assistance of Chairs and Directors, to help determine what is considered Mission-Critical and tied to the successful delivery of our curriculum for next year. I appreciate the hard work that has occurred within the Schools with the faculty.

Of 130 requests received by M-CERT thus far, they have worked through some 90 of them. A majority of these requests deal with the critical teaching needs for AY20-21 by NTE and adjunct faculty as well as planned SSRLs. I will be receiving M-CERT’s recommendations very shortly, and anticipate that many of the requests deemed Mission-Critical by both the Schools and M-CERT will likely go forward. My decisions will be communicated to the Deans as soon as possible. I am very grateful to the Deans in all of the Schools, as well as the M-CERT members for assisting with this important work.

The next planning process we are embarking on as an institution is the FY21 Mission Critical Budget process. This process will take a deeper look at our programs and resources across the institution to determine what is mission-critical and what resources can be conserved during the economic downturn ahead. This process is intended to have significant faculty and staff input to ensure engagement and transparency as we collectively plan for our future.

I recognize that we are experiencing a high degree of uncertainty in multiple areas. My intention as we work through these complex areas is to involve the faculty, the School leadership, the faculty governing boards, the Faculty Assembly, and other members of my leadership team in an effective way so that we can make sound decisions together in a timely manner.

I am eager to discuss these and other recent initiatives in greater detail. Please join me at the Town Hall scheduled for today at 5 pm. It will be wonderful to connect with you then.


Peggy Agouris

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Operating under pandemic and planning for the coming academic year

May 6, 2020

Dear William & Mary Community,

Even as we move through the exam period for the spring semester, William & Mary is actively planning for the year ahead. Our goal is to be able to resume learning in-person in the fall, so long as it is safe to do so. We recognize the uncertainty so many are feeling. So this email aims to add clarity where we are able. Below my signature, you will find a high-level view of our current operations under the pandemic and an introduction to our planning process for next year.

In June we will have more details to share about ways we can prepare for the upcoming academic year. Next week we will update the campus on financial projections for FY21. Next week we will also share our expectations about work conditions after June 10, based on the Governor’s evolving guidance. We are continuing to make decisions in a measured, phased way, taking the steps required to flatten the curve of financial impact due to COVID-19.

This spring has clarified much about why we value face-to-face learning at William & Mary – and why we seek to return to it with such a strong sense of purpose. Cognitively: studying together speeds and deepens learning in myriad ways. Research has shown this; the challenges of learning under quarantine prove it by direct experience. Socially: collaboration accelerates the creation of new knowledge much faster than solo effort. Above all, working and learning in company strengthens the deep human connections we prize at William & Mary.

With these values in mind, we have much work to do to assess the adaptations to campus and curriculum that will be needed next year. In this effort, we have good partners. The May planning process described below aligns with similar planning at Virginia’s public higher education institutions and with the Dept. of Education. We track the Virginia Department of Health guidelines daily.

Bringing our campus back together safely is an enormous task and also a hopeful one because it is a key step in the path forward to a post-COVID-19 William & Mary. We will continue to share updates as new information becomes available, create opportunities for feedback and find ways to connect virtually. While planning within such an uncertain environment is stressful, the strength and creativity we can bring to that task – working together – is rewarding and sustaining.

Stay well,


– Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe


Operating under pandemic

In the weeks since the beginning of the pandemic, campus leadership has been engaged in two main efforts – emergency management and adaptation – adjusting academic, administrative and staff operations to safeguard the health of the community in an ongoing way. This month we are adding a third effort: planning ahead for next year. For more transparency, we’ve created a graphic that sketches these three strands of work and their relationship to each other.

May 2020 planning for fall 2020 and beyond

It’s important to remember that W&M does not control the surrounding public health context; decisions by the federal government and by Virginia’s leadership will frame the university’s options in the months ahead. Yet much is in our control that promotes resilience: creative adaptations to the structure and rhythms of our curriculum and adaptations to our physical plant, operations and modes of work that safeguard health. 

With these adaptations in mind, I have charged a small, multidisciplinary planning group to assess potential solutions for the coming fall and present them to me by the end of the month. Working in five small squads, this planning group will identify strategies to advance curricular flexibility and operational resiliency, help de-densify campus, create career pathways for our graduates and engage the wider W&M community in broad calls to service to support the most vulnerable in our communities. 

Key principles for adaptation

  • Safeguarding the health of our students, staff, faculty and surrounding community. We will follow guidance from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health to ensure that we can continue learning and working safely.
  • Creativity and flexibility. An entrepreneurial mindset that begins by asking “how might we?” and acknowledges the different needs in our community.
  • Collaboration. Any path forward we pursue must involve consultation with W&M student leadership, faculty and staff leadership, colleagues in Virginia higher education, state leadership in Richmond and in the broader Williamsburg area. All generative questions and ideas are welcome.

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Campus Community message

April 28, 2020

Dear Campus community:

Last Thursday, the Executive Committee of the Board of Visitors (BOV) met to hear updates about the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with all members of the BOV participating. This is the second time in its history that a BOV committee met virtually under rules established by the Attorney General in response to the State of Emergency in Virginia. At last week’s Reconvened Session, the General Assembly approved the Governor’s recommendation to give state governing boards the authority to conduct business electronically beyond pandemic- related issues. The full Board will meet electronically on Tuesday, May 12th.

President Katherine Rowe and the senior leadership team briefed us on the various efforts across campus to respond to the crisis and prepare for the future. You can find details of our meeting here. As we begin to plan for next year and ways in which we can “flatten the curve of financial impact for our community,” the Board and administration concurred that freezing tuition and mandatory fees for all students at the current year’s level was critical, as were other prudent decisions to freeze new hiring and limit other costs.

What has been especially evident to us is the very thoughtful and capable manner in which the university community has responded to this emergency. The administration and the Emergency Management Team have responded effectively from the very beginning of this pandemic and will continue to work to protect the safety of our community. The entire faculty — Provost, deans, department chairs and faculty members — quickly moved more than 2,000 classes to distance learning, ensuring that teaching remains vibrant despite a mid-semester interruption and that our students remain the focus. Staff throughout the university are offering many services virtually and also ensuring that our campus remains safe and ready for our return. And our students have stepped up as well, engaging in the transition to online classes, cheerfully offering their professors Zoom tips, and working to fill emergency needs of students and neighbors.

I also want to recognize and thank President Rowe, Provost Agouris and the entire leadership team for their thoughtful, empathetic and strategic stewardship. Throughout this crisis, they have been steady, driven and focused on the things that mattered. Looking forward, the “Plan Ahead” initiative will allow us to pivot to a post-pandemic future in a way that both capitalizes on lessons learned and makes W&M more nimble.

Normally, during this part of the academic year, we have the opportunity to acknowledge those who are graduating, being promoted or awarded tenure, and those who are retiring. We will indeed have the chance in the future to celebrate those milestones appropriately. For now, on behalf of my colleagues on the Board, I want to recognize the incredible leadership and efforts by each of you.

