Message from the President / Campus closing March 23 with shift to online instruction

To: Paul Smith’s College students, families, employees, faculty, staff
Delivered: March 17, 2020

Dear students, families, faculty and staff,

Together we are facing a public health crisis that is unlike any other. The rapid spread of coronavirus has disrupted normal life for nearly all individuals and placed global populations at risk. The concept of social distancing – a term unfamiliar to most of us just two weeks ago – has become a critical measure for protecting health and safety.

While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our campus, it is clear that we must do all we can to reduce or eliminate that possibility in our community. After weighing all options, we have determined that for everyone’s safety we must close the campus for the rest of the semester. Therefore, effective March 23 the Paul Smith’s College campus will be closed and classes will be delivered online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.

It is as difficult to write this news as I am sure it is to read it. Our students enter Paul Smith’s never expecting a scenario such as this. For graduating seniors the impact on end-of-college events creates an especially heartfelt sense of loss. There are also financial implications for families and employees as well as for the college. I ask that we all pull together during this time to achieve the best possible outcomes as we navigate this uncertain terrain.

Balancing the health and safety of our community with an unwavering commitment to our academic mission has been an incredibly challenging task. Our faculty and staff have performed amazing work adapting to this international crisis. I cannot adequately convey my gratitude for everyone’s dedication, as well as my admiration for the professionalism demonstrated as we work through this shift in our educational process. I ask students and families to work with us as we make this adjustment. We know this process will not be perfect, and appreciate your patience as we put processes and systems in place.

Our online resource center has been updated and will continue to evolve. Key points are outlined below:

Academic Continuity

  • The faculty and academic success teams are committed to a successful continuation of the semester. Students will be given an opportunity to earn academic credits as planned for the spring semester.
  • Classes will resume on March 23 through an online or distance learning format. Students will be hearing directly from their professors prior to March 23.
  • We recognize that the hands-on approach to learning that we are so proud of can be challenging to adapt. Please be assured that faculty are reshaping the curriculum with some inspired ideas for remote learning.
  • We are also working on adapting the college’s academic support to a remote model. Key focus areas include:
    • Student access to high-speed internet and computer devices while off campus. Prior to March 23, we will provide more information including people to contact for those who anticipate difficulty.
    • Student and faculty comfort level with online learning and computer-based classes.
    • Student needs for accommodative services, tutoring, and maintaining good habits for staying on track.
  • Flexible policies have been developed to extend the add/drop period this semester and delay pre-registration for next semester.
  • International trips previously scheduled for Summer 2020 have been canceled. Students will be provided with alternative learning experiences to achieve their planned academic credit. Details regarding travel refunds and alternative planning will be provided shortly.
  • We will communicate plans for commencement by April 1.

Campus Access and Services

  • Beginning March 23, students are not permitted on campus for any purpose other than the collection of their personal belongings. Buildings and common spaces will be closed. Campus safety offices will remain open 24/7.
  • For those students currently on campus, Dining Services will end after dinner on Sunday March 22. Health Services will be available through Friday March 20.
  • Residence Halls will close at 5:00pm on Sunday, March 22. All students who are currently on campus are asked to depart by that time.
    • Staying in the residence halls prior to March 22 is limited to those students who are currently here. Students currently residing on campus are encouraged to vacate the residence halls as quickly as possible. We understand that not everyone may be able to take all possessions before March 23 and will need to schedule a return visit.
    • Prior to March 23, students are permitted to access their residence halls at any time to collect their possessions. Notify the office of Residence Life and Housing if you intend to access campus this week.
    • We understand many students may need some time to plan a return to campus to collect belongings. While we prefer that everyone move out of the residence halls as quickly as possible, we are providing as much time as we can to accommodate schedules. May 1 is the deadline for removing belongings from the residence halls.
    • Students who plan to retrieve their belongings between March 23 – May 1 need to schedule the campus visit in advance. The process for managing this will be communicated by Friday March 20.
    • We are working on a process to forward mail and packages that have already been delivered to campus. You can forward mail through the U.S. Postal Service by completing their online form.

Financial Considerations for Students

  • The college plans to issue refunds for unused room and board. Every student situation is different; this is a complex process. Please bear with us while we sort out the details and logistics.
  • Based on campus closure, most student employment will cease effective March 23. Student positions funded directly by grants and essential positions that can be performed remotely may be approved by the supervising Vice President on a case-by-case basis.

Human Resources

  • We are committed to maintaining full pay for all permanent employees at a minimum through the end of the semester. Like so many other employers, we are doing everything possible to keep people fully employed.
  • Faculty and staff are to report to work through March 22 as usual. Supervisors are encouraged to be flexible in accommodating employee preferences and circumstances.
  • A Remote Work Policy will be in effect from March 23 through May 15. Most employees will work remotely. Faculty and staff whose jobs require them to be on campus will be eligible for additional leave time or premium pay.
  • Implementation will vary depending on individual roles and employment status. We are clearly in unchartered territory and understand some exceptions will have to be made. Thank you in advance for your understanding; it will go a long way towards ensuring a smooth continuation of payroll services.
  • Detailed HR guidance and policies will be published to the website no later than March 20.

The emergency planning team will continue to monitor the situation and address questions and concerns as they arise. We are grateful to you all for your cooperation during this challenging time. We will continue to share information as rapidly as possible to keep you informed of any developments. Please continue to send questions to emergencymanagement@paulsmiths.edu.

Cathy S. Dove
President

Key Contacts

Student Health Services
Abigail Fontaine, RN, BSN, Director
(518) 327-6349
afontaine@paulsmiths.edu

Housing & Residence Life
Lou Kaminski, Director
residencelifeandhousing@paulsmiths.edu
(518) 327-6488

Campus Safety
Holly Parker, Director
hparker@paulsmiths.edu
(518) 327-6300

Emergency Management
Teresa Gay, Compliance Coordinator
tgay@paulsmiths.edu
(518) 327-6451