July 24, 2020
Dear Gonzaga Students and Families,
I am writing to you today with an update on our current plans for Fall Semester 2020. I want to thank you for your patience as we work in the face of this dynamic and evolving situation.
Throughout these past three months, buoyed by the support of the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and Governor Inslee’s June 24th proclamation on resuming face-to-face instruction for higher education, we have been working diligently to create plans and protocols that would support a safe return to campus and resumption of in-person coursework. We have developed and introduced training modules, invested over $1 million in technology and classroom upgrades, procured large amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), and created modified formats for housing, dining and campus activities (such as New Student Orientation). There has been extensive work on the part of many faculty to discuss how best to support excellent teaching and learning in constrained physical environments. We have modified the academic calendar following Thanksgiving break in an effort to mitigate the impact of new transmissions due to travel. We have successfully argued for the continued support of international students and – in dialogue with you, our students and families – we have developed responses to many questions and issues, which are continuously being posted and updated at our website, https://www.gonzaga.edu/zagon.
Yesterday afternoon, Governor Inslee issued additional restrictions to Washington’s phased approach to reopening in an effort to mitigate the continued increase in positive COVID-19 cases in our region and state. These restrictions could have significant impact upon our students’ ability to learn and live in a manner that bears the hallmarks of a vibrant campus community; they could have serious impacts on campus foodservice, fitness centers, and university housing. Off-campus recreational and gathering places too are impacted by the restrictions, with most becoming effective on July 30th and for unspecified duration (see https://medium.com/wagovernor/inslee-announces-rollbacks-to-some-activities-to-slow-covid-19-exposure-19003e510127). All of the emphasis here is on reducing contact and mitigating the spread of the virus.
In light of this new guidance, we are obligated to seek further interpretation from the Spokane Regional Health District and the State, to assess the impact of these restrictions for Gonzaga, and make the best and most responsible decisions we can in view of what we learn. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have placed the health, safety and welfare of our students, faculty, staff and community members at the forefront of our planning. As I have said from the beginning, we have known that despite our best efforts, external factors may affect our ability to do everything we have set out to do. For this reason, we have asked our faculty and staff to develop plans that would support continued academic work in alternative modalities, including fully remote.
We are absolutely committed to doing everything possible to support your academic progress and success. I will be working with colleagues, and the Spokane Regional Health District, over the weekend to seek clarification on the above restrictions and will inform you of any changes to our plans no later than Tuesday, July 28th. I recognize that the uncertainty we are dealing with makes this a very frustrating set of circumstances within which to plan and operate; I want to assure you that we will do our best to communicate with you as directly and transparently as we possibly can. Thank you.
Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil.