Courtesy of the University of New Haven
The following is President Kaplan’s email to the University of New Haven community:
Dear Members of the University Community,
In response to the developments of the coronavirus global pandemic that have taken place over the weekend and the federal guidelines put in place earlier this afternoon, as well as discussions I have had with student and campus leaders, and a continuing assessment of what is occurring here in Connecticut and across the nation, I have made the difficult decision to extend our current state of remote learning for the remainder of the semester. This is a conclusion I have reached with much regret, but I am steadfast in my belief that this is the most prudent choice to make at this time.
Since I wrote last week, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the federal coronavirus task force issued guidelines limiting public gatherings, and health experts continue to advise that the U.S. is likely only seeing the early impacts of the virus and predict that the situation is likely to get considerably worse before it gets better.
Public school districts, civic organizations, college and professional sports leagues, and international conferences have also cancelled activities well into the spring and even summer, and many institutions of higher education have already made the decision to instruct students through remote learning for the balance of the semester.
Earlier this afternoon, the federal government announced it is latest recommendations that, over the next 15 days, Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10 people, schooling should be at home, and discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided. If anyone in a household tests positive for COVID-19, everyone who lives there should stay home.
In seeking guidance from other senior leaders and discussing the decision-making process navigated by universities, school districts, and organizations, I have regularly read a sentiment that has strongly resonated with me, and I believe it will with you as well: In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be quite apparent if we underreacted or did too little.
The gravity of this complex decision – and the far-reaching impact it has on so many – is not something I take lightly. Those who know me will understand that this is not the outcome I desired. My heart goes out to all of our students who have had their dream experience truncated by forces beyond our control. That is especially true for our seniors, student-athletes, and members of clubs, organizations, and academic competition teams who have seen their activities and seasons disrupted.
I had the opportunity earlier today to convene a conference call with members of the executive boards of the Undergraduate Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Council. At that time, we agreed that extending online learning through mid-April – and reassessing later this month the potential of resuming in-person classes in mid-April – made the most sense. Subsequent to that phone call, though, the federal government shared its latest guidelines that, unfortunately, compelled me to alter this decision.
Please know, it was truly inspiring to hear how passionately our student leaders – and those they represent – wanted to return to campus to be reunited with so many individuals who hold special places in their hearts. The boundless enthusiasm I heard from those students is what makes this decision so incredibly trying.
Ultimately, I have concluded it is of paramount importance for us to accept the magnitude of this unprecedented situation and recognize the collective responsibility we all have to do what we can to help stop the spread of this global pandemic. This is what we must all commit ourselves to in order to return to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.
Though it is hard to see it now, there will be a time when our students look back on this as an experience that strengthened their character and elicited a sense of human understanding they never imagined. Nothing would make me happier than to bring our students back to West Haven to resume the richly rewarding experience of campus life. But that would not be the correct decision at this time.
In the coming days, I will continue to provide important information and regular updates on what this decision means for you. In the meantime,
Please continue to take care of yourselves and others. Remember to share with our Health Services team (203.932.7079) any illnesses that might occur and complete the online illness form, if necessary. Please continue to follow the travel guidance we have shared that is listed on newhaven.edu/coronavirus, and do not forget to continue to check your email and newhaven.edu frequently during spring break for important updates. At this time, it is incumbent on all of us to observe the social distancing practices that have been advised by the CDC. We all have a responsibility to do our part to help, as public health officials describe, “flatten the curve” of this pandemic.
We will communicate plans for our University employees in a separate email.
Campus residence halls will remain closed except for those few international students and others with special circumstances for whom we are providing housing.
We recognize that students will need to return to campus to retrieve belongings. We will communicate in the coming days about a schedule and process to make that possible.
Please continue to share with us any challenges or obstacles you may be experiencing with your online coursework. Share your feedback with your instructor, and, if you still have concerns, with your department chair or academic college or school dean. We will communicate in the coming days additional steps we will be taking to help you with your remote learning experience. We are especially cognizant of the particular challenges for online learning posed by certain majors and classes with lab components. We are working through potential solutions and will communicate those alternatives soon.
The University is evaluating a credit policy for returning students as well as a refund policy for graduating students on a pro-rated basis for room and board. As this is an evolving national emergency, a final policy will be issued when the duration of this event is known.
I am grateful for the thoughtful and often touching emails that so many of you have sent, and for your notes of support. I share your passion for the University of New Haven, just as I share your disappointment that all of our lives have been so disrupted.
My priorities for you have not changed: health and safety first, and the ability for our students to be able to continue their studies. Thank you again for your flexibility and your support as we continue to navigate this ever-evolving situation.
With best wishes,
Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D.