We have faced many challenges throughout our 327-year history. I have no doubt that we will emerge from this a stronger community and institution.

With best wishes,

John E. Littel

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Flattening the curve on the financial impact of COVID-19

April 24, 2020

Dear William & Mary Community,

In the past two months, we have all witnessed the staggering impact of COVID-19 on our nation’s public health and economy. We have begun to see the positive effects of self-quarantine measures in flattening the curve of COVID-19 infection. I feel great pride in our community’s shared commitment to this effort, despite the sacrifices that it has entailed. William & Mary will continue to do our part to protect our healthcare workers and safeguard the health of our community.

Over the past weeks and through next year, we strive to flatten the curve of the financial impact on W&M, our faculty, students and families, staff and region. The global pandemic has created immense financial vulnerability. We must be attentive to the changed circumstances of families and organizations in Virginia and around the world.

William & Mary’s responsibility to steward our resources prudently is understandably at front of mind for all in this community. So I ask you to read what follows with care. I write to sketch broadly the projected financial outlook for William & Mary as we understand it at present – and outline the steps we are taking to support the extraordinary students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents who sustain the university’s mission. By providing as much transparency as possible, I hope to sharpen our focus on what matters most and to ease some of the uncertainty we all feel.

A challenging financial outlook

William & Mary faces considerable financial impact now as a result of the pandemic. Currently, we project losses ranging from $13 million to $32 million through August 2020. These figures stem from lost revenue (study abroad, summer programs, athletics, housing, dining and parking) and new, unanticipated expenses (for software and technology needed to move learning to remote delivery, facilitate faculty and staff working at a distance, increased costs related to facilities cleaning and supplies, as well as emergency support for students in need).

Looking ahead, we must prepare for possible reductions in state support in FY21, as the Governor and General Assembly have predicted significant revenue shortfalls. This week, the General Assembly reconvened to finalize legislation passed this year, including the state budget. At present, all new expenditures have been unallocated. We will have a clearer picture of this impact when the state closes the books for this fiscal year and revises its revenue forecast later this summer. 

Prudent stewardship of resources

William & Mary’s funding model centers on people. Student tuition and fees make up our biggest source of revenue. Our largest expenditures are on salaries for the faculty and staff who support teaching, learning, research and our varied university operations, from student financial aid specialists, to career services, to facilities. 

As we navigate cost-saving measures, our mission remains our north star. We bring together exceptional people to learn and pursue knowledge at the highest levels. An outstanding university workforce is built slowly, over time, to achieve the quality of expertise and human understanding – and the commitment to community – that distinguishes W&M faculty and staff.

For William & Mary, flattening the curve of financial impact for our community will mean balancing awareness of the economic vulnerability of students and families with preserving our dedicated workforce for the long term. We will take a phased approach, beginning with the following prudent steps. As the economic picture becomes clearer, in the coming weeks and months, we will keep the community apprised of further steps that may be needed to safeguard W&M’s financial health and the financial health of those in our community.

We ask everyone in our university community to aid in this effort by embracing the actions below. 

  • Freeze hiring. William & Mary has paused all hiring, except for mission-critical positions, at least through the summer.
  • Extend restrictions on William & Mary travel. The policy on university-sponsored travel implemented in March will continue through August. 
  • Limit and defer spending. Reducing non-essential expenses is one of the most effective and immediate ways we can ensure William & Mary and its people flourish. The Governor and General Assembly have frozen all discretionary spending for the remainder of this fiscal year.
  • Review all current budgets to assess and prioritize mission-critical functions, regardless of fund source. This week Provost Agouris and Vice President Sebring launched an in-depth review of all budget areas across the university. Through this process, we will engage collectively in establishing a shared understanding of our financial position and ensure that we align available resources – including curricular resources – to support the programs and people that are at the heart of William & Mary.
  • Identify creative approaches. Innovation is in William & Mary’s DNA. Our faculty and staff will find creative ways in this time to reduce cost and generate new revenue.

Supporting our students and families

We are deeply cognizant of the financial vulnerability felt by our students and families and we will continue to provide support, beginning with the following actions.

  • Zero increase in tuition and mandatory fees. At yesterday’s Board of Visitors’ Executive Session, the Board and the administration concurred that tuition and fees should remain flat for the upcoming year. This will include tuition and fees for all students, in-state, out-of-state, undergraduate, graduate and professional. Rector Littel and members of the Board supported this freeze and will officially vote to approve the recommendation when the full board meets in May.
  • Deployment of federal stimulus dollars. William & Mary will deploy $1.97 million in federal stimulus funding earmarked for student relief via the CARES Act. 
  • Emergency fund support. William & Mary’s Student Affairs division continues to support students with urgent needs for housing and food using money from the HEART Fund and other emergency funds – including near-term support for students in need not covered by CARES Act funding. 

Planning for the next 18 months 

Next week I will launch a swift, cross-university planning process to build scenarios for in-person learning on campus in Fall 2020 and beyond. Five coordinated teams will focus on short-term solutions for mission-critical areas of the university: curricular flexibility, operational resilience, how we might de-densify campus spaces, how we might expand career pathways for graduating seniors and recent alumni. And finally, how W&M might take the lead in issuing broad calls to service at this critical time, in order to strengthen our communities near and far. 

The work ahead will continue to be challenging in unprecedented ways and uncertainty will remain high. Yet I look forward to the coming months with optimism. The creativity and resilience of our people have proved our most valuable resources. 

We’ve learned in the past six weeks that together, we’ve got this.

Katherine A. Rowe

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A weekend for Commencement and May celebrations

April 17, 2020

Dear W&M Community,

So much feels different about this spring semester. We are living, learning, and connecting with one another in new ways. And, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we are missing being physically together on our beautiful Williamsburg campus. 

For members of the Class of 2020, this reality is especially keenly felt as we approach the time of degree completion in May. So the Commencement Committee has been hard at work to bring clarity. Our conclusion is that the Class of 2020 deserves to be celebrated fully. In the spirit of “both/and,” we will honor them in both May and October, both virtually and in person, in ways that are traditional, new, and joyful. 

We write to share W&M’s plans for both in-person and virtual celebrations. Please mark your calendars. More details about each event will follow. We will also post updates and FAQs regularly on W&M’s Commencement website.

A Weekend for Commencement Celebration: October 9-11, 2020
Please hold the long weekend of October 9-11, 2020 as this year’s Commencement Weekend in Williamsburg. Graduates and their families will enjoy all the pomp and circumstance this ancient university has to offer. They will take part in our most cherished traditions: ringing the Wren Bell, Candlelight, the Walk Across Campus, formal exercises in full regalia, and the personalized school/departmental ceremonies with faculty. It will be glorious.

More details about October to follow from the Commencement Committee. As always in these uncertain times, we will adhere to Virginia’s public health advisories to ensure the safety of all participating in and supporting events in the coming year.

Special Celebrations and New Traditions Planned for this May
We must also find meaningful ways to celebrate the Class of 2020 this spring. As the Commencement Committee affirmed, such celebrations should be joyful and different – they should not simply replicate the in-person events to come in October. 

