Plans for temporary remote learning, updated travel and event guidance

Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,

We have been monitoring carefully the outbreak of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), intent on supporting the health and safety of our college community and contributing to the work going on around the world to slow the spread of this global outbreak. These are our guiding principles as our community stands together.

While no members of the Trinity community have been identified as having COVID-19, we are compelled to take a set of wider-ranging actions at this time. Please know that these decisions have been made in consultation with the senior cabinet, our Emergency Management Team and all of its four COVID-19 response subgroups (that are focused on academics, students, campus, and business continuity), as well as with significant input from other campus governance groups, many individual community members, and the support of and feedback from our board of trustees. In addition to our internal community, we have consulted with public health professionals and local and state officials.

The context in which we make these difficult decisions is constantly evolving: Within the last 24 hours, several new states of emergency have been declared in the U.S., including here in Connecticut, and we’ve received new guidance from the state and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This guidance acknowledges that, globally, we have transitioned from a period of containment of the virus to one of mitigation, to minimize harm and limit the community spread of COVID-19.

We know that these decisions will disrupt the normal course of the semester, as increasingly everyone’s daily lives are disrupted by COVID-19. But these are the steps that will allow us to support the health and safety of our campus and sustain our core academic mission.

TEMPORARY REMOTE LEARNING WILL BEGIN

For the two weeks following spring break (through Sunday, April 5), the college will move to remote learning for students currently enrolled at our campus in Hartford. We will continue assessing the situation and, if we determine that we need to extend the period of remote learning, we will communicate this by Friday, March 27. We are hopeful that we will be able to resume regular operations on campus before the end of the semester. We did consider other options and determined that, on balance, this is the best way to proceed.

The faculty voted yesterday on contingency measures to move to remote instruction and accommodate students academically. The Office of the Dean of the Faculty, Curriculum Committee, Faculty Secretary, and our educational technology team have all been working closely with the faculty to prepare for this transition.

What Students Need to Know

  • Though the expectation is that students will leave campus during this period, we understand some students have circumstances that may require them to remain on campus (some international students, for example, including those whose homes are in countries where the CDC advises against travel). These students should obtain permission from the college to stay on campus. Please fill out this form to request permission. The deadline for submitting the form is 9 a.m. on Friday, March 13.
  • Students who receive permission to remain on campus will not be permitted to travel out of Connecticut during spring break.
  • All other students are expected to leave campus by noon on Monday, March 16. Students: Please be sure to take with you the materials needed to complete your coursework and any belongings you would need if the period of remote learning were to be extended. Please also remove food and other perishable items from your refrigerator and room and remember to close and lock your windows.
  • From Monday, March 23, through Friday, April 3, all classroom instruction will occur remotely, even though some students will remain on campus. Meetings between individual faculty members and students who are on campus may be held in person.

ADMINISTRATIVE OPERATIONS ARE UNINTERRUPTED

To attend to the students who need to remain on campus, to support the academic endeavor occurring remotely, and to continue the essential business of the college, the college’s administrative offices will remain open, and its core services will continue uninterrupted during this period. We will continue to assess this decision as well and adapt as circumstances and conditions evolve.

We appreciate that staff and faculty will have a variety of circumstances that will require various accommodations. We will be as flexible as we can in meeting those individual needs as we continue operations. Staff should be in touch with Human Resources to discuss their needs (now or as they arise), and faculty should contact the Office of the Dean of Faculty to discuss theirs. Let us know how we can support you.

CAMPUS EVENTS ARE RESTRICTED BY SIZE

Following new guidance from the state of Connecticut and the CDC, the college will employ the principles of social distancing by prohibiting through April 5 any event or gathering with an expected attendance of more than 50. Regular meetings may be held, but we encourage them to be held via teleconference when possible. (Note: This event guidance replaces previous visitor restrictions that were geographically based.)

We understand that the decisions we have made will disappoint some and create logistical challenges for others, but we believe that these choices are in the best interests of the entire college. We hope that having this guidance now will at least relieve the stress of wondering whether to plan or cancel events over the next few weeks. For those planning large-scale events for later in the spring, please be in touch with Dan Hitchell, vice president of finance and chief financial officer, at dan.hitchell@trincoll.edu for more guidance. We will provide more information as soon as we can about campus events later in the spring and summer. To be clear, at this time, we are still moving forward with plans for Commencement and Reunion, and no decisions have been made yet about summer programming.

NESCAC ATHLETIC EVENTS FOR SPRING SEASON ARE CANCELED

Yesterday, the NESCAC presidents met and concluded unanimously that conference competition, including conference championships, will be canceled for the 2020 spring season. We know this is extremely disappointing for our students, families, coaches, and fans. We will find ways to recognize your commitment to your sport and the college as we move forward.

COLLEGE-RELATED TRAVEL IS RESTRICTED

Following guidance from the state of Connecticut and the CDC, all college-sponsored/work-related travel, both domestic and international, is prohibited through April 5th. We will continue to assess conditions and provide further guidance as appropriate. (Note: This guidance replaces previous domestic travel restrictions that were geographically based.)

We strongly urge all community members to curtail their personal travel as well, both domestically and internationally. Currently, there is no requirement for individuals returning from travel within the U.S. to self-quarantine and no prohibition of their return to campus from such domestic travel. However, as previously announced, following guidance from the CDC, be aware that should your personal travel take you to a foreign country with a CDC Warning Level 3, you will need to quarantine yourself for 14 days at your permanent home residence, not on campus. Please also note that the CDC’s travel advisories can change at any time.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Please continue to use the COVID-19 email address, COVID-19-feedback@trincoll.edu, to share feedback and ask questions for more specific guidance. Please also continue to consult the college’s advisories website, where this and all other community messages about the COVID-19 response are posted, as well as an extensive, up-to-date Frequently Asked Questions, and a number of internal and external resources.

Students and families with questions about these decisions are encouraged to call 860-297-2822. Trinity staff members will be answering calls from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today (Wednesday) and from 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow (Thursday).

These are extraordinary days, and we thank you for the patience and understanding you have shown as we have worked to adapt and make the best decisions we can under very challenging circumstances. We appreciate, too, the incredible array of opinions and input we’ve received, and we are deeply grateful for the dedication, professionalism, and thoughtful planning of so many members of our college community in this collective effort.

We remain hopeful that through our efforts and those of many others around the globe, we will see this outbreak curtailed in the near future. In the meantime, let’s all continue to take care of ourselves and each other.

Sincerely,

Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience