Remainder of spring semester moved online, commencement rescheduled for Aug. 1

Photo courtesy of Lafayette Website

The remainder of Lafayette’s spring 2020 semester will be conducted remotely, with students unable to return to campus after leaving for spring break as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, commencement, originally scheduled for May 23, will now take place on Aug. 1.

Additionally, as of today, March 25, students will have the option to have their courses graded on a pass/fail basis for this semester. Full details of the new policy can be found on the college’s website.

The remote learning decision was announced via a video message sent from President Alison Byerly to the campus community on March 19. In her message she noted how given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision for Lafayette to move to remote learning for the remainder of the semester was “especially challenging but perhaps not surprising.”

This move to remote learning echoes that of almost all higher education institutions around the country, including several Pennsylvania schools such as Bucknell, Muhlenberg, Lehigh, and Penn State.

Following Byerly’s message, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf provided updated guidance for businesses and institutions, which altered the college’s initial residence move out instructions. Until it is announced otherwise, all residence hall move-out is suspended.

The college stated on its COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page that they are working on a process to prorate room and board fees “where appropriate,” and that further information will be available by the first week of April.

Byerly added that only reimbursements for room and board fees are being considered by the college, since the majority of other services including career services, library services and advising are able to provided remotely.

While the majority of students have moved out of their dorms and off-campus accommodations, the college remains partially open for those students who are unable to go home. There are currently around 225 students approved to remain on campus, according to Annette Diorio, Vice President for Campus Life.

We initially had about 275 students approved to remain on campus most due to distance from campus. Since the transition to remote learning for the remainder of spring that number has dropped and will likely continue to drop as students identify ways to get home,” Diorio wrote in an email. 

At the moment, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus. The college said if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 among the remaining students, they are prepared to accommodate those students and will share that information with the campus community.

“We have several quarantine areas setup and a mechanism to drop off food and for the students to receive medical care, assuming their symptoms do not require hospitalization,” Diorio wrote. 

“We can handle up to about 35 students in those areas at any given time. None are in use right now,” she added.

In her message, Byerly also gave specific recognition to the graduating seniors and said that the college wanted to ensure the class will “have a chance to celebrate” their accomplishments together. As such, the college has planned to hold several days of senior activities the week prior to the rescheduled Aug. 1 commencement.

Byerly said while the college cannot know what the situation will be in August, they aimed to pick a “reasonable” date far enough in advance that holding an in-person commencement would be possible. Additionally, as several other institutions are announcing online commencements, Byerly said in selecting a date, the college hoped it would allow students and families to plan ahead to ensure the largest possible turnout from the class of 2020.

For commencement and the days prior, Byerly added the college would expect to house seniors on campus.

While campus is likely to remain relatively quiet until commencement, there are still basic services being provided for those students still living on College Hill. These services became more limited when Governor Wolf restricted business operations to those deemed as “life-sustaining”, however.

“Public Safety remains staffed 24/7, the health center remains available to see students in-person Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Custodial, grounds and facilities staffs are on hand to make sure everything is running as it should,” Diorio wrote.

Additionally, dining services has staff on campus serving food every day on a grab-and-go basis, and mail delivery is also still taking place. 

“Students have been very patient with the current structure and as we can bring more staff back to campus, we will, but for now complying with the Governor’s directions for most people to stay home provides the safest environment for the community,” Diorio added. 

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