Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update - March 11
In This Update
- Spring Break Extended: Spring Break extended for all campus based students for one week—students should not return to campus until Sunday, March 22. Classes will resume Monday, March 23.
- Travel Bans: All Simmons-supported travel – domestic and international — will be cancelled for at least the next 30 days.
- Travel Study Courses: Simmons travel study courses will be cancelled for the remainder of this fiscal year.
- Remote Working: Guidelines for remote working and who to contact with questions.
- On-campus Meetings: On-campus meetings and events for more than 20 people scheduled over the next 30 days should be offered virtually, if possible; if not, they should be postponed or cancelled.
- Dining Options: Self-service dining options in the Fens, Common Grounds and Bartol will be discontinued.
- Stay Safe: Things you can do to keep safe.
We want to start by thanking you for your patience as we continue to monitor the latest developments and implement our plans for the COVID-19 crisis. As you can imagine, this is a very dynamic situation that changes daily – even hourly, in some cases. Senior leaders at Simmons, along with the Campus Preparedness Committee (CPC) and the Emergency Management Council are on the case, continuing to monitor late-breaking developments and their impact to Simmons.
One of the most difficult challenges of managing a crisis like this is making the right decisions at the right time. Lawmakers, public health officials, and individual organizations like ours are all in the same boat – committed to protecting our community and our citizens, without inducing panic.
As we wrestle with a wide variety of decisions at Simmons, we have used the following three C's to guide us:
Caution: The health and well-being of all members of the Simmons community is of paramount importance.
Continuity: We know educational goals and plans are of critical importance to our students and their families, and to our faculty. We will make every reasonable effort to ensure our students can complete this academic year.
Compliance: We will regularly monitor and comply with advice and directives issued by local, state and federal health officials to ensure that Simmons follows recommended best practices and mandates.
Yesterday afternoon, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a State of Emergency and issued a number of guidelines with regard to travel, telecommuting, cancelling events and more. With the state guidelines – and our own "three C's" in mind — we have the following updates:
Spring Break Extended for One Week
Spring break is extended for all campus-based students one week and as of now, we expect students to be back on campus starting Sunday, March 22 with classes resuming on Monday, March 23. From a student perspective, we should treat the additional week as we would snow days – with no expectation for any classes to be held. (Staff and faculty should continue to work as usual - whether on-site or remotely.)
We know the media is reporting some large schools around the country have decided to close their residence halls for longer. We are not yet ready to make that call, as we know how disruptive such a change could be for our students. Many Massachusetts colleges, including our neighboring Colleges of the Fenway, are currently planning to remain open.
That said, we will continue to evaluate and reconsider as appropriate. Our staff and faculty are deeply engaged in planning for the possibility of a more comprehensive closure and are using this week and next to ensure we have proper plans in place to provide academic continuity for both undergraduate and on-campus graduate programs if we do close. If anything changes in our decision, we will let you know as soon as possible next week.
We have broadened our travel ban to include all Simmons-supported travel – domestic and international — for at least the next 30 days. This means you should cancel any travel you have planned on behalf of Simmons in the next 30 days to attend or speak at conferences, college fairs, donor events, and other large gatherings – even if there will be cancellation charges. We will let you know if we extend the ban beyond 30 days. In the meantime, please do not purchase travel-related expenses for dates at any time beyond the current ban.
We are also cancelling all Simmons travel courses for the remainder of this fiscal year. It's too soon to make a call on programs planned for late summer or fall, but we will continue to monitor their viability.
If you have questions related to traveling abroad or being an international student, please email the Center for Global Education at [email protected].
We appreciate the robust participation in our Travel Registry. We've received about 600 entries and we are grateful to know how to reach you if we need to. Please continue to let us know of any personal travel, and update us on any cancelled trips:
A Note About Athletics
We will comply with the guidelines the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) issues regarding athletic events. We expect guidelines to be issued later this week; we will keep you posted.
Guidelines for Remote Working
We expect all members of our community to follow CDC guidelines for self-quarantining. If you suspect you may have been exposed to the virus, or are feeling sick, please contact our Health Services team or speak to your physician.
As we watch and learn more about the COVID-19 virus and how it spreads, we know every individual has their own set of circumstances that may inform personal decisions for minimizing risk of exposure. We want to support those personal decisions with as much flexibility as we can, but the key will be good communication.
Any requests for remote working or flexible schedules to avoid crowds on public transportation should be vetted with your manager and with the Human Resources Department. If you wish to work remotely, or if an employee who reports to you wishes to work remotely, please fill out the Remote Work Agreement Form and email it to J David Hollinden in the Human Resources Department who will follow up with you.
We will encourage managers to be flexible and to allow for remote working as much as possible when employees request it, regardless of whether the employee is an exempt or hourly employee. Our intent is not to restrict requests, but rather to be aware of where our community members are and to ensure they are properly supported.
Remember: Remote working means you are fully available to colleagues during normal work hours via phone, email, Google Chat and Zoom.
Campus Meetings and Events: Go Virtual
Following the Governor's recommendation, all campus meetings and events for 20 or more people scheduled for the next 30 days should be offered virtually via Zoom, if at all possible. If a virtual alternative cannot be offered, please postpone or cancel them.
Small internal team meetings can continue, although many more of our teammates may be working remotely. Hosting team meetings by Zoom – even when we are in the same building – will help to limit unnecessary exposure.
Aramark has eliminated self-service options in our dining facilities and will instead offer more pre-packaged salads, fruit, bread and soups. Self-serve coffee stations will also be eliminated.
Whenever we meet in person, let's keep in mind the safety measures the CDC offers – stay about 6 feet apart, be careful to cover your coughs and sneezes, resist shaking hands or touching your face, and wash your hands often and properly. Keep calm, wash your hands and stay home if you're sick.
For more information on what to do if you feel sick, or if you become aware that you or someone in your household may have been exposed to the virus or becomes symptomatic, check out our frequently asked questions.
We will send more updates as we have them; please keep a close eye on your email and on the Simmons web page.
If you have particular questions or concerns, please send them to [email protected] so that we can get back to you with accurate directions or answers.