Sent March 12, 2020, 3:23 p.m.
Dear Gonzaga University Students and Parents:
I write to you today in the midst of a national and international circumstance without modern parallel.
At Gonzaga we have been paying close attention to the evolution of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and working closely with the Spokane Regional Health District to continually assess the state of affairs and the ways different jurisdictions, municipalities, and universities have been responding to it. A core group of University officials have been meeting daily for several weeks to formulate plans and create responses in the face of this dynamic and challenging circumstance. We have taken decisive action with respect to our students studying abroad and worked diligently to support our Florentine students’ return to the US. We have also been intensively engaged in planning for various scenarios and working to develop plans for continuation of programs in the midst of a highly fluid and dynamic situation.
Decision to Delay Resumption of Courses Until March 23, 2020
Today, I have – in consultation with the Provost, Deans, Faculty President, Vice Presidents and the leadership of our Board of Trustees – decided to delay the resumption of our Spring semester courses by one week, until March 23, 2020. This will allow our faculty time during the interval to continue preparations to deliver coursework online, and it will give our staff an opportunity to work on planning for operational and business continuity in the face of a constantly changing landscape. Cognizant of the speed with which this situation is moving, we want to inform you that it is likely we will resume classes via technology and distance-delivery beginning March 23rd, without being able to support face-to-face instruction or return to residence halls. We are committed to making a decision on this as soon as practical, and will communicate it no later than mid-day Wednesday, March 18th.
Students who do not need to be on campus are strongly encouraged to return to their permanent place of residence, if possible. For those unable to go home to an off-campus location, we will continue to support students in our campus housing and dining facilities.
The Current Regional Context
As you know, western Washington has emerged as a regional epicenter for the coronavirus and associated COVID-19 disease. As of today, there are 366 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the State, with the vast majority in Western Washington (234 in King County and another 68 in Snohomish County). Notably, not a single resident of Spokane County has yet tested positive for COVID-19, although undoubtedly this will change.
Our Priorities in a Challenging Context
Our first commitment, as we have previously stated, is to the health and welfare of our students, faculty, staff and community members. We want to do everything possible, even in the face of uncertainty and a highly dynamic situation, to preserve the health of our community and the broader Spokane community of which we are a part.
Our second commitment is to fulfill our educational obligations to our students and those who support them. As a university that takes seriously its commitment to academic excellence and student success, we want to ensure that the objectives of our courses and degree programs are fulfilled and we are intent upon doing everything possible to support our students through the completion of their Spring semester work. Reconciling these commitments with one another is the challenge that every institution is confronting.
The First Line of Defense Against COVID-19
A key to our success will be for everyone to follow the safety protocols designed to thwart the spread of the virus in communities. The fundamentals remain the same: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, preferably with a tissue. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, as much as possible. Stay home if you are feeling unwell and confer with medical professionals if circumstances warrant it. Please check the Gonzaga website for updates on the COVID-19 at www.gonzaga.edu/coronavirus.
Renewing a Call for Care, Respect and Compassion
This has been an incredibly stressful few weeks for everyone – students, parents, faculty, staff and administrators. During times like this, it’s important for us to manifest core values at the heart of Gonzaga’s Catholic, Jesuit Mission: respect for the essential humanity of every individual, and care for the whole person. We must continue to practice care for all people and refrain from stigmatizing individuals and groups, which unfortunately has occurred elsewhere. Let us remain vigilant, kind and compassionate in the face of this very real threat. Let us position ourselves for effectiveness by ensuring that we are up to date with the facts regarding COVID-19.
If you have questions regarding this memo, please contact us at (509) 313-7070. If it is a question that cannot be immediately answered, someone will respond to you as soon as possible. We are committed to doing everything possible to support our students and those who are working together with them in this challenging time.
Let us stay strong, take appropriate measures to stay healthy, and care for and support one another as well. We offer prayers for your health and safety, and profound thanks for your patience and flexibility.
Thayne M. McCulloh,