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Important COVID-19 Update, March 13

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Parents,

Earlier this week, we announced that Friday, March 13 would be the last day of in-person classes on our Boston campus and that we would resume classes online on March 23 (online graduate classes will not be interrupted). We also gave our Boston students the option to do that remote coursework from their homes or to stay on campus. To date, about six out of ten students have indicated they will leave.

In a few short days, the world in which we live has changed profoundly with breathtaking speed as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Boston, Los Angeles and beyond.  Our earlier decision was guided by the principle to give our students and families agency in unprecedented circumstances by permitting them to make the very difficult decision to leave or remain on campus.

Just this afternoon, the U.S. President declared a national emergency.  

While there are no reported cases of COVID-19 on our campuses, and the risk to our community appears to be low at the present time, the contagion is increasing exponentially.  In the last two days, the President has shuttered American borders to central Europe for people without U.S. passports; gatherings of over 250 people have been banned in Massachusetts; museums and performing arts theaters have shut their doors; K – 12 schools are closing; grocery store shelves are depleted; professional sports teams have canceled seasons and playoffs and even the iconic Boston Marathon has been postponed to the fall. At Emerson, campus clubs are diminished and most of the activities that make up and enliven student life have been curtailed. ArtsEmerson announced that it will suspend scheduled public gatherings until at least the end of April. It will be a spare existence for students who have chosen to remain.

On our campuses, in the face of these fast-changing circumstances, our capacity to safeguard the health and well-being of our dedicated and hardworking staff, who have their own families and children who require their care, is significantly challenged.

For all of these reasons and more, it has become increasingly clear that we must take action now to mitigate the exponential growth of the virus, reduce opportunities for contact, slow the spread of infection, and as epidemiologists say, “flatten the curve.”

The world we inhabit today is not the world we knew even four days ago.

So, it is with a measure of disappointment and humility that I announce the following actions:

For Students at the Boston Campus who are able to safely leave campus:

  • We must ask you to vacate the residence halls by Friday, March 20 at 3 pm. for the remainder of the spring term.
  • Families and friends are invited to come to the Boston campus any time on or before March 20 to assist students with packing and move out. They will be given a two-hour window to assist students with move-out.
  • We understand that this move will be challenging and disruptive in many ways. We are here to help. If you need assistance in order to leave campus, please contact the Office of Campus Life at 617-824-8620.
  • We will be issuing partial credit for spring semester room and board charges, due to these unprecedented circumstances, for the spring semester.  We are continuing to review our policy and will provide further details as soon as possible. 
  • The College will also provide assistance to students who may need storage, packing boxes or shipping services. More information will be distributed on Saturday, March 14.
  • The College is also developing remote work guidelines and requirements for student employees, to allow continuous employment and corresponding earnings during this period.

For Students at Emerson Los Angeles, who are able to safely leave campus:

  • Out of an abundance of caution and given the rapidly changing situation with COVID19, the College has made the decision to move all ELA classes, including internships, online beginning March 23, 2020.
  • We must ask you to vacate the residence halls by Friday, March 20 at 3 pm. Families and friends are invited to come to the Los Angeles campus anytime before March 20 at 3 pm to assist students with packing and move-out. 
  • The ELA building will remain open for the foreseeable future, albeit with very limited services (no health center and no dining hall). 
  • We know that this move will be challenging and disruptive in many ways. Emerson Los Angeles staff will be available in the lobby 7 am to 12 noon, Saturday and Sunday to answer student questions. Please also feel free to reach out to ELA at emersonla@emerson.edu.
  • We will be issuing partial credit for spring semester room and board charges, due to these unprecedented circumstances, for the spring semester.  We are continuing to review our policy and will provide further details as soon as possible. 
  • The College is also developing remote work guidelines and requirements for student employees, to allow continuous employment and corresponding earnings during this period.

For Students who are unable to leave campus (including some international students, and students with special circumstances):

  • Students may request an exemption to remain on campus. Please indicate your need to stay on campus by completing this form by 5 pm on Monday, March 16.   Questions or guidance on the exemption process can be addressed by staff in the Office of Campus Life (617-824-8620), the Office of Student Affairs (617-824-3598), the Office of Internationalization and Global Engagement (617-824-3598) or the Office of Financial Aid (617-824-8655).
  • Phone lines to discuss these issues will be open this weekend for the Office of Financial Aid at 617-824-8655 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The Office of Student Affairs staff will be available this weekend between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the Campus Life Suite in the Walker Building, 4th floor. Emerson Los Angeles staff will be available in the lobby 10 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday and Sunday. ELA students may also contact ELA administration at emersonla@emerson.edu.
  • Core essential services (dining hall, public safety, etc.) will continue on campus, but may be curtailed.
  • Guests will not be permitted in the residence halls.

­­For Graduate Students, we understand that the transition to online learning is a significant one for many of you. Others have been engaged in our online learning community for some time. All of you are undoubtedly feeling the effects of this unprecedented disruption in higher education. Please know Emerson faculty and staff are here to support you.

For Faculty, we understand that online instruction is a significant change, and we appreciate your commitment to ensuring we meet our educational and learning goals through this new mode of instruction. Please know we will continue to provide you with help and resources throughout the semester.

For Staff, your hard work and support of our educational mission are invaluable. Please look for a staff communication that will be sent shortly with additional details about your work in the coming weeks.

While I know that this decision will disappoint those of you who had hoped to stay on campus, I ask for your understanding and consideration in this truly exceptional period in world history.

In my 22 years as a college president, I have seen communities of higher learning, including this one, confront unimaginable challenges. I have also seen the way in which these crises beckon to the better angels of our nature, moving students, faculty, staff, and families alike to channel our common humanity and commitment to a better future. I know and I am fully confident that the ingenuity, creativity, and fearless spirit of the Emerson community are what will get us through this difficult period.

I thank you in advance for your support of each other and this remarkable College.

Sincerely,
Lee Pelton

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