From the President, re: End of Semester/Looking Ahead

May 20, 2020

In this video, President Bertolino speaks about the conclusion of an unprecedented spring semester and looks ahead to the fall. If you have ideas and suggestions for the fall semester, please submit them to: https://form.jotform.com/201283998543061

The video transcript follows:

Hello, everyone!

As you know, we’re approaching the conclusion of a semester like none other in Southern’s 127-year history.

For all of us, the past two months or so have been stressful and challenging, to say the least.

Looking back, it was incredible that more than a thousand faculty and staff were able to transition to a remote teaching and student service environment in just over a week.

But the fact that we were able to do that and teach and guide our students through the end of the semester says a great deal about the versatility and resilience of our community.

This week, of course, is traditionally the time when we get to celebrate the successes of our students at Commencement - and give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done.

I have to say, I’m going to miss the joy and vibrancy of our graduation ceremonies.

If anything, the past few weeks have given me a greater appreciation for the face-to-face experience of campus life.

The personal engagement with our students – the sharing in their successes  –  is one of the great things about working at a college, in any capacity.

And Commencement is the ultimate mark of achievement, for all of us.

As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re planning to schedule ceremonies, in some form, once our operating status for the fall is determined in the next few weeks.

But we didn’t want this week to go by without giving a shout-out to our 2020 Senior Class.

We’ll be doing that online….through the launch of a Virtual Yearbook with video messages of congratulations from our faculty and staff.

And on-ground…with the distribution and personal delivery of “Southern graduate” yard signs to hundreds of homes from New Haven, to Stamford, to Hartford, to New London.

We want our students to know that we appreciate them, and we applaud the determination they have displayed to succeed under the most difficult of circumstances.

It’s also a visual way of saying: “We are Southern, and our graduates make their mark across the state!

While Commencement typically marks the conclusion of one academic year, we are already looking forward to the next, with even more focus than usual.

As I mentioned in last week’s letter to the community, we are now engaged in intensive planning for the fall, guided by Governor Lamont’s blueprint for a phased, on-ground reopening of higher education in Connecticut.

Universities with residence halls, including Southern, would tentatively open in September with a hybrid combination of on-ground and online classes, dependent on the prevailing health conditions at the time.

There’s a great deal for us to accomplish before we can reach that point. And what a reopened campus will look like is yet to be determined.

Southern and our sister institutions will only move to reopen if we are able to meet all safety standards outlined by public health experts and adopted by the governor’s Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, namely:

  •     The prevalence of COVID-19 in the state must be low enough to allow the safe resumption of campus operations.
  •      We must have access to enough COVID-19 tests so that entering residential students can be screened upon arrival, and those who test positive can be immediately isolated; and
  •      We must have provided to us an adequate capacity to trace the contacts of any infected individuals.

We will also have to adhere to specific public health guidelines for colleges and universities, concerning the wearing of facemasks, social distancing, and the number and spacing of occupants in residence halls, classrooms and dining areas.

Clearly, meeting these requirements will take a great deal of preparation, and we must use the next few months effectively.

We will certainly have the opportunity to do so, as all Summer Session classes will be taught remotely and the campus will remain closed to all but essential personnel and any additional staff needed to assist in a fall opening.

Please be assured of one thing: maintaining the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff will be at the front and center of all our deliberations.

I thank you in advance for your patience and support as we prepare for a semester that will provide our students with the best possible learning experience, in a safe environment for all members of our campus community.

I will provide you with more information and timelines as our plans take shape in the coming weeks.

But for now, please take the opportunity to reach out and give your best wishes to any graduating seniors and graduate students who you may have taught or supported during their years with us.

And then, take some time to relax and recuperate during the long Memorial Day weekend.

Let’s face it – we could all use a break!

Thank you again for your many contributions in the midst of extraordinary circumstances.

And remember, that together, we are Southern Strong.