A Letter to Students from President Joe Bertolino, re: the Spring Semester

Dear Students,

By now you have received the notice from CSCU President Mark Ojakian that a decision has been made to move to online learning for the remainder of the semester.  While that will help provide some stability as we figure out this new normal, it has many implications that feel difficult.  First and foremost, it is very hard to deliver the news about commencement to our graduating seniors.  We feel the disappointment you are experiencing.  Please know we are discussing the possibility of postponing the ceremony to later in the summer.  Our Commencement ceremony serves as a recognition of investment, sacrifice and immeasurable accomplishment that cannot be replicated in any other way.  We will need to see how the coronavirus situation progresses before we can make firm plans, but we will communicate with you as we consider future options.


Commencement isn’t the only thing that will create a sense of loss.  We have so many special and important celebrations, festivities and traditions that take place between Spring Break and the end of the semester.  Over the next few weeks, we will work hard to identify alternate ways we can celebrate together.  It won’t be the same, but hopefully we can continue the sense of community and connection that makes Southern so special.


For now, we continue to focus on how to help all students be ready for online learning on Monday and through the remainder of the semester.  We hope you are taking time this week to test your technology for your courses.  If you do not have access to a computer and/or wifi, please send an email to the IT Help Desk (helpdesk@southernct.edu) as soon as possible.  We will struggle to help students figure this out after the campus fully closes on Friday.


As the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen, we must take every measure to protect the health and well-being of faculty, staff and students.  That has lead to the full closing of our physical buildings.  They had generally been closed, but we had a small number of staff still working from campus.  We will now fully close and secure our facilities for the indefinite future.  Please know that the University will NOT be opening for students to collect your belongings at this time.  With the concerns about social distancing and the need to contain the spread of COVID-19  it is not possible for us to facilitate the return of students to campus at this time.  We will monitor the ongoing situation around the virus and communicate with ample notice when we will open the residence halls to retrieve belongings.  


Please know the University is working on our process for refunds for room and board for the remainder of the semester.   We must consider the complexities of federal financial aid as we work through this process.  We expect to have this figured out in the next week or two and will communicate directly with residential students with these details when we have them.  


We are also finalizing the process by which students will continue to be paid for on-campus employment.  We remain concerned about students for whom this situation is creating great difficulty.  We will send more information on Friday about how we will provide virtual support for academic, physical health and mental health needs as well as academic advising.  If you have additional needs the university can help you meet, please send a note to the Dean of Students Office at deanofstudents@southernct.edu.


We sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding as we work tirelessly to attend to all of these details.   It is the strength of our caring community that will navigate us through these challenging times.  If you have questions about the university’s response to this complex situation, please continue to post them at: https://inside.southernct.edu/coronavirus/questions.  Our website will be regularly updated with the latest information. I thank all of you for your continued patience, perseverance and dedication to your Southern education as we embark on this new path together.


Joe Bertolino