As spring classes come to a close, I hope each of us can take pride in considering how much we have accomplished as a community. Through all the recent difficulties that we have encountered, our community has risen to the occasion and maintained excellence in living out our core mission. Our faculty are delivering the exceptional Jesuit liberal arts and professional education that Loyola is known for, our staff and administrators are accompanying our students on this unusual journey with a true spirit of creativity and cura personalis, and our students have stepped forward and embraced the opportunities that this time has presented.
Health and Safety
Throughout this time, all decisions have been made with the health and safety of our community at the forefront. We are also, of course, fully committed to our promise to deliver on the education and experience that our students deserve. Moving forward, we will continue to look to the State of Maryland and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance and best practices—and for timing as we consider a safe reopening of our campuses in the future.
Certainly, as we discern our path forward, there are significant public health issues to take into consideration. We recognize, of course, that there will be some degree of risk involved with reopening our campus, and we will be intentionally and carefully identifying ways to mitigate that risk. We will need to balance the benefits of resuming activities on campus with the risks—and work to reduce them with strategies that protect our community from COVID-19 exposure.
Looking Ahead to the Fall
Our most immediate pressing question is whether we will be able to bring students back to the Evergreen campus this fall for in-person instruction and, for our undergraduate students, a residential experience, as well. I want to assure you that we remain optimistic that we will be able to offer an in-person residential learning experience for students this fall.
The vice presidents, deans, and I continue to meet to address critical decisions related to reopening our campuses, and the University’s emergency operations group is actively developing plans to make sure our campuses can be operational again. Professionals across the University are developing creative, innovative solutions for how we can engage safely, with appropriate social distancing, and provide the outstanding education and experience our students and their families value so deeply.
Planning for Possible Scenarios
Our planning for the fall is centered around a number of possibilities. In the best-case scenario, our students are able to return to the Loyola campuses as scheduled and with social distancing restrictions in place. In a worst-case scenario, students would remain at home and all instruction would be offered online.
Where we expect to find ourselves is somewhere in between those two scenarios, with in-person education and experiences available to our students, but where online instruction is also readily available for students who need to continue online (e.g., students with health challenges, those still in states with shelter-at-home orders, and international students). We also recognize that a resurgence of COVID-19 during the semester could temporarily disrupt academic and business continuity, so we are preparing around that possibility, as well.
Although we are working actively and productively toward our goal of providing an in-person living and learning experience for students for the fall, we are also anticipating challenges and implementing plans to address them in the best way for our students and our community. We are looking ahead to the fall semester with a blend of optimism, practicality, innovative thinking, and adaptability.
In the weeks ahead, we know that we will have greater clarity about the fall semester. As that picture becomes clearer, I will certainly keep you updated—and communicate the steps we will need to take to put that scenario into action.
Commencement and Other Updates
I want to assure our graduating members of the Class of 2020 that we are working hard on plans for an in-person celebration of your achievements. We hope to have a date to share with you soon. We are also creating opportunities to celebrate you virtually in a few weeks when we will officially confer your degree.
Undergraduate students have also received an update related to spring move-out from Neil Andrito, director of student life. We are also waiting for final guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on how to disburse the CARES Act stimulus funds that the federal government is providing to eligible students through colleges and universities. As soon as we have clarity there, we will send a separate message with additional information.
As daunting as planning for an uncertain future may be, I find hope and faith in knowing that the transitions we made this semester occurred with little notice and time for discernment, and yet we have achieved extraordinary results. We walk forward with gratitude for the strength of our community, as well as with faith, hope, and deep determination to meet the challenges that lie before us head-on.
Please know that you and your families remain in my prayers every day.
Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.