August 13, 2020
Dear Members of the Emmanuel College Community,
I had planned to write to you today with details on the reopening of our campus. Instead, I must announce that Emmanuel College, in light of rapidly changing public health conditions, has made the difficult decision to conduct all courses virtually and to not reopen our residence halls for the Fall 2020 semester.
We recognize how disappointing and disruptive this change of course is for many of you, particularly considering that our phased residence hall move-in was scheduled to begin next week. Just as much as you were excited to arrive, we were looking forward to welcoming you.
However, based on our analysis of the latest state and city data on the pandemic’s trajectory, we recognized that a reopening would pose undue risk to the health of students, faculty and staff, which continues to be our highest priority. Clearly, the pandemic has entered a new, more problematic phase, with infection rates increasing in a significant number of communities in Massachusetts and throughout the country. Just yesterday, Mayor Marty Walsh expressed his continued concern about the impact of so many college students returning to the City of Boston, our home. In addition, new state mandates—and the burgeoning policy changes we would need to make to comply with them—gave rise to concerns about the limited nature of the campus experience this fall.
As we have noted in earlier communications, Emmanuel has prepared for the possibility of transitioning to 100-percent virtual learning. Still, this is a difficult decision for the College to make—and, I am sure, for many of you to process. The prospect of remaining physically distanced from classmates and mentors strikes at the dynamic campus spirit that has always been central to our identity. Yet it is precisely our care for our common safety and welfare in these historic times that makes this measure necessary.
In recent weeks I have been inspired by the determination of faculty and staff to assure rich and engaging learning experiences this fall. Their commitment continues as we prepare to launch all courses in virtual form. In fact, ongoing professional development in the use of virtual learning tools, combined with insights gained during the last eight weeks of the Spring 2020 semester, have equipped faculty to employ technology with even more impact. As a result, we are fully prepared to deliver superb instruction across our curriculum.
We know that the decision to maintain virtual learning for the fall semester raises questions for students and their families. We will follow up with additional information and update the EmmanuelForward section of our website as new details become available. Information regarding the impact on students’ accounts, financial aid and payments made for the Fall 2020 semester will be provided next week. For now, it is important to acknowledge that housing and meal plan charges will be removed from students’ bills.
Our aim is to safely reopen our campus in January for the Spring 2021 semester. Meanwhile, we remain committed to supporting students in every dimension of their Emmanuel experience.
May we go forward, confident that Emmanuel is our God with us yesterday, today and forever.
Sister Janet Eisner, SNDdeN