Notre Dame to extend suspension of in-person classes to conclusion of spring semester, pro-rate students for room, board
Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Notre Dame will continue the suspension of in-person classes and extend online instruction until the conclusion of the academic semester, University President Fr. John Jenkins announced in an email to Notre Dame students and their parents Wednesday.
This decision was informed by new recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid gatherings of 50 or more individuals, as well as advice from local health officials and other University leaders, Jenkins said in the email.
“I deeply regret having come to this conclusion, but it would be impractical and irresponsible to bring our students back to campus before the end of the semester,” Jenkins said in the email. “I urge faculty and students to do the very best they can through distance learning.”
The University still intends to hold Commencement on May 17, “a date that is outside of the eight weeks covered by the CDC guidelines,” Jenkins said, though these plans may change over time.
In a conversation with student government and class officers from the class of 2020, Jenkins explored alternative options for Commencement should the spread of COVID-19 and resulting heightened health and safety restrictions push the date back.
“As I said to them, we hope to know more in the next two to four weeks, and, if we are not able to hold Commencement on May 17, we will explore with academic and student leaders the possibility of holding Commencement at another date later in the summer,” he said. “We will, of course, keep everyone informed.”
Following the extended suspension of in-person classes, the University will pro-rate room and board charges for the spring semester to student accounts. Potential plans to help on-campus students retrieve their belongings from the dorms are still underway. The Office of Student Affairs will contact students once these plans are official, the email said.
In a follow-up email sent to on-campus students, vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding outlined the details of residence hall closures.
The 253 students living in on-campus residences are now instructed to return to their permanent homes as quickly as possible, Hoffmann Harding said.
“We want to avoid further travel restrictions that may impact your ability to reach home,” she said. “Residence hall rectors will work with University offices such as Notre Dame International and the Office of Student Enrichment to assist with departure. We know the group staying on campus has unique and challenging circumstances, so we will work with you individually.”
Additionally, students are asked not to return to the residence halls until otherwise notified. The University will ship essential course materials, Hoffmann Harding said, and is starting to organize a move-out plan for the more than 6,400 students who have already traveled home.
“Further details will be sent from the Office of Residential Life,” she said. “We will utilize CDC guidelines to design the move-out process. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we balance the safety of our staff on campus with the retrieval of students’ personal items.”
A Division of Student Affairs newsletter detailing virtual support, resources, programs and extracurricular activities will be distributed to students shortly.
“We want to connect with you, we are here to talk if you need it and we are open to ideas for how we can best support you from a distance,” Hoffmann Harding said in the email.
Additional information for graduate and professional school students, as well as post-doctoral scholars, will be distributed by the relevant deans, Jenkins said in the email.
“I thank our Notre Dame families for their patience and understanding as we address this issue and the scores of others that have emerged in the wake of this pandemic,” Jenkins said.
Though Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is no longer open to the public, the Congregation of the Holy Cross will make daily Mass available via livestream Monday through Saturday and on Catholic TV on Sunday.
“We in the Notre Dame community, along with nearly everyone around the world, are enduring a difficult, uncertain and anxious time,” Jenkins said. “I thank you for your patience and understanding as we sort through the many challenges and decisions that must be made. I know that, in addition to the many inconveniences of the current moment, many of you struggle with worries about the health and economic security of family and friends. Let us continue to strengthen one another by mutual support and prayer.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article used “refund” to describe the monetary compensation the University would provide to students, rather than the more accurate term “pro-rate.” The Observer regrets this error.