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COVID-19 Leadership Update and Planning for Fall Term

Dear members of the Emerson community,

I am writing to update you on the membership and next steps for Emerson’s Response and Recovery Leadership Working Groups, which have been established to evaluate the financial impact of COVID-19 on the College and as I previously reported, to determine the teaching and learning structure of the AY ’20–21 fall term as well as its concatenated impact on the AY ’20-21 Spring and Summer Terms, including ELA, Kasteel Well, and our Global Pathways programs.

No doubt, all of us have been closely following the developments related to this pandemic and the ever-evolving information about what to expect this summer, into the fall, and beyond. We have been watching with rapt attention as some nations and U.S. states begin to loosen their restrictions, others remain or move into lockdown, and schools, businesses, and institutions, including colleges and universities, roll out their plans—or perhaps more accurately, share their best hopes and worst fears—for the months that lie ahead. The reality is that the future is still unclear as our public health experts and policymakers work assiduously to better understand the nature of this virus, its short and long-term implications, and its trajectory.

What is abundantly clear to me is that here, in our commonwealth of learning, we must make decisions about the fall term and beyond as “One Emerson.” An essential feature of what makes this college so extraordinary is that our small and tight-knit community of students, faculty, and staff represents an abundance of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives — and when put to good use, has the capacity to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic challenges that we face. Our unified process will chart a course forward that will be informed and, indeed, strengthened by the collective diversity of voices and viewpoints of our community.

As I wrote last week, we have established two COVID-19 Response and Recovery Working Groups. The first is a reconstituted President’s Council, including Chief Human Resource Officer Shari Stier. The second is a smaller group comprised of Michaele Whelan, Paul Dworkis, Ruthanne Madsen, Jim Hoppe, Shari Stier, Anne Shaughnessy and me. The smaller group will regularly meet and work with senior academic administrators and the following faculty, students, and staff.

Gian Lombardo, Senior Publisher-in-Residence, Writing, Literature and Publishing (ECC-AAUP president)
Barry Marshall, Senior Affiliated Faculty, Visual and Media Arts (AFEC-AAUP president)
Tim Riley, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director for Journalism (Assembly chair)
Seounmi Han Youn, Professor, Marketing Communication
Erika Williams, Assistant Professor, Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies

Miriam El-Haoui ’19, G ’25
Naomi Jones ’21
Amogh Matthews ’21
Aarushi Nigam G’21
Will Palauskas ’21

Christie Anglade, Director of Housing and Residential Education
Camille Bouknight, Sr. Associate and Operational Director, Undergraduate Enrollment
Dennis Levine, Info System Security Admin, (SEIU Local 888 Chair)
Jane Pikor, Associate Vice President, Media, Technologies and Production
Josh Wingate, Emerson College Police Department, (American Coalition of Public Safety ACOPS)

Senior Academic Administration:
Amy Ansell, Professor and Dean, Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies
Jan Roberts-Breslin, Professor and Dean, Graduate and Professional Studies
Raul Reis, Professor and Dean, School of Communication
Robert Sabal, Professor and Dean, School of the Arts
Anthony Pinder, Associate Vice President, Internationalization and Global Engagement

We have engaged three epidemiological health experts to serve as consultants for our work: 
Michelle D. Holmes, M.D., DR.PH., Assoc. Prof. of Medicine & Epidemiology, Harvard Medical School & Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
Helen W. Boucher, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, Chief, Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Tufts Medical Center
Jamie Lichtenstein, Ph.D., Affiliated Faculty, Institute for Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies, Emerson College

Additionally, led by Emerson Polling, the College will administer a survey to students, faculty, and staff to gather feedback, considerations, and concerns related to our community’s health, safety, and well-being in relation to the pandemic and our return to campus.

Together, as one Emerson, we will develop solutions that ensure the health and safety of our community; are inclusive, humane, and fiducially sound; and are informed by public health and safety considerations, as well as by key principles and values established by the group.

The Working Group will evaluate the four following potential scenarios and their implications on students, faculty, staff, and the College, for the fall term:

1.     Full-Residency Campus – a return to on-campus operations.

2.     Academic Calendar Shift – for example, a change in term start and end dates.  

3.     Hybrid Model – a mix of residential campus and remote learning to minimize density and maximize experiential learning opportunities.

4.     Online Teaching and Learning – continuing online course delivery and services.

Of course, all of us hope that we will be able to convene and begin the fall term on campus as we have done so for the past 140 years. However, the trajectory of the virus, local and state governmental guidelines or restrictions, our capacity to reduce campus health and safety risks, as well as the level of confidence of our community members to return to Boston, will significantly influence any decision that we might make regarding the start and structure of the fall term.

Yet, it is my greatest wish that we will have the chance to be together again soon on our campus on the Common.

With continued gratitude,
Lee Pelton

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