UPDATE March 23, 2020
To the University Community,
This is a serious time. A time when each of us needs to be mindful of how we take care of ourselves, interact with each other and stay connected with rapidly changing information about a pandemic many scientists say has not been seen in the United States in a century. What we do as a community of people, including the decisions we make about how we operate as a University, will either limit or exacerbate the spread of COVID-19. To be clear, exacerbating the spread is not an option.
Throughout this time, Delaware State University has focused exclusively on the safety of the campus community, academic continuity for our students, and maintaining essential operations. As a result, we moved swiftly to online instruction, instituted telecommuting for nonessential employees, and reduced the student footprint and employee footprint by 90% and 70%, respectively. Effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24, we will further reduce employee presence on campus as well.
To that end, the following update to the University’s actions is in line with Governor John Carney’s updated State of Emergency to shelter-in-place issued on Sunday, March 22. The order goes into effect at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, and will remain in effect until May 15 or until the public health threat is eliminated.
Although University operations are already in full compliance with these regulations, the University will strictly adhere to the guidance from the Governor. In that vein, we have carefully examined our posture to make additional necessary modifications to ensure the safety of our essential employees. We have made many difficult but necessary decisions regarding our students, employees, alumni, the Board of Trustees, and other stakeholders.
Unless and until the Governor’s State of Emergency order is modified or lifted, the following represents Delaware State University, those decisions and our operating status, beginning tomorrow:
Online instruction will be extended through the end of the Spring 2020 semester. The Interim Provost, Dr. Saundra DeLauder, the Academic Deans, and the Council of Chairs will collaborate to ensure the following:
- All seniors scheduled to graduate this Spring will be given the necessary support and assistance to complete their coursework successfully;
- Maximum flexibility is provided for all students experiencing difficulties with devices or wireless connectivity, to include extended time when necessary for students to complete coursework;
- Grading policies will be examined across the University and modified as necessary and in compliance with Federal regulations (with the approval of Interim Provost Saundra DeLauder, and Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management Tony Boyle) to meet the demands of the situation;
- We will provide two options for our Commencement exercises. There will be a virtual event on May 15 (details to follow soon). Degrees will be conferred for all eligible candidates and then mailed to graduates in the May/June timeframe. Additionally, we will allow all Spring graduates to participate in a Commencement exercise during Fall 2020. I will announce that date no later than July 1.
- Summer School will be planned as an online activity, including Summer Academy for the first-time Freshmen. If you are interested in attending Summer School or Summer Academy, please contact the Office of Student Success.
- Critical research will be permitted to continue at this time. The Associate Vice President for Research, Dr. Melissa Harrington, and the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Dr. Dyremple Marsh, are responsible for minimizing the footprint of faculty and graduate researchers.
- The Laboratory School (child care) will remain open for the time being, per the State of Emergency directive. The Director, Ms. Dannae Sewell, the Chair of the Education Department, Dr. Shelley Rouser, and the Dean of the College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences, Dr. Francine Edwards, will develop a shift schedule that minimizes the contact and on-campus working hours of all employees.
- Faculty and administrative support staff will require the explicit authorization of the Interim Provost or Academic Deans to come on campus. All authorizations will be reported to the Provost daily, who has the authority to further restrict access as necessary.
Students who have already vacated campus will not be permitted to return in a resident status until the State of Emergency order is modified or lifted. No student is allowed to return to campus without the explicit authorization of the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Stacy Downing. This is a critical point as the risk associated with thousands of students returning to campus to move out is too high.
- As soon as the Governor’s order is lifted, the process for move out will be communicated quickly.
- Students who are currently approved to be on campus will continue to be supported by reduced University services.
- Strict compliance with social distancing requirements and other University procedures is a condition of remaining in University housing and will be enforced by University staff.
- For residential students who will not be permitted to return to campus, Delaware State University will issue a Cost of Attendance Credit (COAC) prorated for the period beginning March 18, 2020, through May 8, 2020. These Cost of Attendance Credits will be applied to each student’s account over the next few weeks. Final Student Accounts reconciliation will be completed at the end of term on May 8, 2020.
The Facilities staff required on campus will be kept to a minimum to maintain the integrity and essential repair of University infrastructure. Buildings not currently in use will be closed.
Due to the essential nature of IT in supporting online education, reporting assignments in this division will be approved by the Chief Information Officer, who is charged with minimizing the footprint of employees on campus at all times.
Business & Finance, Human Resources, Enrollment Management, Institutional Advancement
100% of employees should work from home unless explicitly authorized by the appropriate Vice President to be on campus.
As a formally recognized law enforcement agency within the State of Delaware, the University Police will continue to operate under the directives of the Chief of Police to secure and regulate access to the campus consistent with the guidelines stated above.
The University will employ email, texts, social media, device alerts, the website, and WebEx conferencing to continue to ensure that all stakeholders have access to updated information about operations and progress. In addition to the next University Forum (by WebEx) scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, my team and I will host weekly WebEx forums focused on the specific interests of students, employees, alumni, and other stakeholders.
It is important to emphasize that Delaware State University has not closed or ceased operations. Instruction and essential functions continue in a manner consistent with the current State of Emergency orders. This includes frequent communications to our employees, students, and other stakeholders, as well as planning for the resumption of normal operations.
Finally, whether you are graduating Senior like Dreamer Kevin Gutierrez-Hernandez or the most senior faculty member on campus like Dr. Mable Morrison, remember that in our 129 years, this University has faced numerous challenges, including occupation by the National Guard of 1968, several financial crises (post World War II) that threatened to close our doors forever, and the Great Recession of 2009.
We are still here.
Our mission is to provide high-quality, low-cost comprehensive education FOR ALL. It makes us one of the most important institutions in America, and that will never change. It is symbolic of who we are, and the response through this crisis is one important proof point. Students, employees, alumni, the Board of Trustees, and all other stakeholders have not only complied with the necessary directives, but have employed imagination, initiative, and energy in finding ways to keep our academic and operational continuity going.
We still have a long way to go before the COVID-19 pandemic is over and we can resume normal operations, but I am clear-headed about what it will take to get through this moment.
Knowing it will not be easy, I subscribe to one of my favorite passages,
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Our work will ensure that we are ready for whatever comes our way, but our Faith will get us through. Keep the Faith!
It all matters,
Tony Allen, Ph.D.