From the President, re: Planning for the Fall Semester

April 28, 2020

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all safe and well as we enter the final stages of the spring semester.

I was heartened this past week by the announcement of our Barnard Awardees and our first-ever Truman Scholar – all outstanding students and all the product of an exceptional Southern education.

This was followed by the wonderful outpouring of support for our Day of Caring campaign, which raised more than half a million dollars for our scholarship programs and students in need.

All of this reminded me that the beating heart of Southern is alive and well, and will sustain and inspire us as we move forward.

As the semester comes to a close, many of you are starting to look ahead to the summer and then to the fall, wondering what the start of the new academic year will look like.

As you know, all of our Summer Session classes are being held remotely, but a determination on the fall semester is still to be made.

I can tell you, however, that planning for the fall has begun in earnest – at state level, at the system office and here at Southern.

The task is immense, as we must examine the merits and repercussions of a number of potential scenarios.

It is not as simple as, do we return to campus as we normally do? Or, do we continue to operate remotely as we’ve done for much of the spring?

Short-term, intermediate solutions may also come into play.

And we will need to be as flexible as we possibly can to meet the varying needs of our students, both returning and new.

As you know, these decisions do not rest with me, or Southern, alone.

Governor Lamont’s  Executive Orders for the State of Connecticut, and coordinated recovery plans with neighboring states, will in large part drive our decision making and those of our sister institutions in the CSCU System.

So much will depend on the trajectory of the virus, the availability of widespread testing and what restrictions may still need to be in place at the time.

Hopefully, the outlook will become a little clearer in the coming weeks, when Governor Lamont outlines his plan to gradually reopen the state, likely beginning in mid-June.

But by necessity, we must begin planning now for teaching and working in the fall, what that may look like, and what obstacles we will have to overcome.

To that end, I have assembled a COVID-19 Crisis Leadership Team that includes the vice presidents, faculty, staff and student leadership and several other individuals who have key roles on campus.

Each vice president has also been charged with gathering a subcommittee from their respective divisions.

They will review areas including academic affairs, enrollment management, operations and budget, student services and foundation/community relations.

All of this work begins this week, as we must have a status report delivered to the system office by May 15.

This in turn, will become part of a comprehensive report from the System to the Governor’s office, for review and potential implementation by Governor Lamont and members of his COVID-19 advisory council.

So, as we near the end of one academic year, we must look forward, with more focus than ever, to a new one.

We must ensure that we consider all the variables carefully and acquire as much information as we can to help increase the likelihood that the plans we make will be workable for the fall.

And we must define our institution in ways that will provide our students with the best possible learning experience in an ever-changing environment.

I sincerely appreciate your patience in these uncertain and frustrating times.

And I thank each and every one of you for your resilience, your dedication and your care and compassion during the last several weeks.

As we begin our planning for the fall, I welcome your creative thoughts and positive engagement as we navigate a new course for Southern, together.

We are, Southern Strong!

President Joe Bertolino