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Messages from W&M President Katherine A. Rowe regarding COVID-19

President Katherine A. Rowe sent the following messages to the campus community regarding COVID-19. - Ed.

July 31 | Adjusting phased return to campus
June 12 | The Path Forward, Fall 2020
May 19 | W&M from May 16 to June 30, 2020
May 6 | Operating under pandemic and planning for the coming academic year
April 24 | Flattening the curve on the financial impact of COVID-19
April 17 | A weekend for Commencement and May celebrations
April 14 | Reflections from a quiet campus
April 8 | Standing with William & Mary
April 2 | An update on Commencement 2020
March 31 | Resilience and kindness amid crisis
March 25 | An invitation to a virtual Community Conversation and reflections from the past week
March 21 | Readying for the start of classes, student rebates
March 19 | W&M’s COVID-19 response: important updates for the remainder of the semester
March 16 | Letter of thanks to all who support W&M's educational mission
March 16 | Letter of thanks to W&M students
March 11 | W&M’s COVID-19 response: interim changes to instruction, events and travel

 

Adjusting phased return to campus

July 31, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

On Tuesday, July 28, Gov. Ralph Northam announced new restrictions on private and public gatherings in the Hampton Roads region and Peninsula, which includes Williamsburg. These appropriate measures aim to slow spread and reduce incidence of COVID-19, which had risen at the end of this month. In light of this evolving public health context, we are adjusting our phased return to campus correspondingly, so as to mitigate risk to the health of students, staff, faculty and neighbors.

You can read additional information for students and employees below and on our Path Forward website. 

Here are key points:

  • Undergraduate courses will begin on August 19 as planned. Graduate courses will also begin as planned by the respective schools;
  • We will slow the pace of student return to campus through August, to Labor Day Weekend, so as to minimize density and reduce circulation on/off campus;
  • We will delay the start of in-person undergraduate instruction until after Labor Day, so as to ensure consistent experiences for all students (on and off campus) during a more extended return to campus;
  • Deans will communicate details in each school, appropriate to the instruction plans already in place, which had anticipated the need to adjust throughout the semester.

William & Mary’s campus will be officially open on August 5. This delay from August 1 reflects potential impacts from Hurricane Isaias, and allows us to adjust operations in the early part of next week in a way that minimizes disruption. Please stand by for updates and alerts from W&M’s Emergency Management Team (EMT) as they track the storm.

From a learning perspective, we know that the best-case scenario is to have students on campus in person. These prudent measures ultimately increase our ability to be together as a community by decreasing the density on campus at a critical time. Extending the time between phases of return allows us to welcome new students in our community safely, helping them form connections.

This slower pace is also a good opportunity to establish and systematically reinforce compliance with our Healthy Together Community Commitment and our new health rules – mask wearing, social distancing and more. So over the coming weeks, W&M will be repeatedly stressing the new rules via regular guidance, online training, signage and more. 

At the end of the day, our students’ ability to sustain these commitments will determine our capacity to be together safely. The health and welfare of our employees, not just our students, depends on robust compliance. As I said in last week’s Town Hall, W&M students bring a special and very powerful commitment to building community. Yet, understandably those at greater risk worry about how consistently young adults will be able to adhere to these guidelines, on and off campus. So it’s important to be clear that W&M will be holding student groups and individual students accountable, as appropriate, when they do not comply. Those who breach these rules repeatedly will be sanctioned, and may be sent home for the semester. 

Please join me for more discussion on this and other topics at our next Town Hall meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5. 

I know how disappointing the shift in arrival on campus will be for many students – who are so looking forward to returning – also how disruptive to families as they plan travel. It is equally disruptive for faculty and staff. An enormous amount of work has taken place to prepare our campus community for a successful fall and that work continues in earnest. 

Yet to fulfill our commitment to safeguarding the health of this community, it is imperative that we respond appropriately to changing pandemic conditions. In this as in other respects, Fall 2020 will be very different at W&M. As we continue making decisions with the best information available, adjustments like the ones announced today will be part of the semester. We are working with real-time information, assessing current conditions and predictions for future trends with expert advice – guidance from authorities in infectious disease, epidemiology and our regional public health partners. 

Against the unpredictable environment of COVID-19, we will do everything we can to continue to provide as much certainty as we can. Thank you for your continued patience and flexibility as we determine the best path forward.

Best regards,

Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe

President

 

Specifics for students: 

  • The August on-campus move-in dates for the following groups of students are not affected by this adjustment. All testing and distancing protocols will remain in effect. These students should closely track EMT messages regarding Hurricane Isaias.
    • New students (freshmen and transfers)
    • Graduate students residing in university housing
    • International students
    • RAs and Head Residents
    • Orientation Aides and Assistants
  • All other students should delay their return. We anticipate bringing sophomores, juniors and seniors back to campus in early September.  We are aiming for Labor Day weekend. 
    • Room and board costs will be adjusted accordingly. Additional details will be shared early next week. 
    • Self-quarantine and testing schedules will be updated to reflect new return dates.
  • Student Affairs is finalizing a process to consider exceptions for students who have compelling personal circumstances for returning to campus as part of the initial group in August. 
    • Please contact care@wm.edu for assistance with any extenuating or special circumstances.
  • Deans and faculty will ensure personal engagement for all students, including those who live on and off campus, through the start of in-person classes.

Specifics for employees:

  • While many employees will return to work on campus on Wednesday, Aug. 5 (pending further EMT guidance on Hurricane Isaias), the university will remain closed to the general public as we phase in operations. Third-party use of university-owned or leased facilities is prohibited, regardless of there being a university sponsor for an outside group or activity. 
  • COVID-19 testing for those employees required to show negative tests before return to campus will continue as scheduled. (Again, pending EMT hurricane guidance.)
  • Offices that have face-to-face interaction should arrange meetings by appointment and observe W&M’s requirements for the use of face coverings, physical distancing, etc.
  • Full or partial remote work at William & Mary will require a telework agreement. Employees were advised of their unit’s in-person or remote requirements the week of July 20. The pace at which employees return to work on campus is outlined in those plans.
  • No university-sponsored travel (domestic or international) will take place, unless required to meet obligations of externally sponsored research or state scientific advisory services. The CRT also recommends that community members limit personal travel.
  • All invited speakers must present in a virtual format, whether invited for university-wide presentations or at invitation of professional and graduate schools, departments, professors or student groups.
  • Volunteers at William & Mary must provide this critical support remotely. Volunteer boards must hold their meetings remotely, including their executive and committee meetings.

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The Path Forward, Fall 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

With gratitude for the incredible work of so many colleagues, I write to share William & Mary’s Path Forward for Fall 2020 and beyond. We are actively preparing for an in-person semester, consistent with Commonwealth public health guidelines for Virginia Higher Education.

Here are the headlines:

  • A&S Fall Semester will start early and end before Thanksgiving, with no fall break
  • The well-being of our community is paramount. We will systematically adapt campus, operations and curriculum to safeguard health
  • All William & Mary employees and every student choosing to attend this fall are expected fully to commit to these safeguards, out of respect for our close community of learning and work
  • We will offer flexibility for students, staff and faculty to have options – including a summer semester in 2021 – so that no student’s path through college is interrupted
  • We will emphasize wellness, equity and community: focusing on the elements of learning, working and campus life that matter most
  • A hallmark of the fall semester will be engaging the creativity of W&M students in pragmatic solutions to support our communities under pandemic

As the planning group evaluated W&M’s options for the fall, we thought hard about the reasons to return to on-campus teaching and learning. Ultimately, our mission calls us back. No single path or solution will meet the needs of all. Yet a return to campus speeds access to student learning and community, under pandemic, in numerous ways. Students are asking to return and we have heard them. 

Our plan’s governing themes are flexibility, safety, wellness, equity, collaboration, innovation and service. Implementation will be led and coordinated by Sam Jones, reporting to me in his new capacity as Director of W&M’s COVID-19 Coordination Team. Next week, Sam will share with campus further details of their work in the next few months.

I want to thank the 100+ colleagues who helped craft this plan. Five multidisciplinary teams from across W&M worked through a rapid design-thinking process in May and June 2020. We received input and feedback from the Board of Visitors; leaders of W&M’s faculty, staff and student assemblies; the Emergency Management team and the expanded Cabinet-Plus group of 70 colleagues from across the university driving our COVID-19 response. The result is a creative, feasible and mission-driven path forward.