Here are our creative solutions:

  • Personal Bell-Ringing on the Last Day of Classes (Friday, May 1) – In October, graduates will have the opportunity to ring the Wren Bell in person. Yet W&M tradition holds that students celebrate with bell-ringing on their last day of classes at the university. So to all 2020 graduates: we invite you to submit a video of yourself ringing a bell on May 1st. Wherever you are and with whatever kind of bell you choose – a bicycle bell, a dinner bell, a hand bell, a jingle bell – we hope you will unite in joy by ringing in this milestone moment. We will share those videos online for all to see.
  • Virtual Ceremony Recognizing Degree Candidates (Saturday, May 16) – The Chancellor, President, Provost, and Deans will preside over a virtual ceremony for all graduates of the Class of 2020 – undergraduate, graduate, and professional. Virtual activities on May 16 will feature photos submitted by members of the Class of 2020. Recognizing that celebrating with their faculty is important to students, schools and departments are being invited to host gatherings online after the virtual ceremony. We are working with departments on those arrangements now.
  • Graduation Gratitude: a New Tradition – This spring semester has been challenging for members of our campus community and for our Class of 2020 in particular. Through it all, our sense of community is strong and we have persevered – even found ways to flourish – because others have lifted us up. As May 16 nears, all degree candidates are invited to send a note of thanks or appreciation to another member of the W&M community who has helped them in these months leading up to graduation – a beautiful new tradition for the Class of 2020 to inaugurate.
  • Regalia – The W&M Bookstore will assist all degree candidates who needto order regalia (cap/mortar board, robes, hoods). Though graduates will not be expected to wear regalia until the October 9-11 Commencement Weekend, we recognize that many may want to take graduation photos between now and then. Some may even choose to don regalia on May 16 as they enjoy the virtual ceremony with family and friends. 

The Commencement Committee will send additional, detailed communications in the coming weeks to degree candidates and families. Updates will include information about prizes & award nominations, diploma mailing, the timeline for ordering regalia, and registering for October’s ceremony tickets. 

Here’s to you, William & Mary’s remarkable Class of 2020!

Katherine Rowe

Ginger Ambler
Chair, Commencement Committee and Vice President for Student Affairs

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Information on Exam Proctoring

April 16, 2020

Dear faculty and students,

Spring is upon us, and we are looking ahead to the end of classes and the beginning of final exams. As you know, whether courses are delivered on campus or online, there are a range of ways to assess student learning. These include final papers, individual or collaborative projects, and cumulative exams. In some cases, due to student and/or course requirements, exams are proctored.

Resources for faculty

There are many ways to help ensure the integrity of the learning and assessment processes. Specific resources and considerations for instructors can be found in this matrix and on the W&M Keep Teaching site.

Remote proctoring

Exam proctoring is something W&M regularly offers and uses to meet needs of specific students and/or courses. Proctoring protects the integrity of the testing process, thereby maintaining a level playing field for all students.

The university does not require all online exams to be remote proctored, but does provide instructors with the option when useful for high-stakes testing in classes needed for graduate programs or summative assessments in large classes.

For the limited number of courses that require proctored exams, W&M will use Honorlock. Honorlock is an online remote proctoring service that allows students to take exams from home. It operates within Blackboard and Google Chrome to validate identity and monitor student exam sessions via screen and webcam recordings.

  • Access:
    • Students do not need to create an account or schedule an appointment in advance. All that is needed is a computer with the Chrome browser, a working webcam & microphone, and a stable Internet connection.
  • Security:
    • Honorlock is active only during a proctored exam and does not access your camera or microphone outside of a proctored session. Students can easily remove the Honorlock browser extension from Chrome after completing an exam.
    • Honorlock is FERPA compliant and uses securely encrypted protocols to save and view all test \-taker assets. Honorlock's certified proctors and W&M's faculty are able to review test session videos until deleted based on the university's retention policy. More information on privacy can be found on Honorlock’s student site.
  • Integrity:
    • Remote proctoring provides a reliable process for identity verification and secure testing environments. The use of remote proctoring does not diminish, in any way, the Honor Code or students’ pledge to uphold it.

We wish you all the best in the remaining weeks of the semester and during the exam period. 


Marjorie Thomas, Dean of Students

Mark Hofer, Director of the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation

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Connection and Wellness – Reinstituting Open Office Hours Virtually with the Provost

April 13, 2020

Editor's note: The provost's office sent an update to this announcement on April 29, saying that open office hours sessions will take place on Friday, May 1. There will be two 30-minute sessions, one beginning at 3 p.m. and another at 3:30 p.m. To join the conversation, email Christy Fielder, who will send a Zoom link to access the call.

Dear Campus Community,

As we close in on nearly a month of COVID-19 remote work characterized by physical distancing, I can’t help but reflect on the unique ability of all of you – the individuals of our William & Mary community – to stay true to our value of deep human connection.  Across our schools and programs you are finding creative and resourceful ways to reach out and connect with one another.  I hear this happening in so many ways such as: 

  • Arts & Sciences having weekly virtual breakroom conversations across the extended Dean’s Office staff to support one another’s adjustment to remote working;
  • Mason School of Business using its UiPath software robot to cruise Blackboard in order to identify and then reach out to students who seem to be at risk for disengaging; and
  • The Law School offering the option to join a virtual coffee every Wednesday morning for all staff and administrators to share fun things individuals are doing outside of work, share jokes and support one another. 

Connection is a point of pride at William & Mary and now it is more essential than ever.  During the current crisis we may be forced to be physically distant, but we do not need to be socially isolated.  Please continue to find enjoyable ways to stay connected with your colleagues to boost their spirits as well as your own!

Many of my prior communications have focused with urgency on policies and work modifications related to ramping up for remote teaching.  These are all important matters, and I am deeply grateful for your responsiveness to nimbly transition to an improvised remote learning platform in such a short period of time. The Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation continues to offer a wealth of support for you through its Keep Teaching web site.  I also deeply appreciate all you are doing to keep our students engaged.  Please continue to keep an eye out for those students who might be struggling and in need of additional support so that we can intervene to keep them engaged.

In this particular communication I’d like to focus on you taking good care of yourself during this pandemic.  Your individual health and wellness are of paramount importance. In addition to taking the recommended steps to protect yourself from coronavirus, I hope you are also practicing your own self-care.  Health and wellness as an intentional practice will help us all stay strong, nourished, exercised, and emotionally resilient.

  • If you are looking for excellent resources in this area, please check out William & Mary’s Virtual Health & Wellness site.  This site and the Virtual Fitwell series offer you an impressive range of options to support your health and wellness.
  • The School of Education also offers a remote gentle yoga and mindfulness session via Zoom every Monday at 8 am and Wednesday at 2 pm. 

During this pandemic our minds are focused not only on ourselves, but also on our families.  As a mother, daughter and spouse myself, I know it is a trying time to take care of children, aging parents, as well as ourselves.  For all of us who have children at home the remote K-12 schooling requirement is an added challenge.  Keep an eye out in the W&M News for At-Home learning resources occurring through our School of Education.  For example, webinars on learning at home for parents and teachers (in both English and Spanish), mindfulness in the virtual classroom, support for students with IEPs and special needs, virtual tutoring, and more. 

