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Feb. 27 - Emory College: Message to faculty and staff

Sent on behalf of Michael A. Elliott, Dean

Dear faculty and staff of the College of Arts and Sciences:

Yesterday, at the faculty meeting, I had the chance to outline some of the contingency planning that is taking place at both the College and University levels related to coronavirus (COVID-19).  I want to share that with you via email as well.  Please keep in mind that this is only an outline.  As you know from reading the news, the spread of coronavirus is a rapidly evolving situation; we are both trying to address the current moment and plan for possible contingencies.  In doing so, the University is working closely with the CDC and Georgia Public Health.  In fact, between the CDC and Emory’s own history of working with infectious disease, it is hard to imagine a more substantial collection of expertise than what we have on the Clifton corridor. 

I’ll break the planning and response into categories, even though they overlap:

  • First, you should know the Office of International and Summer Programs (OISP) has been working and focusing on students who either were planning or are currently studying in areas heavily affected by coronavirus and/or travel restrictions.  For instance, we have worked on alternate pathways for students who were planning to study in China this semester, and we are monitoring how students in areas like Italy are faring.  Fortunately, the study abroad providers have been both responsive and communicative, which has made this work much easier.
  • OISP and Campus Life have also been working on contingency planning for the coming summer.  This includes the possibility that some of our international students may not be able to return home, as well as the possibility that some of our summer programs may be affected.  We are exploring summer housing and study options for affected students, and are also communicating with students who have signed up for summer study abroad.  We have not yet made any decisions about summer programs, but will of course need to do so in the coming weeks.

If you have questions about summer programs or study abroad, your best contact at this point is Dean Sally Gouzoules; her team is deeply involved in planning and can address more specifics about a particular program.

  • In addition, we are planning for the possibility that some of our undergraduates, including some first-year students, may not be able to arrive this fall because of travel restrictions.  Like some of our peers, we are considering how we would deliver an on-line curriculum for such students so that they could make academic progress.  If you have built an on-line course, or if you teach a class that regularly enrolls first-year students, you may be hearing from us as we work through the options. 
  • Of course, we are also deeply concerned about international students and others from heavily affected regions, or with family there.  At this point, we have focused primarily on international students, especially students from China.  We want to ensure that they have the personal and academic support that they need at a moment of intense stress.  Frank Gaertner in the Office of Undergraduate Education has been central to this work.  We are also working with Campus Life to ensure that all students have the right information about the coronavirus and commonsense prevention.  A particular concern is that students may not seek medical attention for possible influenza or other illnesses for fear of being stigmatized.

If you have concerns about an undergraduate student, please do not hesitate to write directly to the Office for Undergraduate Education via Joanne Brzinski.  The student support network is working hard to address the needs of our students, but you are critical to this process.

Finally, there is another level of contingency planning that is transpiring regarding the possibility of coronavirus cases near or on our campus.  This has not yet occurred, but of course is a possibility.  Again, we have a great deal of expertise on which to draw, and the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) is working closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health and the CDC.  Among the questions that they are considering is under what conditions we might need to cancel classes or close the university—and how we would respond if there were cases of coronavirus in the residence halls.  For faculty, this is a good time to review our policy about how we would make up classes in the case of inclement weather, as we would likely follow this same procedure if we needed to close the University because of coronavirus.  If you look at the Inclement Weather Policy you can think through how we would proceed if a week of classes were canceled. 

I realize that even though this is long email, I have raised as many questions here as I have answered.  I also urge you to look to the University webpage that is being updated with new information and resources. I will paste some links below.  

Most of all, what I want to convey is the seriousness with which Emory is taking this contingency planning at every level.  As you know, I have been a member of this community for more than two decades, and I am constantly impressed by the level of care with which College staff and faculty treat our students and each other.  At a moment of real uncertainty, I have every confidence that you will rise to this occasion.  Thank you for what you do to make this academic community such a welcoming and supportive place for all.



Michael A. Elliott
Dean, Emory College of Arts and Sciences

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