From the President, re: Planning for Fall Reopening

May 11, 2020

Dear Southern community,

As you are aware, Governor Ned Lamont has presented an outline for a phased, on-ground reopening of colleges and universities across the state, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, the governor’s Reopen Connecticut Higher Education Subcommittee recommended that research-based institutions and clinical or workforce development programs gradually begin campus-based activities during the summer. Universities with residential capacity, including Southern, would tentatively have a fall opening with a combination of on-ground and online classes, dependent on the prevailing health conditions at the time.

There is 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. Where the governor’s report provides a blue print for moving forward, the specifics of doing so will be determined by each institution – or in our case, the four CSU campuses, in concert with the System Office.

Two weeks ago, I assembled a COVID-19 Crisis Leadership Team including the vice presidents, and a team of faculty, staff and students who have key roles on campus. Each vice president was charged with gathering a subcommittee from their respective divisions to review areas including academic affairs, enrollment management, information technology, operations and logistics,  student services and foundation/community relations.

The resulting findings will be submitted this week and collated into a status report for delivery to the CSCU System Office by Friday (May 15). This in turn, will become part of a comprehensive report from the System to the governor’s office.

This phase is just the beginning of our work, however. In order to reopen in the fall, each institution is required to file plans with the state Department of Public Health, detailing how it proposes to meet a number of specified “gating” conditions. These include how we would:

  • Repopulate the campus, likely in a phased way.
  • Monitor health conditions to detect infection.
  • Contain the spread of the virus if it is detected on campus.
  • Shut down campus due to a serious outbreak or another statewide order from the governor.

We will need adequate supplies of PPE and facemasks, and the ability to viral test residential students, faculty and staff who interact with students when they first arrive on campus and periodically throughout the semester.

And 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 to do so, with all Summer Session classes being taught remotely and the campus remaining closed to all but essential personnel and any additional staff needed to assist in a fall opening.

I will provide you with more information and timelines as our plans take shape in the coming weeks.  While these are being developed, I welcome your ideas and suggestions:

Please be assured that maintaining the health and safety of students, faculty and staff will be paramount in all our deliberations. And clearly, the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves call for flexibility and nimble thinking. We must consider all the variables carefully and acquire as much information as we can to help increase the likelihood that the options we pursue will be workable for the fall.

I commend all of you for your dedication and resilience under the most difficult of circumstances. I also thank you in advance for your patience and support as we plan for a fall semester that will provide our students with the best possible learning experience, in a safe environment for all members of our campus community.


Joe Bertolino