We are an institution of learning.  We have all been drawn to higher education because we believe in the power of the mind – its potential for creativity and discovery.  Do try to make time for a little respite; you can feed your creative and intellectual appetite with some of the amazing offerings through the Muscarelle Museum, Swem Library, and Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS):

In closing I would personally like to stay connected with you in order to hear your thoughts not only about work and what we can do to help, but also just to hear how you are doing.  Therefore, I am reinstituting the Open Office Hours that I had started in the Fall.  My plan is to hold open office hours for faculty and staff twice a month to drop-in via Zoom.  I will also hold a monthly open office hour with students.  I would like these sessions to be informal and interactive (children and pets are welcome).  We will modify as we go based on the interests of the group.  My main objective is to hear what’s on your mind and to get to know you better as I continue to become more acquainted with the amazing community of William & Mary.  Please come visit with me!  Christy Fiedler will be reaching out with more information.

In the meantime, stay connected with one another and take good care of yourselves and your family.

Peggy Agouris

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Serving our communities during COVID-19

April 10, 2020

Dear William & Mary community –

Service is one of the university’s core values, and we have seen that in action throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. From students donating their rebates to others in need to our makerspaces creating personal protective equipment for first responders and healthcare workers, the people of W&M are finding ways to support one another, their families and their communities during this challenging time.

Today, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced another option for those looking to serve the greater good: an opportunity to join the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps. While students majoring in health sciences and/or people with medical experience are preferred, opportunities are available for anyone willing to serve.

For more information, email vamrc@vdh.virginia.gov. You can sign up to volunteer on the Virginia Volunteer Health System website.

We are so proud of this community and the way it has shown its heart — from small acts of kindness to larger efforts — in response to COVID-19. Please continue to stay safe and look out for one another.

Sam Jones and Ginger Ambler

Co-chairs, W&M Emergency Management Team

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Standing with William & Mary

April 8, 2020

Dear William & Mary Community,

In recent weeks, I have witnessed the Alma Mater of the Nation standing together in the face of a global pandemic. With great strength of purpose, William & Mary students and their families, faculty and staff embraced the work of safeguarding our community while ensuring that our learning and research mission remains strong.

COVID-19 poses an unprecedented threat to public health; so too this pandemic threatens the financial health of millions of households and institutions around the globe. As this world faces our greatest shared challenge in living memory, it’s humbling that so many of you are asking how to help William & Mary. Your support for our students, faculty and staff is more important now than ever, as we navigate uncharted territory.

This centuries-old institution is discovering again what it means to be resilient as a university and to cultivate resilience in those who come here. So I hope you will consider renewing your annual support for the areas of the university where you traditionally give. Even if you are unable to give in the same way as before, every gift, no matter the size, helps.

If you would like to help with immediate needs, please consider a gift to the Fund for William & Mary or one of our emergency funds. I am so grateful for our community’s outpouring of support, yet many students continue to have an urgent need for longer-term housing and food.

Wherever you decide to give, your contribution, especially right now, will make a tremendous difference.

Thank you for standing with William & Mary.

Stay well,

Katherine A. Rowe

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UPDATE on Summer Instruction

April 7, 2020

Dear William & Mary Community,

I am getting in touch with you to share important updates for summer instruction. 

We anticipate many new and exciting offerings this summer.  W&M will launch the new Jump-Start Data Science summer program that will engage students in intensive interdisciplinary inquiry with various faculty from a range of fields.  W&M will also be among the first in the nation to provide students with remote internships offered through our Washington Center.  And we are developing new courses and increasing the number of spaces available in courses that satisfy core requirements.

As you may know, the Governor’s most recent “Stay-at-Home” order restricts on-campus, in-person experiences until June 10.  So we will be moving all in-person classes to remote delivery for both sessions of summer. If public health guidelines change to the extent of allowing an on-campus presence in the second session, we will reexamine our options at that time.  

Regarding summer instruction:

  • Existing online summer courses will continue as scheduled;
  • Existing on-campus and hybrid courses will be converted to remote instruction whenever possible or cancelled if necessary;
  • New offerings are being added to the summer schedule as faculty propose additional courses;
  • Access to courses that fulfill core requirements, including COLL 300, will be expanded during summer and fall; and,
  • Student research and internship experiences will be modified to continue online and/or remotely, where feasible. Where this is not possible, contingency plans will be developed and communicated.  

I greatly appreciate all the work taking place across the university to enables these modifications.  That effort underscores the deep commitment of our faculty and staff to our students.  Our team of specialists in the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation, W&M University Libraries and Instructional Technology will continue to support our community in this process.  Despite the challenging circumstances, we are committed to continuing to offer our summer program in the most smooth and seamless manner; as we innovate, we are focused on ensuring a highly successful experience for all involved. 

Thank you for your dedication, patience and creativity during this unprecedented time.  This community’s resilience continues to inspire me.  We will provide additional updates as summer plans are finalized.


Peggy Agouris


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An update on Commencement 2020

April 2, 2020

Dear William & Mary Community,

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, Commencement 2020 has been front-of-mind for our graduating students and their families. For a close-knit community that treasures our ceremonies, Commencement stands out as among our most cherished. Alumni talk about ringing the Wren bell, saying goodbye to beloved places on campus, and walking together with classmates out through the door they entered when they first arrived at William & Mary. 

Celebrating together, in person, continues to be our goal. Doing so matters greatly to our graduate students, undergraduates, parents, faculty, and staff – and to me. And it matters to our surrounding community, as a time when many Williamsburg neighbors celebrate living in a university town.

This week, Governor Northam issued a “stay-at-home” order, running through June 10, 2020. That order responds to national public health projections that COVID-19 cases in VA may peak in late May. It is clear that we must defer the planned ceremony on May 16. 

With a better understanding of the virus’s progress nationally, we will identify a time when we can convene such a sizable group without great risk to health. We will continue to assess possible timelines in consultation with local public health officials, closely tracking the Commonwealth’s and our nation’s response. As we gain clarity, we will keep our community informed on our Commencement website

I am sorry to be sharing news that I know saddens us all. W&M’s leadership will bring our best thinking to when and how we can come together in this important ceremony of passage – perhaps in summer, or fall. For now, we can share these details:

  • Commencement will include as many of our cherished traditions as possible, including ringing the Wren bell, Candlelight, departmental and affinity group ceremonies, and the walk across campus. 
  • We will do everything within our means to make sure all who want to attend this ceremony in person are able to. Even as we plan a new date, we know that it will not be the weekend we had planned. For some, there will be barriers – financial and scheduling – to return. We are working with student leaders to plan accordingly.
  • We will confer degrees virtually on May 16 and mail diplomas to each graduate. All students who have completed their graduation requirements will receive their degrees as scheduled, so you can pursue future opportunities with your degree in hand. More details to come.

