Dear Kalamazoo College Community,
Throughout our fall planning process, we have stated repeatedly that the health and safety of students, faculty and staff would be the driving factor in any decisions we made regarding the return to campus. We have been closely following local and national health trends, consulting with public health experts on an ongoing basis and watching the experiences of other higher ed institutions as they reopen.
Based on the worrisome trends we’re seeing nationally, we have come to the very difficult decision that bringing students back to campus in the fall would not be in the best interest of the community as a whole. Therefore, we will transition to a fully virtual curriculum for fall 2020 and residence halls will be closed.
I know that this is a deeply disappointing decision for everyone, especially for those of you looking forward to your first on-campus experience. While faculty and staff across the College are prepared for a return to campus next month, external factors have led us to this difficult decision. I want to share some of the data we’ve been following that led to our decision.
Case numbers remain persistently high across much of the U.S.; within Michigan, the eastern half of the state remains at high risk of spread, while the Kalamazoo region and other western regions remain in the medium-high risk category, according to the health department’s MI Safe Start Map. As campuses across the country have reopened, we’ve seen many reports of COVID clusters and spikes as students return, and small colleges in similar settings to ours are experiencing troublesome rates of infection. We have also learned that employees working directly with students are experiencing exposure and infection. The loss of employees in direct support positions to quarantine or isolation puts students at potential risk.
For these reasons, we must continue to act with an abundance of caution. Our students come from all over the U.S. and the world, and we are not an insulated campus. Instead, we are an integral part of a dynamic city where institutions and the community interact. The best protocols and strongest commitments to following them are not a guarantee against this virus. With ongoing concerns about the risks of COVID transmission in a residential setting, as well as local, state, and national efforts to control the spread of the virus, we feel we must do our part to “protect the hive.”
As we move forward, I want to assure you that faculty have been working tirelessly this summer to create a strong virtual foundation for coursework. Faculty have invested significant time and resources in reimagining their courses for remote learning. I am confident they will deliver the high-quality and personalized instruction for which Kalamazoo College is known.
I’m certain you’ll have many questions, and over the next couple of weeks we will be sharing more information with you about these changes, including information regarding virtual orientation, access to necessary resources for SIPs, the reimbursement of fall term student activity fees, return to campus for staff, and more. We will be updating the COVID-19 webpage and you may continue to send your questions to email@example.com.
As painful as this decision was to make, I know that it will provide a safer and more certain start to the academic year. I am profoundly grateful to everyone in our community for their patience as we’ve worked through each unknown and planned for multiple contingencies. I can’t express how much we all miss having our students on campus, and we look forward to having everyone together later this academic year.
Saludos and be well,
Jorge G. Gonzalez