As our communities, our states, and countries around the world continue to work through the complexities of COVID-19 and its impact on our daily lives, it has become increasingly clear that proactive measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus are essential. The University of Mount Union’s COVID-19 preparedness group has been meeting daily to monitor this evolving situation and continues to make challenging decisions, with great thought and consideration, aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. As a follow-up to yesterday’s email from President Merriman, we are reaching out today to share some additional details.

Extension of Remote Learning
Dr. Merriman announced yesterday that the institution’s decision to transition to instructional formats that do not involve face-to-face teaching will be extended through the end of the spring semester, including final exams. This is a necessary and prudent course of action and the one that best protects the health and well-being of the Mount Union community while allowing our faculty members to continue to plan for and deliver virtual instruction that meets the academic quality standards for which the University is known.

Special arrangements will be made for seniors who need to complete clinical placements for certification or licensure programs, or other specialized degree requirements. These arrangements will be communicated separately to you through your individual departments.

Our faculty members worked diligently to prepare for this new reality, and we have successfully navigated through the first days of remote instruction. Many thanks to our faculty and students for your patience and understanding throughout this process.

Closing of Undergraduate Residential Housing
As you learned yesterday, we are closing undergraduate campus housing, including fraternities and sororities, through the end of the spring semester in further effort to protect the health and well-being of our community members.

Students who need to make arrangements to check out of campus housing will have ample opportunity to do so between Monday, March 23 and Friday, April 17 . In an effort to carry out this process in a structured manner that considers the safety and well-being of our campus community, you will be asked to register for a move-out day and time. Your resident director will be emailing instructions in the coming days. Those living in fraternity and sorority housing will receive instructions from Dr. Kate Carnell.

We recognize that it may not be possible for all students to return to their permanent addresses. Students who have already requested and been approved to remain housed may continue to reside on campus. Graduate student housing will remain open.

Room and Board Refunds
As a result of the closure of undergraduate residential housing, the Office of Business Affairs is planning to refund unused room and board charges for the remainder of the semester. Additional information will be forthcoming from the Office of Business Affairs. Please keep in mind that refund amounts could vary depending upon your individual costs and financial aid package. The bills of students who requested and were approved to remain on campus, as well as those of graduate students, will not change.

Cancellation of Campus Events
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s recommendations to limit gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks and other recommendations being made by our state and national governments, we will be postponing or canceling campus events for the remainder of the spring semester. Our campus is typically bustling with activity in April and May, and a number of campus events that celebrate the research, accomplishments, and service of our community members are highlights of the spring semester. We share in the disappointment that this decision may bring you but feel it is the right choice given the ambiguity of this current situation.

As Dr. Merriman shared yesterday, this will impact Commencement as well as a number of other key end-of-the-year events. We’d like to share with you some plans to either reschedule or otherwise fulfill the purpose of some of these traditions.

Baccalaureate and Commencement
The evolving nature of the COVID-19 public health crisis makes it impossible to confirm a new date for our Baccalaureate service and Commencement ceremony at this time, but we are committed to rescheduling these events as soon as we can safely do so . We will be certain to communicate details when we are able to confidently confirm a new date.

Please note that the postponement of the ceremony will not impact the official awarding of degrees to students who have completed all requirements for graduation. These students will still be awarded their diplomas, dated May 16, 2020, and will receive them via mail. If your ability to meet graduation requirements is impacted by the cancellation of clinicals or practicums or because of other circumstances, you will still be able to participate in the rescheduled Commencement ceremony if your degree will be completed by the end of the summer or fall term. The Office of the University Registrar will work with these impacted students individually to determine degree conferral options.

SCHOLAR Day and Senior Recognition and Honors Convocation
We will immediately begin work with the appropriate offices and academic committees to determine the best virtual channel for showcasing our students’ research and announcing this year’s award winners.

Employee Recognition Ceremony
We will initiate the process of soliciting nominations for this year’s faculty and staff awards while determining the best way to honor these individuals and our service award recipients virtually. In addition, we will begin to explore opportunities for honoring this year’s retirees at some point in the fall.

Campus Services
Campus services remain available to our students as they work to complete the semester, but offices are adjusting hours and/or moving to virtual means of support as staff members develop plans for flexible work arrangements or remote work when possible. The Campus Offices and Resources Updates page of the COVID-19 website provides details regarding shifting hours of operation for a number of campus offices and resources. We will continue to update this page as additional changes are made. We encourage you to call or email individuals on campus before visiting in person to ensure that the office is open and staff members are available. Faculty and staff members can be reached through phone, email, and a variety of remote meeting options.

Campus Liaison
In the next week or so, all undergraduate students should be getting a call from a staff member at the University who will be contacting you to see how you are doing with this major transition and if there is anything we can do to help you finish the semester successfully. If they are unable to reach you by phone, they will follow up by email. They will be your person! The idea is that there are lots of resources on this campus, and we want to make sure you know how to access them even when you’re not physically here. We also want to provide you with at least one consistent go-to staff person with whom you can talk, in addition to your faculty members and advisor, who can answer your questions or connect you with the appropriate resources. If you are a graduate student and would like a personal liaison, you may contact Michelle Gaffney . We are all here for you!

We recognize that you will continue to have questions, and we are working diligently to come to conclusions and provide answers to those that we haven’t already. Please understand that decisions of this magnitude take thoughtful care and consideration, and there are many details yet to be confirmed. Please check your Mount Union email, including UMU Today, regularly to ensure that you are informed regarding the latest COVID-19 updates. We will continue to communicate major announcements via separate COVID-19 Campus Update emails, but we will begin to transition more specific details and announcements to UMU Today. In addition, a web page has been established to provide additional details as this situation continues to develop. We encourage you to check this page regularly for tips, resources, and frequently asked questions.

As a reminder, this is a time for caution and cooperation. It’s also a time to value your role as a responsible citizen. Take the recommendations of state and national experts seriously. Understand the importance of and practice social distancing. It’s everyone’s responsibility to help minimize the spread of this virus.

When we first embarked on the 2019-2020 Academic Year, no one could have predicted that this is how we would end the spring semester. It’s disappointing to say the least. We know that this is stressful, and we appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through the complexities of this continually-evolving situation. Although aspects of this transition may not go as smoothly as we would like, please know that we are doing our absolute best to keep our community safe.
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