Already, our graduating students are experiencing a deep sense of loss, as a spring semester they joyfully anticipated has changed in profound ways outside of our control. Each loss, shared and personal, compounds anxiety and hardship. Please reach out to the graduating students around you and support them.

Last Friday, a William & Mary faculty member shared her experience of being in the final year of her Ph.D. program in New Orleans in 2005, during Hurricane Katrina. She said, “What I know is: a resiliency develops from this. And I see this same resilience in my students this week.”

You are navigating this challenging spring with grace and compassion. William & Mary is proud of you, and we look forward to coming together to celebrate you. Until then, may this community and those we love be healthy and safe.

Stay well,

– Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe

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Resilience and kindness amid crisis

March 31, 2020

Dear William & Mary Community,

At our first weekly Community Conversation, I invited our far-flung William & Mary family to learn how the Alma Mater of the Nation is responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Many have written to me with reminders that William & Mary has weathered extraordinary challenges in the past, with resilience. That said, in barely three weeks, our world has shifted and our lives changed. As we work through immediate-term solutions in crisis mode, we will begin to shift to living, teaching and learning during a pandemic. As we continue to chart a path forward together, I feel honored to be part of this community.

I take heart in the transformations we have accomplished in such a short amount of time. We all know that higher education prides itself in measured response and reflection. William & Mary has held onto our pride in those qualities even as we have moved expeditiously to advance the three-part mission we cherish: teaching, learning and research.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Our students and faculty have taken their pursuit of learning and scholarship online: 2,000-plus courses in two weeks. Research advances, music performances continue and students and teachers are coming together to explore the affordances of distance education, aided by our Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation. 
  • Our staff has kept the university running apace, rapidly adapting to new technologies and workflows and providing round-the-clock care to support our students’ health and wellbeing.
  • Our researchers have pooled their PPEs and shared them with local hospitals – resources we hope will extend the safety of our courageous local healthcare providers on the front line.
  • Our alumni are connecting with each other and alma mater via virtual networking, professional and intellectual programming, webinars and volunteer opportunities. 
  • Our neighbors, parents and friends have pulled together to support this community – through words of encouragement, guidance and continued investment. 
  • Our community has generously given to the university through our For the Bold campaign so that students facing emergencies can access needed funding. So far, we have provided 118 students with emergency financial support. It says so much about who our students are that they have asked only for what they need – knowing others will be in need too.

In this historic moment, each of us has an extraordinary opportunity to reimagine our purpose, pursue new passions and explore new modes for creating community. Thank you for your resilience and kindness and for being a constant in a time of rapid change.

Best regards,

Katherine A. Rowe

P.S. We will continue to gather for virtual Community Conversations on a weekly basis. Please join us tomorrow, Wednesday, April 1, at 12 p.m. ET, for a conversation on health and wellness. See www.wm.edu/conversation for more details and upcoming dates.

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Important update on policies, deadline and plans

March 26, 2020

RE: Consideration of temporary adjustments on policies for course evaluations, deadlines for mid-probationary review and tenure/promotion, and contingency plans for research continuity and expectations

Dear Colleagues:

During the past couple of weeks, COVID-19 has posed a plethora of challenges to all within our university community – ones that have tested our resilience and required around-the-clock interventions by all. I am very proud to say that the students, faculty, staff and administrators of William & Mary have been overcoming one impediment after another, surmounting obstacles that we never anticipated. Working together, faculty are successfully transitioning courses to online delivery and implementing contingency measures into their research, students are being relocated to ensure their safety, policies are being temporarily adjusted to allow for flexibility and stress relief, and employees are transitioning effectively to remote work. I am very proud of our joint efforts and sincerely thank each of you for all that you are doing to facilitate a successful response to this unique situation. Having said that, I am also cognizant of the fact that there is more for us to collectively do as we move forward.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, I am committed to working closely with faculty and administrators to seek ways to offer greater flexibility for the success and well-being of all in our community. Last week, with guidance from the schools and with the support of Faculty Assembly leadership, we crafted temporary adjustments to the W&M undergraduate grading policy. Our collective aim was to relieve undue pressure for students and create the conditions most conducive to their learning. Discussions about similar adjustments in grading policy are also under active consideration within our graduate and professional schools. While we are still fine-tuning, I hear that for many this comes as great relief. In an effort to facilitate collaborative learning in the online environment, we have also amended our FERPA policy to include W&M email addresses and telephone numbers as “Directory Information” that can be shared with students within a class.

We now must turn our attention to three pressing issues for you as faculty. I believe there is a need for: 1) increased flexibility regarding course evaluations; 2) options for revised timetables for mid-probationary reviews and tenure evaluations; and 3) in-depth contingency plans regarding research continuity and expectations. For the first two issues I am communicating with the faculty leadership in each of the schools, requesting that representatives of those governing bodies, along with Associate Deans and Deans, reach out to their faculty to determine specific concerns and share ideas on these critical matters. I have asked my Vice Provost team to coordinate this effort and bring forward co-created recommendations for temporary adjustments in policy and process within the next couple of weeks.

Regarding research contingency planning, normal research operations have changed significantly since COVID-19 was determined to be transmitted by person-to-person contact. To protect our students and faculty abundant caution has been implemented. Department chairs, Deans, the Faculty Research Committee and research leaders are working closely with faculty to review and adjust the status of research operations given evolving recommendations and restrictions from the Commonwealth and federal government. Currently, only essential operations as defined by our management are in progress at W&M (including VIMS). If you can accomplish your research remotely, you should. I encourage principal investigators to provide considerable flexibility in teleworking by allowing their employees to engage in data analysis, preparation of publications and reports, training, learning, and other appropriate activities whenever possible.

Furthermore, I greatly appreciate faculty’s uncertainty around research continuity given the disruption in operations that has and will likely continue to occur. The Vice Provost for Research and the Office of Sponsored Programs are working closely with the Associate Deans and Deans within the schools as well as the faculty leadership to identify and explore questions related to work progress, deliverables, funding, sponsors, etc. in order to provide thoughtful guidance to faculty.

I urge all of you to participate in these academic and research planning processes as your ideas will inform our strategy and greatly matter to our shared success. Please accept my ongoing gratitude for your extraordinary efforts during this uncertain time. I deeply appreciate you and your contributions.

With best wishes for you and your loved ones for forbearance and good health,

Peggy Agouris

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An invitation to a virtual Community Conversation and reflections from the past week

March 25, 2020

Dear W&M Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Many of you are back in the classroom, as Arts & Sciences, Education, and VIMS started classes this week. The schools of Law and Business made the transition to remote teaching last week, so teachers and students in those classes are in your second week. We welcome the insights that early start may yield for the rest of us.

It has been moving, and heartening, to listen as this unprecedented shift has taken place. In barely more than a week, William & Mary faculty and staff in every school reinvented their spring semesters, adapting long-standing habits and materials into new platforms. Despite the intense worry and uncertainty that all of us are feeling, the sense of shared purpose at William & Mary is strong.

This note has only one piece of business, an invitation, and then reflections on insights that have been shared with me this week from many different sources.

