Fall 2020 Update from Father Shanley and Father Sicard – May 8, 2020
While the past few weeks have been difficult in a great many ways, we hope that you find some satisfaction in the resilience your sons and daughters are showing as they work through the final few weeks of their senior years. Their successes are only possible because of the support you have provided them and for the perseverance you have modeled. We recognize that this is but one of many challenges your families have had to surmount, and we continue to keep you in our thoughts and in our prayers.
Our intent today is to provide you with an update on our current thinking relative to the fall semester.
We are directing all our efforts toward safely providing our students with a full and robust Providence College experience, with course instruction and services to be offered on a fully operational campus. Based on the information currently available to us, we have every confidence that this will be possible.
Our plans, which are informed by state and federal guidance, are in various stages of development and some of the details are not yet known. This message outlines our considerations and objectives. We will provide regular updates in the coming weeks, and additional or new information will be highlighted during summer orientation programming.
We have created a robust Academic Continuity committee comprised of faculty, administrators, staff, and students to address, on an ongoing basis, the concerns related to the fall semester. We are happy to share the following preliminary information with you, which, of course, is subject to change as circumstances may require.
Class Delivery and Instruction
We are already several weeks into preparations, shaping a flexible plan that is rooted in our commitment to delivering the high-quality academic experience you expect and deserve. Designing such a plan is a formidable task, but we have a stellar team of colleagues fully focused on ensuring the success of this work.
As a starting point, it is abundantly clear that adjustments will be required in order to allow for social distancing in the classroom and in moving from one class to another.
- Our space planning analysis shows that roughly 70 percent of our Fall 2019 classes occurred in rooms with abundant available space. That tells us that we should be able to manage much of this issue with relatively simple adjustments, such as removing furniture and re-arranging student workspaces.
- We also are looking at certain large spaces, such as recreation facilities, that might be re-purposed as temporary classrooms.
- This week, we are testing new technology that will allow for the simultaneous presentation of instruction, both in-person and remotely, to provide safe options for students and faculty members with compromised immunity.
- We are exploring how we might expand the daily and weekly class calendar, to reduce the numbers of people in classroom buildings at any given time, and to allow for the safe movement within those facilities.
Student Programming and Residence Life
Our student affairs and campus ministry personnel, who are among the most energetic and creative people you will find anywhere, are devising ways to continue offering critical co-curricular and extra-curricular programming in ways that will allow students to benefit from those experiences and enjoy time with their friends, all while exercising appropriate caution.
Our residence life and athletics programs will align with best practices that we are developing in collaboration with Rhode Island’s other colleges and universities, and all our decisions will be guided by our commitment to limiting risk to our students and our staff.
- We are exploring ways to maximize space in our residence halls, through creative use of common areas and other spaces, to allow for social distancing.
- We will set up a second student health facility in an easily accessible location for the fall semester, and we will introduce technology-based measures to monitor students and others for symptoms, such as increased body temperature, at various places on campus.
- We are modifying our ongoing renovations of the Raymond Hall cafeteria and expanding “grab and go” options in ways that will reduce the number of self-service stations and limit congestion.
- Athletic Department coaches, administrators, and staff continue to support our student athletes while also working with conference and national partners to develop strategies and procedures that may allow for a safe return of athletic events.
Budget and Finances
We take most seriously our responsibility to carefully shepherd the resources our students and their families provide. That commitment is even more profound right now because we know that the finances of virtually every family are affected by the pandemic.
While federal financial support to the College by way of the CARES Act has been helpful and important, those funds offset only about 20% of the impact of COVID-19 to date, but these effects will continue into the fall. We are covering the gap by reducing spending in ways that reflect our unyielding commitment to minimizing impact on the student experience.
- We are purposefully re-allocating resources to allow the College to address the needs of those who matter most – our students, many of whose families encountered severe and unexpected hardship related to the pandemic.
- Cost-cutting measures have involved the limitation of departmental spending to only priority expenditures, the renegotiation of vendor contracts, the pause of certain construction projects, a hiring freeze, and steps to reduce our employee compensation costs. The College also has saved money through reduced energy costs.
- Our alumni and friends also have stepped up in impressive ways to support the College and its students. Our fundraising appeal to provide emergency student support has been the centerpiece of an incredibly successful Friars Give fundraising campaign that has yielded more than $1.4 million in donations.
In the near term, our approach will enable a focus on priority areas, such as financial aid and providing the infrastructure and resources necessary to safely deliver fall semester courses and programming. It also will give us the flexibility to make adjustments to better serve our students as circumstances change.
At the same time, it remains important that we consider the future and preserve our capacity to continue on the trajectory Providence College has enjoyed in recent years. We intend to prioritize the use of available resources to invest in continued student experience enhancements. This will include new academic programming, expanded support for student research, spaces and facilities to support student and faculty innovation, and enhanced programming – across the range of academic majors – that will provide a competitive advantage to our students when they enter the job market. Beyond the classroom, our students should look forward to upgraded food and dining, enhanced technology, and expanded access to resources that support their physical and spiritual well-being.
While we are proud of the student experience we provide, we are not content. We cannot, and we will not, lose sight of the fact that we owe it to our students, and their families, to continue to evolve, and to improve as an institution. That is what you signed on for when your family chose Providence College, and it is what we intend to deliver – despite the challenges we all face.
We are grateful to you for your continuing prayers and your support for Providence College and we look forward to welcoming you to our community very soon.
Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80
Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P. ’78 & ’82G