As we conclude the academic year, I want to congratulate you on a job well done with your online learning this semester. I also want to share with you some of the planning that is underway for the fall 2020 semester.
As a university, we are committed to reopening our campuses on time and in person for the fall semester with classes beginning, as scheduled, on Aug. 31. We will resume normal university operations to the greatest extent possible as the public health situation permits. Over the next few months, we will be implementing plans to help ensure a safe return to campus for our community and continue to provide a high-quality education for those who are not able to be physically present. Details for fall move-in will be shared at a later date once we finalize our plans to ensure a safe process to accommodate social distancing.
We hope and intend to offer a residential experience for the full semester, but we will be fully prepared to transition to online-only instruction at any time if there is a resurgence of COVID-19.
Planning for a Safe, Healthy Experience
Although we have months of planning ahead before we can welcome students back to campus, we know already that our residential and educational experience will look different. Individual departments are all working as well to identify innovative solutions to ensure the health and safety of our campus community.
We have launched a Plans for Reopening Campuses webpage, where we can share our continuous progress and planning toward this goal, and I intend to communicate with you frequently through the summer to make sure you are well-informed of our plans. We will hold a Town Hall for all students and families on Zoom on Thursday, May 28, at 5 p.m. so we can discuss our plans in more detail. If you have any questions about our plans, please submit them on the form on that page.
To enhance those efforts and make sure we have plans in place to welcome employees and students safely back to our campuses, we have formed three interdepartmental working groups. Each of these will focus on a specific area that requires planning, policies, training, and structures to ensure successful operations for the educational and residential experience we plan to offer.
- Academic Continuity/Modified Course Delivery
This group is working to ensure the University can safely offer classes in the classrooms available, while ensuring that social distancing will be possible. They have identified a variety of supports for faculty to continue to offer high-quality online learning opportunities for students so that classes will continue to be accessible to students who need to live at home while engaging in learning. Students on campus will also be involved in some hybrid and online learning in order to assure social distancing in the classrooms.
- Residential/Student Contingency
This group is identifying necessary resources and steps to implement plans for a residential, in-person learning experience. We will need to reduce density in our residence halls, engage in social distancing practices, and consider how our students can forge intellectual and social connections in a safe, healthy way.
- Health Care/COVID-19 Management
This group is researching and planning for the testing, contact tracing, PPE, and health-related planning that need to be in place for a reopening. This group is also exploring best practices in this area and identifying technology that would enhance the offerings of the Student Health Center. This group is also considering policies and training that will help ensure the health and safety of our community.
I’m so grateful to our faculty who are already working and/or who will be working this summer to prepare their courses for both in-person and online instruction. With expertise, grace, and admirable dedication to our students, they have continued to offer Loyola’s distinctive Jesuit liberal arts and professional education through this crisis. I’m also extremely grateful to our staff and administrators who have expertly supported our students remotely through the entire spring semester and are working so diligently to prepare for the fall. I know our faculty, staff, and administrators will continue to deliver on our promise to our students and their families.
Proceeding with Caution
Any steps we take to return to full operations will be made cautiously, as we consider available research, constantly updated best practices from government and health officials, and guidance from the State of Maryland and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We will fully assess the risks involved and always keep in mind that the health and safety of our community is paramount.
Gov. Larry Hogan has outlined his Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery plan for a phased-in approach. Yesterday he announced that the stay-at-home order will lift as of 5 p.m. tomorrow, but he advised that employees who can work at home should continue to do so. The current remote-work arrangements for most Loyola employees should remain in place until we communicate next steps for a safe reopening. As we work toward making our campus operational again, we will discern each step carefully.
As we mark the close of a historic semester at Loyola University Maryland, I want to express how proud I am of all we have accomplished as a community. St. Ignatius of Loyola is often depicted with one foot slightly ahead of the other, showing that he has one foot rooted in the values and tradition of the Society of Jesus and one poised to move forward into whatever will come next. Members of the Class of 2020, we hope you’ll always have one foot at Loyola, since this campus will be your home no matter where life takes you. For the rest of us, as we look ahead to the fall as a university community, may we find inspiration in Ignatius and consider that we are called to stay true to who we are and step forward with faith, hope, and courage.
Please know that you and your families remain in my prayers.
Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.