The invitation: in order to create some space to reflect together, I will be hosting a virtual Community Conversation (www.wm.edu/conversation) from the President’s House this Friday at 2 p.m. ET. We will hear from faculty and undergraduates who will join me (virtually) to share their reflections on this week’s transition to distance learning. We will also use this as an opportunity to weave into the conversations many of the questions we have been hearing.

Please join us on Friday to hear more about how this week unfolded, from teachers’ and students’ perspectives. If this kind of virtual conversation proves welcome, we’ll continue it in the coming weeks. More details to come.

I write also to acknowledge the incredible difficulty of what we are undertaking. Classes are back in session because of great effort by many. More will be needed in the weeks ahead. We must pace ourselves, give each other grace when our efforts fall short of our hopes, and take care of each other.

The emotions many of us feel this week have been intensely mixed, with good reason. I’ve heard many expressions of pride, determination, solace in collaborative work, joy in creativity under pressure. So much gratitude is flowing. I am especially grateful to Williamsburg’s Mayor and City Council in joining me to affirm how deeply we value our international graduate students, undergraduates, professional students, visiting faculty and staff – honored members of our community whose presence strengthens William & Mary in every way.

It is important to honor the painful feelings as well: care for the health of loved ones and one's own health; frustration when William & Mary misses a step in communication; feelings of being unsettled and out of place; worry about finances. Sadness comes with every cancellation that passes on the calendar of self-quarantine. With our determination and steadfast efforts, we are also mourning: a lecture, a birthday, the long-awaited symposium, a team road trip, and so much more. Not having been able to say goodbye weighs on many. As does the fear of worse losses, impending.

One common theme of emails to me this week: there is overwhelming support for postponing decisions on Commencement 2020. William & Mary is of one mind on this: we want to be together. So we will wait until April for better clarity on how that may be achieved.

The clear throughline in everything that has been shared with me over the past week is care for others. That speaks volumes about who we are as a community. Just more than a week ago, I wrote to you with the difficult news that William & Mary would need to finish the semester remotely. As COVID-19 cases rose sharply in Williamsburg this week, I shared the wrenching news that we would need to close dorms – and find the students still on campus places to stay where they can more safely self-quarantine. We are doing so, thanks to the assistance that Student Affairs and the Reves Center are providing, and the hospitality of many campus neighbors.

Even in distress, so many of you have taken the time to send a kind note to a faculty member, staff member, student leader, or administrator. Please know how much each of these gestures lifts our spirits.



Katherine A. Rowe

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Announcement of temporary adjustments to academic policy for Spring 2020

March 20, 2020

Dear Faculty and Students,

In recent communications, we have emphasized that despite the disruption caused by Covid-19, William & Mary is committed to ensuring that students complete their course work this semester and continue their progress toward graduation.  To that end, we have moved instruction online and have been supporting our faculty and students in preparing for this new modality beginning this coming Monday. 

In consideration of the extensive adjustments that faculty are making to deliver course content and the steps students are taking to equip themselves for new learning environments, we will institute the following temporary modifications to the undergraduate Pass/Fail (P/F) policy for the Spring 2020 semester only:

  1. Pass/Fail grading will be available for all undergraduate courses, and any undergraduate student may select this grading option.
  2. Students may select P/F grading for one, some, or all their Spring 2020 courses, or students may choose not to change any courses to P/F grade mode.
  3. Courses with a P grade may be used to fulfill major, minor, proficiency, COLL, and other graduation requirements. 
  4. At the end of the finals period, faculty will submit standard grades for standard-graded courses.
  5. Grades of D- or higher will be converted to “P” for students who have chosen that option for that course.
  6. Students must exercise the P/F option by Friday, May 29, 2020.
    1. Students will elect P/F grading mode through Banner self-service through the last day of undergraduate classes, Friday, May 1.
    2. Once grading begins on Monday, May 4, students wishing to change grade modes may do so using a request tool that will be available on the University Registrar’s Office website.
  7. Dean’s List criteria remain unchanged; that is, students must have 12 standard-graded credits to be eligible for consideration.

In addition, for undergraduates, course withdrawal to a grade of “W” will be extended to the last day of the semester, Friday, May 1. Requirements to maintain full-time enrollment remain in effect.

A notation will be made on undergraduate transcripts for Spring 2020 explaining these temporary changes to academic policy.  This should alleviate concerns about graduate admission, employment, or other future review.

Graduate students will receive guidance from their schools and programs regarding adjustments, if any, to grading modes and withdrawal dates.

We continue to be grateful for the resilience of our community as we support one another and take necessary measures to achieve our objectives.   




Peggy Agouris

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W&M's COVID-19 Response: Important Updates for the Remainder of the Semester

March 19, 2020

Dear William & Mary Community,

Like many of you, we continue to follow closely the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19. First and foremost, our thoughts and care are for those whose wellbeing has been and will be impacted, in our surrounding region and around the world. This is an incredibly challenging time. We know we can help by providing as much clarity as we can, as soon as we have it. 

As we move forward, the goals we shared last week remain our north star: 1) to safeguard the health of students, faculty and staff; 2) to ensure students complete their classes; 3) to maintain the university’s research and other operations; 4) to do everything within our power to support national and global efforts to slow the spread of the disease.

We are seeing significant impacts across our far-flung communities and close to home, here in Williamsburg. Thus, I write to share decisions regarding the university’s operations for the remainder of the semester. In acting now, we hope to allow you as much time as possible to prepare and respond.

We make these decisions in conjunction with the advice of local health authorities, recognizing that the Peninsula Health District, in which our main campus resides, has a dense concentration of positive COVID-19 test results – now including individuals on our campus. Nothing is more important than the health and wellness of our community.

  • All in-person classes will resume remotely on Monday, March 23, and continue in this format through the end of the semester. Courses that are already online are continuing this week as previously scheduled. Over the past week the provost’s office and deans’ offices have begun coordinating the transition to online course delivery. Faculty, students and staff should access W&M's Instructional Resilience site for assistance with this effort.
  • All residence halls will close for the remainder of the semester. We ask the few students remaining on campus to activate their personal evacuation plans and leave their residence halls no later than March 25. Details from Residence Life regarding next steps and support services for students may be found below. We ask that other students remain away from campus and await further information before returning to collect their belongings.
  • Our Student Affairs staff are committed to working with individual students who are unable to implement their personal evacuation plans, to find a solution. Please click here to consult with them.
  • W&M will provide students partial refunds for room and board. We are still working to understand the economic impact of the epidemic – intensely aware of the financial vulnerability of so many families and employees. The Office of Finance and Administration will share details and specific amounts in the coming days. 
  • For many of us, the ceremony of Commencement matters profoundly. This is, of course, especially true for seniors and their families. So we are deferring a decision on how or when to have Commencement. By April, we hope that the timeline of this unfolding epidemic may be clearer and that our ability to plan will be as well. We promise to bring our best thinking to this question so that we can honor and uphold William & Mary’s tradition of belonging. 
  • University travel and events restrictions will continue through at least May 1, 2020. The university’s interim travel policy provides guidance to all.
  • All employees who can work remotely are expected to do so during this period. For the small number who must be on campus: your supervisors will continue to advise on appropriate ways to safeguard your and our community’s health using social distancing and appropriate hygiene protocols.

