This morning, Washington College’s President, Kurt Landgraf, notified the college community that the 239-year-old liberal arts college will not be reconvening in person on August 24 as anticipated due to the coronavirus crisis.
The following is his statement to students, faculty and staff via email:
I am writing to provide an update on Washington College’s plans for the Fall 2020 semester and to inform you of some important changes.
Washington College’s highest priorities are protecting the health and safety of our community and providing an extraordinary academic experience. In light of these priorities, and in consultation with the Washington College Contingency Planning Group and the Board of Visitors and Governors, I have made these difficult decisions:
We will not be reconvening in person as a community on August 24
Fall Semester courses at Washington College will be offered online
The majority of students will study remotely, except as explained below
We remain hopeful for a return to campus in the spring, and will continue to plan for this result.
In June, we reported that Washington College was on track to reopen safely for the fall 2020 semester with a significant number of residential students. COVID-19 cases were on the decline across the country, and we expected that testing with timely results would be widely available. We also committed to monitor closely local, state, and national trends and modify our plans as necessary, based on public health considerations and our ability to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.
COVID-19 trends are going in the wrong direction nationally, and Maryland and Kent County are not exempt. Based on the latest guidance from federal, state, and local medical experts and public officials, we anticipate that matters may worsen in the weeks ahead. The resurgence has adversely impacted the availability of tests and associated turnaround time for results needed to satisfy CDC-aligned testing protocols. Despite our efforts, it is apparent that these factors are simply too great to overcome and our original plan to have students to return to campus and in person classes must be revised.
We are painfully aware that this decision is hugely disappointing for our students. We share your disappointment. It should not be disheartening, however. I chose to join the Washington College community in 2017 for many of the same reasons that you did. I was inspired by the vision of educating citizen leaders and the emphasis on moral courage, on thinking critically, on writing and speaking well, on preparation for a 21st-century career. This feels like a setback, but it does not need to be. While it will be a fall semester different from any other you will have or have had at Washington College, we are completely committed to making it every bit as rich, rewarding, and exciting as you expect. It may well be one that you will look back on as fuller and more intense than any other in terms of your academic focus and interactions with your professors and peers. This is an extraordinary time in our history, and we are built for this.
Our faculty and staff have worked hard to prepare for a traditional fall semester, but COVID’s specter was always top of mind. Our careful contingency planning enables us to fulfill our commitment to offering a top-flight robust academic experience to our students, and we have re-aligned our efforts and resources to better support online learning.
Faculty have been engaged in course planning and workshops throughout the summer in preparation for a fall that we expected could include remote learning.
All fall courses, except those that are always graded pass/fail, will use letter grades, not pass/fail.
Our Student Life staff and your Student Government Association remain focused on building community and social connections by working with student organizations to support a wide range of virtual activities, programs, and opportunities.
Under this new plan, a limited number of students may receive permission to live on campus or access campus facilities. Only students with a critical need for on-campus housing will be authorized to live on campus. Critical needs include students who lack another housing option or require campus access for graduation. Students living on or near campus will still take all of their courses online and campus facilities will be restricted. Students who wish to apply for permission to return to campus, whether to live in a residence hall or to access other facilities, must complete the form provided.
Room and board charges will be reversed for students who are not living on campus. We are also announcing a change to our tuition rate for the coming academic year. We are reversing the previously announced tuition increase for this year. This year’s rate will remain the same as last year’s. We will send updated bills and awards letters as quickly as possible.
Only applicable fees will be charged, including the health fee and the orientation fee for first-year students. The student service fee will be reduced by more than 50% for all students in the fall semester.
We know that you will have many questions. We have posted a series of Frequently Asked Questions throughout our Covid-19 Response pages, with many pertinent questions addressed on the Students & Parents and Financial Matters pages.
My thanks to you and to the entire Washington College community – students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and friends of the College – for your unwavering support and patience during this difficult time. Best wishes for a pleasant and healthy remainder of the summer. As we make our way through this unprecedented time in our history we can take comfort in the fact that the Washington College community has a long history of taking care of one another in good times and bad.
Kurt M. Landgraf, President