It is with deep sadness and tremendous disappointment that I write to share that we have made the decision to move the Fall 2020 semester for undergraduate students fully online. This is difficult news for our students and families to receive. I sincerely wish that we could safely welcome our students back to campus for a full residential experience this fall.
The Discernment Process
Our carefully researched, extremely detailed, and well-formulated plans to welcome students in person were predicated on a model that expected COVID-19 to diminish over the summer. That transition would have given us the opportunity to open the University as scheduled. Unfortunately, the data have proven that did not happen.
We also anticipated that testing would be more readily available and that we would have reasonable turnaround times for those tests. Sadly, this is also not the case. Tests are not easily available around the country, and local health care organizations have not been able to assure us we could get the results in a timely way. Meanwhile, we see a concerning rise in COVID-19 cases in Maryland, particularly among younger age groups. Locally, daily confirmed cases have almost doubled from what they were just a month ago and are likely to continue to increase. Your health and safety and the health and safety of our community are of prime importance—and our Catholic tradition calls us to value and protect life.
In reviewing the national and statewide effects of COVID-19, the Board of Trustees and Loyola’s leadership believe that this is the right choice to protect the health of our University community. We fully intend to welcome students back to campus for the spring semester, as trends move more clearly in our favor and perhaps improved therapies, better testing, and a vaccine become available. We will continue to evaluate numerous contingencies and work actively toward that reopening. We hope that our decision to be fully online this fall will help make being on campus for the spring semester possible.
I invite you to watch a video message I created for you.
Enhanced Online-only Instruction
When we started remote learning in March, we had little time to prepare for the transition. Our faculty, who are always so committed to our students and the education they receive, embraced the challenge involved in moving their courses online.
Recognizing that at least some of our students would be online this fall, the faculty have immersed themselves in learning about digital pedagogy over the past few months, working with online-learning experts to prepare their fall courses. These courses will be as interactive as possible, with regular live (synchronous) class sessions and virtual office hours. Faculty will also have access to a breadth of new classroom instructional technology designed to enhance virtual learning and student success.
I am grateful to our faculty—and to the staff and administrators who have supported those efforts. We will also have several virtual campus events, including a series organized by Messina that is connected to the common text for the Class of 2024, Dear America, and the Messina themes.
Academic Calendar Updates
Fall 2020 Calendar: As you know, our Fall 2020 Academic Calendar has been revised twice in response to predictions about how the coronavirus might behave in late summer/early fall as well as the prospect of the combined challenges of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. Now that fall classes will be online, we will return to the original fall calendar, which allows us to restore the Labor Day and Fall Holiday breaks and eliminate Saturday class sessions.
Spring 2021 Calendar: The Spring 2021 calendar has been modified to allow a later semester start date of Jan. 19 instead of Jan. 11. The revised calendar combines what had been separate Easter and Spring Breaks into one longer break, in order to limit student travel to and from campus. Please note, Commencement has been moved to May 22, 2021.
We will share the updated calendars with you in more detail soon.
Spring Study Abroad
Though fall study abroad programs have been canceled, spring programs are, at this point, still scheduled. A final decision about spring programs will be made no later than Oct. 26 and will be based on global travel-alert levels, CDC and other health-agency guidance, and partner-school ability to open and safely accommodate our students. If you have additional questions regarding Spring 2021 study abroad programs, you can find more information on the office of international programs page.
The Patriot League had already canceled fall competition. Additional updates on the status of the winter season are not expected until later this fall.
Tuition and Room and Board
Students and families who have already paid room and board will be refunded those fees automatically. The $700 comprehensive fee will not be charged or will be refunded if it has already been paid. Student Administrative Services and financial aid are working hard to update bills and award letters as quickly as possible, and room and board charges will be removed from student accounts.
Our tuition charges will remain as published for the fall. We are making significant investments to be able to provide first-class online instruction from our faculty, expert scholars and mentors who are dedicated to guiding and supporting students on their way to personal and professional success.
Even remotely, professionals across the University—including the Counseling Center, Disability Support Services, the Study, and the Career Center, among others—will continue to offer exceptional support to our students through virtual and telehealth services. The Ignatius Scholars Program, Multicultural Awareness Pre-Fall Program, Fall Welcome Weekend, and various student activities will occur virtually throughout the fall semester.
That said, if your financial needs have changed during this difficult time, I encourage you to reach out to the office of financial aid. We also continue to ask our supporters to contribute to the Emergency Relief Fund so we can help ensure that a Loyola education is accessible to all our students.
Recognizing that some students face extraordinary circumstances, Loyola will provide emergency housing to a very limited number of students. The application process will be available soon.
I will continue to send frequent updates, and we will be posting additional information to our coronavirus site.
As we have been discerning our decision about this fall, I have been thinking of our students and families—and how much we did not want to disappoint each of you. Over the past few months, so many of our returning students have told us how much you want to be back on campus with your friends. And our new students chose Loyola out of all the colleges and universities in the country.
Loyola cannot provide the exact experience you have been picturing for this fall. What Loyola will provide is the opportunity to be an active, engaged member of our community, learning, growing, challenging yourself, forging and building friendships, discovering more about yourself, and supporting and strengthening your fellow students during this difficult time. None of us has lived through a global pandemic, but we are meeting these challenges head on. As we do, I invite you to recognize the ways we are growing as individuals and as a University community.
We are disappointed, but we are not defeated. And we will make the most of this time, even as we look forward to being together again soon.
A pandemic cannot stop the intellectual engagement that you participate in at Loyola. A pandemic cannot pause the essential conversations we are having around equity and justice within our community. A pandemic cannot overthrow the hopes and dreams and plans you have for your future. I invite you to grasp this moment and move forward with conviction and determination and a promise to yourself—and to your fellow students—that our goals are bigger than this moment in history.
Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.