I want to acknowledge how much we are asking of all employees, whatever your roles. All of our lives have been upended by COVID-19 and we will all be balancing competing demands for some time to come. We will be learning how to work or teach remotely, fulfilling university responsibilities through new modes, while attending to the care and education of others – our children, parents, neighbors and friends. We have an obligation to one another to extend flexibility and understanding everywhere possible.

We recognize that these decisions have weighty consequences — personal, financial and more. They require dedication and sacrifice from our students, faculty and staff. And we know that each decision we make generates new questions. So we will continue to share more details as they become available. 

Please keep sending your questions our way, since they give us a better understanding of how to support you to the best of our collective ability. Please continue to consult our website and FAQs daily, where we compile the most up-to-date information.

William & Mary has faced profound adversities before and flourished. Since our founding in 1693, our history has been one of creativity and resilience in the face of daunting challenges. Over the past week, we have been heartened by so many stories of students, faculty, staff, neighbors and alumni reaching out to support each other. 

Your goodwill, care and spirit of partnership are this university’s strength. Thank you.

Katherine A. Rowe


The university has made the difficult decision to close all W&M residence halls (including apartments and the Graduate Complex) effective March 25 at 5:00 p.m. Any residential students still on campus will need to execute their personal emergency evacuation plan and move out of their residence hall by that time. Please consult the following procedures.

For students living in off-campus housing: given the lack of services on campus and out of an abundance of caution, we ask that you return to your family residence.

Students currently on campus and in residence need to move out by Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

  • Residence halls will not reopen this semester.
  • If possible remove all of your belongings at this time and complete the online check out process.
  • If you are unable to move out completely now, we will offer another window in May to come back and collect your belongings.

If you are away from campus and have belongings in your room for which you have a critical need (medications, laptops) you must make plans to collect them by Wednesday, March 25, 5:00 p.m., as follows:

  • Email living@wm.edu with your request.
  • It is critical that you bring your room key and ID card to access your residence hall.
  • If you don’t have your key, email living@wm.edu for assistance.
  • You will have a limited amount of time to collect your belongings and leave campus.
  • Social distancing protocols will be in place and we will require compliance with these actions.
  • No one may accompany you into the building. Only residents will be permitted entry to residence halls. If you bring guests with you, they must remain in your vehicle.
  • Do not come to campus if you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or have been asked by state or local health officials to self-quarantine. Under those circumstances, you may designate someone else to return for your critically-needed belongings by emailing living@wm.edu.

If you need for someone else to retrieve your critical items for you:
Email living@wm.edu from your official W&M email account and provide the following information:

  • Your name, hall and room number
  • Name of person coming to gather items
  • Only one person may enter the residence hall
  • They will be escorted at a distance of 6-8 feet by a staff member

Final Move Out Procedures:

We will plan a full move out period from April 18-May 18, 2020. More information about access and hours during that window will be shared at a later date. Please note that future health conditions in our region may require adjustments to these proposed dates.


Again, for those students who are unable to implement their personal evacuation plans – know that we are committed to working with you to find a solution. Please click here to consult with us.

Letter of thanks to all who teach at W&M

March 16, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As all who teach at W&M take steps to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, individually and in your schools, we write as president, provost, and as your colleagues to express our gratitude to you. Every institution has business continuity plans with scenarios for epidemics, W&M included. Yet it is one thing to plan for hypotheticals and another to make decisions in real-time, under ambiguous circumstances, adjusting as new information arrives hourly. That is the territory we are in now, together.

We cannot imagine better colleagues with whom to navigate this new territory. The dedication, creativity, and understanding with which you approach this challenge continue to inspire us. We are grateful for your thoughtful input and feedback – directly and via your deans. Please keep that coming so that we can continue to benefit from your best thinking.

As you prepare this week for the very significant conversion to teaching remotely, we want to share our insights on the strengths that educators at William & Mary bring to these challenges and provide a quick summary of the major steps our university has taken so far to respond to the crisis. We do so with humility, cognizant of the significance and scope of the work you have ahead.

Where we are as of March 16

  • Recognizing the ethical imperative to protect our communities, W&M joined the national effort to slow the spread of this novel coronavirus, so that our healthcare system has sufficient time to respond. We asked the students who could do so to return home. The campus is closed to the general public, effective noon today, for one week through March 22, in accordance with the Governor’s directive to close executive branch and state facility offices in the Peninsula Health District. We asked all employees who could do so to begin teleworking. Roughly 500 students remain on campus and the employees who support them are using shifts and other recommended strategies to safeguard their health.
  • As we anticipated, we now have confirmed cases in Williamsburg, including a W&M staff member. We expect that number to grow. We know your thoughts, like ours, are consumed by care for those who are and will be affected by this pandemic. 
  • In each school, designated administrators and staff are leading the school’s response and building resources to support everyone engaged in instruction to make the conversion to distance teaching. Classes start a week from today.
  • The Emergency Management Team meets daily. Sam Jones, the chair of EMT, will continue to communicate with you frequently as conditions change. All communications are archived on our COVID-19 website and we ask that you consult that daily as well.

We are confident that these urgent actions will help protect the members of our community, as well as those we care for beyond William & Mary. We are grateful to all with whom we consulted to make these decisions swiftly – so we could give you and our students as much time as possible to prepare. 

We also believe that more decisions will be needed as the situation keeps changing. So we are intentionally making decisions on a short-term time frame and with clear, simple goals – the four goals shared with the community last week. Understanding the challenge that an uncertain timeline presents to our entire community, we will revisit the timeline of this semester as quickly as we can – and no later than the end of the month.

The strengths we see

Central communication is essential for clarity in a crisis, a principle we have followed so far. Problem-solving and creativity thrive locally, however. A university is modular: made up of diverse schools, departments, and programs where faculty have a high degree of expertise and authority in their teaching and curricular decisions. Your local solutions are essential.

We fully trust in your knowledge of your field and your students – and in your ability to make good decisions that ensure W&M meets the four goals we have set out. In consultation with your department or program chair and dean, we encourage you to explore creative solutions in the best interests of your students, your colleagues, and your program. 

Use your best judgment as to what is most important for student learning and stay focused on that. Engage your students intentionally, as partners, and chart your course together. Pace yourself and them. Please reach out to take full advantage of the resources we are growing to help you keep teaching. Help us learn from colleagues around the country in your fields who are engaged in the same effort; when you discover great ideas, share them within your programs and with your deans.

Finally, please stay open to discovery. To borrow an insight from the field of translation studies, when you shift longstanding practices and materials into new platforms, you engage in a kind of translation. The scholar N. Katharine Hayles makes this point: in “media translations” (as in translation between languages), something is always lost and something gained in the movement across platforms. The choices one makes in translation illuminate what one values most.

