Update from University President Anthony S. Caprio
March 5, 2020
Dear Members of the University Community: Faculty, Staff, and Students—
As the world health community takes steps to contain and develop treatments for the COVID-19 virus, we too must consider all that we can and should do to safeguard the health and well-being of each other. The University has its responsibility to do the best it can to safeguard its community and to provide helpful resources to its members, and we will do that. Each of us as individual citizens must do the same, thinking of ourselves not only as individuals but also as members of a community that is Western New England University.
Yourself and Members of Our Community
I will begin by underscoring that we as individuals and as a University must use common sense. We can help protect each other and ourselves against the spread of the virus. It is essential that you monitor the evolving situation and related recommendations yourself. This is a fluid situation, and it behooves us all as individuals to learn and assess new information as it becomes available. Please make informed decisions that are based on the information available from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-public-health). Please refer also to our own University Health Services webpage, which contains reminders, among other things, of recommended good hygiene (https://www1.wne.edu/health-services/index.cfm). Do remember that if you are not feeling well or develop flu-like symptoms, please visit your doctor or contact our Health Services (413/782-1211) for information on what health care steps you should take in your particular situation. Take care of yourself and protect others from your illness.
- We have identified on-campus locations that can be utilized for isolation should a student contract the virus.
- Should it become necessary to conduct classes electronically in order to continue to deliver educational services, the Kodiak online learning environment can be made available for all classes, including those not being currently taught through Kodiak. You can use the system to distribute files, manage grades, enable online homework submissions, deliver quizzes and surveys, host online discussions, make announcements, email your students, and more. If you are not familiar with Kodiak, or would like a review Kodiak features and functions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org schedule an appointment. Additionally, please visit our website (www1.wne.edu/information-technology/teaching-learning/kodiak-instructors.cfm) for a full list of features and guidelines for using the Kodiak online classrooms. As part of our business continuity planning, faculty without prior familiarity with Kodiak should avail themselves of the opportunities above to ensure that we continue to deliver educational services in the event that in-class instruction needs to be curtailed or suspended. (For additional instruction in other available services, such as lecture capture, please email the address shown above.) Please be prepared to fulfill this teaching obligation for the sake of our students.
- International travel has become a matter of grave concern, not only because of the predominance of the virus in countries identified on the CDC list but also because common sense dictates that we not contribute to the propagation of the virus among us. Given the uncertainty of the situation, the University is banning immediately all University-sponsored international travel by faculty, staff, and students through the end of August 2020. University sponsored international travel is any non-domestic travel utilizing University or grant sponsored funds. The University will be reaching out to affected individuals to provide information and assistance around procuring refunds, notifying sponsors, and/or re-booking travel at a later date in cases where plans have already been made. No reimbursement will be provided to University community members traveling in violation of the ban. The University will ensure that faculty, staff, and students are reimbursed for canceled international travel arrangements that may have involved the use of personal funds and that fall under current travel policy. (However, the University assumes no liability for travel plans that would not have been eligible for reimbursement under existing policy. Examples include upgrades to airline tickets and the associated travel of parents, spouses, or other family members.)
- The University is not imposing restrictions on the University-sponsored domestic travel at this time, but urges faculty, staff, and students to be aware that upcoming conferences may be canceled and to exercise caution in making plans. Domestic travel plans should not be booked earlier than may be necessary as refunds may be difficult to obtain. In cases where events are canceled, the University will work to obtain refunds but will otherwise reimburse individuals consistent with the policy stated above.
- Non-University Sponsored Personal Travel. Individuals may choose to use personal funds to travel despite these restrictions; the University will, however, be instituting reporting requirements for international travel undertaken by faculty, staff, and students and may require a period of leave from the campus upon return. These requirements will be announced shortly.
If you have any questions about how these travel restrictions may affect you, please contact the Vice President in charge of your area. The Provost will discuss individually with each faculty member his or her University-sponsored trip.
A final word on our high standard of respect, tolerance, and dignity for one another. We have seen internationally that individuals from countries affected by the coronavirus have been stigmatized. Diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity. Let us never practice, condone, or permit such behavior.
I know that you will do all that you can personally to maintain a community that is safe and healthy. Patience and common sense must prevail.
Anthony S. Caprio