November 16, 2020
Dear Gonzaga Community,
Having witnessed our Gonzaga Black Student Union student members, their friends and our campus community struggle with the racist Zoom attack on November 8th meant that the information contained in this promised message about the remaining weeks and toward Spring Semester necessarily took a back seat. It is my hope that this incident underscores for all of us the importance of continuing to confront racial injustice when and where it occurs, and work towards greater understanding of both the prevalence of racial discrimination in our society and community, as well the imperative to work for its elimination.
The Conclusion of Fall Semester In-Person Instruction and Looking Towards Spring
For more than eight months, we have developed and enacted processes and protocols in the face of COVID-19. I could not be prouder to be a part of a community with you, our students and families, our colleagues, and our Zag community all around the world who have invested in our success through these unprecedented times.
We are doing important work, all of us, each and every day. Through fall semester, the processes we created have taught us a lot. We adjusted some, developed additional ones, and held steadfast to our mission of educating students for lives of leadership and service for the common good.
Before fall semester commenced, we stated that provided that we could uphold a campus environment that put our students and colleagues’ health and safety first, we would intend to return to campus in the spring. The ability to do so was dependent on many things, largely the behaviors of our campus community, especially our students, adhering to processes put in place to keep them safe.
At this point – provided we are not otherwise restricted by the State, and in view of current guidance and protocols - we have every intention of once again welcoming our Zag community back to campus for in-person, hybrid, and remote instruction for spring semester in January 2021. As was the case in the fall, our ability to be successful will require all of us to be as committed to our own and each other’s health and welfare.
This communication is intended to guide you toward closing out the current semester and preparing for the next. This information is an introduction to several more communications and updated materials that we will be sharing over the next two months. Therefore, following are some high-level updates from key areas to share with you as we enter the holiday season in preparation for spring semester:
Health, Safety & Well-Being
We continue to work within plans that comply with local regional health authority directions, state mandates, and are in line with our ethical care for the whole person. We recognize that many are faced with stress and anxiety during this time and as such our resources within the Health and Counseling Center, the Center for Cura Personalis, University Ministry, the Center for Student Academic Success, and advisors remain available to provide assistance and support. We will continue to update the ZagOn website regularly with information.
As President McCulloh’s message of last Friday indicated, we are asking students who plan to depart for the Thanksgiving holiday to prepare by limiting their exposure to unknown others and consider getting tested sufficiently in advance of departure to have a (negative) test result.
We are grateful to our students, faculty and staff for making our models of instruction possible and successful this fall. Spring semester will look very similar to fall; students can learn about the intended instructional decision for each course via ZagWeb. We ask that our students continue to choose the courses and delivery modalities that work best for their academic experience, and that they work alongside the faculty to make their experience fulfilling and successful. Committing to the requested and announced delivery modalities is of utmost importance to ensure that academic performance is strong.
Classes for Law students will begin on Monday, January 4, 2021; classes for Undergraduates will begin on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. Recently, we shared the Spring Academic Calendar to provide advance notice of key dates for next semester. I want to acknowledge those who have reached out with concerns regarding the decision to eliminate the spring break week and thank you for your feedback. We understand that the extension of holiday break and subsequent removal of spring break is not ideal, but the decision was made with our campus community’s health and safety as our first and foremost priority. We have, however heard from the GSBA that a proposal for the Spring 2021 calendar is coming forward and this will be given serious consideration.
I would like to also take this opportunity to remind everyone that instruction for fall semester, inclusive of Finals Week, continues through December 18. Courses will be delivered fully remotely following the Thanksgiving break, and students have the option of remaining on campus for the remainder of the Fall semester, with a significant number of students planning to do so. Accordingly, Gonzaga’s offices and departments will remain fully operational so that students are able to receive all services much the same as they have prior to the post-Thanksgiving change to remote-only instruction.
Housing & Residence Life
Our Student Affairs division has developed housing and residential plans with details that begin from Thanksgiving move-out (for those students leaving Spokane) to spring semester move-in. Students and families should have received communication earlier this week regarding move-in specifics, roommate assignments, and more. If you did not receive this communication please reach out to the Housing & Residence Life Department.
Throughout the fall semester, we have been proud to partner with Sodexo to offer campus community dining options that are flexible and provide variety during these times. We have also learned a great deal about student’s dining preferences along the way. In spring semester, Sodexo will communicate its plans and our campus dining options will reflect student preference.
Testing for COVID-19 in the Spring
In accordance with CDC and local health official guidelines, this fall we implemented a surveillance testing process which, together with signs and symptoms testing, has seen over 9,000 students thus far tested. We are grateful to all of you for your understanding of this process and support in its success. The Student Affairs division is continuing to evolve both surveillance, walk-in and SSE (Signs, Symptoms and Exposures) testing protocols. Additionally, we will provide more information about possible antigen testing in the future which would make testing more widely available, and less expensive for the institution.
In December, we will be providing returning guidance for students who will be living on campus in the Spring. This guidance will include our approach to testing for Spring 2021.
Spring New Student Orientation
We are excited to welcome our new students, as well as those who studied virtually this fall, to campus in January. Student Affairs will be sharing additional information about a virtual New Student Orientation for new students just prior to the beginning of 2021 spring semester. Some information was included in the move-in communication from Housing & Residence Life. Additional specifics about dates, activities, and connecting with other students and advisors will be made available soon.
Our leadership’s focus on COVID preparedness included gathering feedback and counsel from many different groups of advisors, continual communications with our Governor and regional health authority teams as well as initiatives to help our community best manage the pandemic.
Before fall semester began, our teams created digital publications, online content, and other resources. Rest assured that these materials are being developed specific to the spring 2021 semester and will be shared as they are finalized. In the meantime, please visit our ZagOn website for ongoing updates, dashboards and information specific to COVID-19 plans.
In closing, I ask of you three things:
- that you continue to commit to behaviors and protocols that keep you and others safe and healthy,
- that you celebrate the holidays and take a much-deserved rest, and
- that you return in January excited for what the future holds, to a campus that is ready for you.
I thank you for your continued support of Gonzaga University.
Deena J. González, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President