Our plan aligns with the Commonwealth’s guidelines for university reopening and benefits from robust collaboration between the universities in the Virginia public higher education system, the Virginia Secretary of Education and the Virginia Department of Health. Uncertainty continues: the federal, state and local public health context may change. The president and senior leaders will ensure the campus is prepared to adapt as we need to.

Much work remains. We trust and empower our dedicated faculty and staff to realize this plan in ways consistent with their disciplines and schools, and with the best interests of our community in mind. And we trust in our students. Collaborations between staff, faculty, students and our surrounding community are the superpowers that have made W&M successful in the spring. These partnerships will continue to be essential going forward.

I am grateful to the W&M community for your patience, commitment and trust as we have worked through this planning process and as we embark upon an unprecedented year, with continuing pandemic conditions. Please send us your questions. Going forward, they will help us build FAQs. We aim to be as responsive as possible to the interests and concerns of our students, families, staff, faculty and neighbors.

Stay well,

– Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe
President

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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

President

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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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

Katherine A. Rowe

President

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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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
President

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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
President

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

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Reflections from a quiet campus

April 14, 2020

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Dear William & Mary Community,

As William & Mary has shifted from crisis response to operating under pandemic conditions, we are all adapting to our new reality. With adaptation comes the challenge to forge community in new modes and care for the vulnerability of others. We are also discovering new opportunities for creativity in teaching and learning and sustaining connections at a distance.

As we pass the projected peak weeks of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States, we will observe a moment of silence Thursday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. ET. I invite you to join us for a time of quiet reflection: in solidarity with those who are fighting this pandemic on the front lines, in mourning for those we have lost, and in honor of the mutual support this community is bringing to one another.

William & Mary will emerge a stronger university for the extraordinary efforts this spring has called forth from all of us. We will bring those new strengths with us as we move forward.

Please join me for a walk across campus to reflect on this powerful moment in our shared story. 

Stay well,

Katherine A. Rowe
President

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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
President

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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
President

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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
President

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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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.

Sincerely,

Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe
President

 

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Readying for the Start of Classes, Student Rebates

March 21, 2020

Dear students,

We continue to be inspired by the resilience and compassion of the William & Mary community. I have heard from so many of you over the last week and our sense of shared purpose is strong. As we move through the many decisions that we face individually and as a community, our top priorities remain to keep teaching, keep learning, and keep helping each other to stay well.              

William & Mary faculty and staff are actively readying for the start of classes this coming Monday. Everyone is eager to be back in the classroom with you. Provost Agouris and the deans have encouraged teachers to approach this transition as a period of discovery, with students as our chief partners. Teaching and learning at a distance for the remainder of the semester will pose challenges, some we can anticipate and others we will encounter as we go.

So the deans, faculty, and staff are empowering each other to explore as many solutions as warranted for each discipline and each student’s learning situation. To support that effort, yesterday, Provost Agouris shared temporary adjustments to grading policy for this semester that provide options to undergraduate students in different situations. Please talk with your advisor as you consider the options that best suit you.

This week, we have also made progress on key decisions regarding room, board, and parking costs. We will continue to work through these and other consequential steps in measured ways. Even as we benefit from sharing wisdom with peer institutions in the Commonwealth and around the country, our decisions will reflect William & Mary’s unique culture and educational model.

Today, we are announcing rebates for the spring semester, for eligible students, as follows.

  • Room: Residential students will receive rebates based on their contracts. Most will receive $1,200; those with longer contracts will receive $1,350. These amounts reflect cost obligations of the university to support our housing facilities and critical personnel.
  • Meal Plan: W&M will provide rebates to students who have purchased a spring meal plan. The level of rebate will vary based on meal plan after reflecting contractual obligations to Sodexo, our valued campus dining partner. Dining dollar balances as of March 25 will be refunded. 
  • Parking: Student parking decal holders will receive $54.

The Bursar’s Office will credit the appropriate amounts to your student account. Working as swiftly as they can, they will apply eligible rebates no later than April 10.

Something I find quite moving: in recent days, so many students and families have asked how you can help peers in need. William & Mary is assisting members of our community during this difficult time, working with individuals on a case-by-case basis through the Dean of Students Office. If you choose, you may donate your rebate to the university for emergency relief funds for students. 