With gratitude and great respect,

Katherine Rowe, President
Peggy Agouris, Provost

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Faculty Support for Remote Teaching & Online Learning

March 11, 2020

In light of recent COVID-19 developments and preventive measures taken by William & Mary, the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation (STLI) will be partnering with W&M Libraries and IT to provide short-term solutions to aid course continuation over the next several weeks.  We have developed an online portal of resources and teaching tips that faculty can access to provide the operational support needed during this transition. In addition to the web resources and tutorials provided, we are planning to offer live webinars and virtual and in-person drop-in sessions for individual support each day beginning on Monday, March 16.  

We recognize this is a significant challenge for all of us in the W&M community.  We have created these resources and supports to assist you, however, we will adjust our approach based on the needs of faculty and instructors.  As many of you are eager to begin considering strategies for teaching remotely, we encourage you to explore the Instructional Resilience website and tutorials provided.  You will find a link to the numerous resources and supports available through W&M Libraries as well.  This will be a helpful starting point to prepare for live webinars and drop-in sessions beginning next week.

We will provide frequent updates via email.  For any additional questions, please contact the STLI at stli@wm.edu.



Peggy Agouris

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W&M's COVID-19 Response: Interim Changes to Instruction, Events & Travel

March 11, 2020

Dear William & Mary Community,

Since January of this year, W&M has been monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and actively responding, in close consultation with public health experts, the VA Department of Health and our peers.

We are guided by four key goals: safeguarding the health of students, faculty and staff; ensuring students complete their classes; maintaining the university’s research and other operations; and joining in the national effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, to protect our communities, from Williamsburg to DC and beyond. As we gather new information, we will continue to use these goals to guide our best judgment. I ask each of you to do so as well.

With students due to return from spring break and reports of presumptive cases in our region, we are taking further steps to ensure we meet these goals. The university will remain open with modified academic operations:

  • Starting tomorrow, March 12, through April 3, we will implement interim policies for events and travel. Over the next week we will move to online and remote modes of instruction.

All in-person classes are suspended. Classes will resume online starting Monday, March 23. Courses that are already online will continue as scheduled.

  • Students are strongly encouraged to return home or stay home. For those for whom this is not a realistic option, you are welcome on campus as detailed below.
  • University travel and events are suspended, as detailed below.
  • Employees are expected to continue working during this period, observing proper health protocols and with modifications as needed and approved by supervisors.
  • We will continue to meet daily to evaluate the circumstances and decide no later than April 1 whether to continue these changes further.

These decisions will have consequences for each of us professionally and personally. Changing near-term plans and longstanding habits requires time, effort and patience. We are in wholly new territory and will learn as we go, together. For many of us as individuals, there will be disappointments and frustrations. For some, there may be real sacrifices, unexpected challenges or burdens that are hard to see. So I ask that you hold close our core values of belonging and respect.

As we move forward, we are committed to ensuring the standards of excellence that distinguish a William & Mary education. So many offices and individuals on campus have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes over the past weeks. They stand ready to support students, faculty and staff in this transition. I am deeply grateful to them for their tireless and resourceful partnership.

By Friday, we will provide additional guidance on planning underway to support students, families, staff and faculty. We ask that everyone continue to refer to https://www.wm.edu/coronavirus for the most up-to-date information on anything related to W&M’s institutional response.

William & Mary is a resilient community. I have seen this firsthand, particularly in recent weeks. We take care of each other. I am confident that will be the case in the coming days and weeks. Thanks to each of you for your creativity, understanding and commitment to this shared effort.

Best regards,

Katherine A. Rowe


The university remains open with modified academic operations. Further details may be found below.

Effective March 12, we will implement the following interim policies for modes of instruction, events and travel. These policies will be effective through at least April 3. We will decide by April 1 whether to extend them further. Employees are expected to continue working during this period, observing proper health protocols and with modifications as needed and approved by supervisors.

Our understanding of this pandemic is rapidly evolving. We recognize the stress this uncertainty places on students, families, faculty, staff and the communities we belong to. By taking further preventative steps, we maximize time for measured transitions and reduce the risk of future disruptions to our teaching, learning and research mission. For students, staff and faculty who are traveling – and for their families – taking prudent action now increases their ability to plan. Finally, W&M has a responsibility to contribute to local, state, federal and global public health efforts. 

Instruction is moving to remote and online platforms. 

In-person classes are suspended for this coming week to allow faculty and staff to modify delivery of their curriculum. Classes will resume via online and distance platforms on Monday, March 23. Online instruction will continue uninterrupted.

The provost and deans’ offices will coordinate this transition for all academic programs. The university is providing support for the online instructional, remote learning and technology needs of faculty, students and staff.

Students are strongly encouraged to return home or stay home. 

We ask students not to return to campus during this period. On-campus services (residence halls, dining, etc.) will be limited for those with compelling reasons to be present, such as international students. The Office of Student Affairs is overseeing student support during this transition.

University travel is suspended. 

All university-sponsored travel – domestic and international – is suspended regardless of fund source. We strongly discourage all personal travel, domestic or international, and may require employees who do travel to self-quarantine upon return. A university-wide policy on travel reimbursements is posted online.

We remind the community of CDC guidelines and recommendations, which include a self-quarantine of 14 days after travel abroad in specific regions.

University events are suspended. 

All events and gatherings in university facilities as well as university-sponsored events on and off campus are suspended through at least April 3. This includes events sponsored by any recognized student organization and other affiliated groups. Whenever possible, we will seek opportunities to enable some events through virtual means and platforms.

Division I Athletics will operate within the policies of its governing bodies, the CAA and NCAA, and be subject to university health protocols.

Events beyond April 3 may be addressed now out of an abundance of caution so there is ample time to prepare alternative plans. This is particularly important for large groups and for events involving the most at-risk populations. Event sponsors should explore solutions that include canceling, rescheduling or moving to alternative platforms.

All great ideas are welcome as we work together to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and mitigate disruption. Many on campus are already exploring ways to use telecommuting, virtual meetings and buddy systems. Please share your suggestions via our question box.

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Planning in Response to COVID-19

March 9, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As we follow the spread of COVID-19, there is the need for immediate planning to ensure that we meet the instructional needs of our students should the virus impact our faculty numbers or a student’s ability to attend class.  Deans and department chairs should be meeting with their faculty to ensure that each faculty member has in place a plan by mid-week to deliver course work over the rest of the semester should there be a major disruption in workforce.  This may be reviewing course expectations with another faculty member so they can step in or the use of on-line options if a faculty member must self-monitor and not come on campus. 

At this point, the Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation is working closely with Information Technology to support on-line course delivery.  If a faculty member’s instructional plan has an on-line component, please contact Adam Barger (1-1635 or STLI@wm.edu) for assistance in establishing remote teaching/on-line course delivery.

Administrative departments should continue to define essential services and the activities necessary to provide these services in a workforce disruption.

We have much to put in place before our students return to campus this weekend.  I appreciate your immediate attention to this effort.


Sam Jones
Emergency Management Team Chair


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