May 8: Campus Update
Fr. John shares updates on a number of important topics as faculty and staff prepare to return to campus when the Governor's work-from-home order is relaxed.
As a community, Stonehill has adapted, transformed, and persevered through this pandemic. Thanks to the monumental efforts of you, our faculty and staff, and the patience and commitment of our students, the College’s academic and co-curricular programs have continued in a remote, yet engaging, learning environment. As we reach the end of the semester, the College remains a strong and close-knit community, despite the ongoing changes to our lives and routines.
Now, we must look forward and ensure Stonehill’s success continues through the summer, the coming academic year, and beyond. To that end, I want to update you on a number of important topics as we prepare to return to campus and make plans for the upcoming fall semester.
Returning to campus
The College has tasked our Emergency Response Group (ERG) with coordinating the logistics and developing the procedures necessary to open campus once the Governor’s work-from-home order is lifted. Central to their work is ensuring the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff. As such, they are reviewing guidelines and plans from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and various other health-related organizations to identify best practices that minimize risk and allow our community to return to campus safely.
This cross-divisional team is also working to set the stage for welcoming students back to the College in the fall. There is no doubt that reopening campus will require changes to our daily lives, and much is still uncertain. Please know that the College will continue to carefully follow the expert guidance on public safety and prepare contingency plans that will address the guidelines set forth by local, state, and federal officials.
Academics this fall
I have formed a task force, co-chaired by Deans Debra Salvucci and Peter Ubertaccio, that consists of faculty, chairs, and other campus leaders who will develop and recommend to the Provost and me a plan for the upcoming academic year by considering all aspects of teaching and learning, including scheduling, course delivery, and the academic calendar.
With an understanding of evolving health and safety guidelines, the facilities available on campus, and the work we’ve done this semester around remote learning, they are tackling the challenge of ensuring students will be able to stay on track with their course loads within an engaging and safe environment.
Class of 2024 enrollment
As of this week, the College has more than 650 deposited students for the fall semester. This success is a testament to the exceptional work of our Enrollment team and everyone at the College who have worked to help Stonehill’s reputation thrive and adapted quickly to meet the changing nature of student recruitment within the current context. Still, we must treat this fortunate news cautiously, as we anticipate greater melt due to economic challenges and a possible increase in students choosing to defer their fall enrollment given the impact of the ongoing pandemic. Given this volatility, the previously shared budgetary adjustments remain necessary in order to insure the College’s long-term fiscal strength.
Filling the role of Provost remains a priority for the College, and the Search Committee has continued their work throughout the semester. The Committee has narrowed the pool to a small, diverse group of candidates and seeks to invite finalists to campus in the fall, with the goal of filling the role for January 2021.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
The Institutional Diversity Action Committee met recently and discussed ongoing DEI efforts during this time of remote work and learning. As a community, it is critical that we remain focused on fostering a sense of belonging, with an increased emphasis on retention. I shared with the Committee that at this moment, given financial constraints, we will not move forward with conducting a search for a senior-level staff member to lead these efforts. In the meantime, I will continue to work with leadership in Academic Affairs, Human Resources, and Intercultural Affairs to prioritize and implement key action items from the IDAC plan.
Spring Board meeting
Next week, the Board of Trustees will meet and receive an update on our shift to remote working and learning. In addition, they will review our academic, financial, and student life contingency plans for the upcoming academic year. Following this meeting, on Tuesday, May 19th at 9:00 a.m., I will lead a virtual Community Gathering to update you on those conversations.
Let us keep all students in our prayers, especially members of the Class of 2020, who we will honor during a virtual Mass next Sunday on what would have been their Commencement. I remain deeply grateful to you all for the work you have done over the course of the past semester, and I look forward to seeing you in person—while following physical distancing guidelines—soon.
Take good care,
(Rev.) John Denning, C.S.C.