Please expect specific details about your rebate next week, from Amy Sebring, Vice President for Finance and Technology.  As we finalize this process we will continue to update our FAQS in response to questions you send us. Your questions are helping us immensely as we strive to be clear and responsive during this global crisis.

Sincerely,

Katherine

Katherine A. Rowe
President

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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
President

GUIDANCE FROM STUDENT AFFAIRS

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.

Concerns:

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.

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Letter of Thanks to All Who Support W&M's Educational Mission

March 16, 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

I am on campus today and going forward. Bruce Jacobson and I will continue to live and work here with those who offer mission-critical support to our students. Both of us look forward to seeing some of you in the coming days, virtually or in person. For those who must be on campus, we want to offer our profound thanks to you in person – even as we model the behavior of safe social distancing. 

All around us, on campus and beyond, dedicated staff and administrators are working to sustain W&M’s educational mission under very difficult circumstances. So Sam Jones and I write as president and senior vice president — and as your colleagues — to share our heartfelt thanks. All of us find ourselves in new territory as we navigate the challenges and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. All of us must make decisions in real-time and adjust often, as new information arrives hourly. 

We feel pride and great trust in you. We deeply appreciate the determination and patience you have shown already, and we count on it. We are confident in our ability to solve the new problems we face together. We welcome your thoughtful questions and feedback, directly and via managers. Please keep that coming so that we can continue to benefit from your best thinking.

Circumstances will continue to change rapidly. As they do, we will hold the four goals we shared last week at front of mind:

  1. Safeguard the health of students, faculty and staff;
  2. Ensure students complete their classes;
  3. Maintain the university’s research and other operations;
  4. Support the national effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, to protect our communities, from Williamsburg to DC and beyond. 

Although the university is now closed to the public and shifting to alternate and telecommuting arrangements wherever possible, mission-critical work continues. We know many of you have questions; please look first to our FAQ.

We share below a mini-summary, because as much transparency as possible helps us all to stay focused on what matters.

Where we are as of March 16

  • We have asked students who can 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. 
  • Many of us will need to add caretaking of others to our workload in the coming weeks. Please talk with your supervisors explicitly about this. They will communicate the needs of the office and help balance workloads in a team. Everyone will need to be flexible as much as we can.
  • In each school or unit, 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 (EMT) 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.
  • Please also read our FAQs daily. They are continually updated and will help you identify what “closed to the public” or other future status updates mean specifically, for you. This information will not and cannot be fully comprehensive. We urge all staff to exercise your good judgment and err on the side of caution.

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 everyone as much time as possible to prepare. 

Sustaining our mission

  • We have students on campus who are unable to go home, teachers preparing for online delivery of courses, staff working to complete admission decisions for applicants and many other activities that continue for now. These are critical to W&M’s educational mission.
  • The parameters under which we are operating remain fluid. We will continue to rely on the discretion and judgment of supervisors to determine the right way to proceed with meeting the needs of our community. And we will continue to update our guidance and direction based on the latest information we have.

It is a privilege to serve William & Mary and the public good with you. We will emerge from this as an even stronger institution and community.

With gratitude and great respect,

Katherine Rowe, President
Sam Jones, Senior Vice President for Finance & Administration

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Letter of thanks to W&M students

March 16, 2020

Dear students,

As William & Mary comes together to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we write as president, vice president and as members of the W&M community to express our gratitude. You and your families have been resourceful, understanding and patient partners with our faculty, staff and administrators. As we navigate this new territory together, that spirit of partnership will be essential. 

We are especially grateful for the partnership and shared purpose of Student Assembly President Kelsey Vita ’20 and the entire SA leadership team. The resilience and compassion of our student body inspire us each day. 

William & Mary offices closed to the public at noon today until at least March 23. This move was in accordance with the Governor’s directive to close executive-branch and state offices in the Peninsula Health District in a coordinated statewide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Emergency Management Team will share additional details and guidance related to that action later today; please stay alert for that and please check our growing FAQ daily.

We remain committed to the four goals shared last week and will continue to support those students who are unable to leave campus.

Every institution has 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 have confidence in each of you and great trust. We will chart a thoughtful path forward – stronger in the future because of the dedication and creativity of our students, faculty and staff and because of the relationships that we forge in the coming weeks.

With gratitude,

Katherine A. Rowe, President
Ginger Ambler, Vice President for Student Affairs

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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
President

 

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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