Coronavirus Update and Plans for Spring Quarter

Dear Western Community,

Over the past few weeks, our regular work at the university has been totally overshadowed by COVID-19.  You have received several messages from me and Vice President Melynda Huskey, chair of Western’s Incident Command System Team.  The intent of my message today is to share with you our plans for the start of spring quarter 2020 and to summarize and remind you of the various actions we have taken over the past two weeks.

However, before doing so, I want to thank you for being model community citizens as we have dealt with campus disruptions on a real time basis.  You have been gracious, patient and understanding.  My administrative team and I have received respectful messages from you about the COVID-19 situation related to health issues, educational continuity and university operations.  I was particularly saddened to cancel the Winter Commencement event; I know how important it is for our graduating seniors and their families and I understand your disappointment at the cancellation of this event.  I also want to acknowledge our faculty for their efforts to accommodate students over the past weeks and in transitioning to remote learning on extremely short notice.

As we close the winter term, please know that Western Washington University is committed to the global effort to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19, while appropriately continuing the essential activities of teaching, learning, research and supporting our campus residents.

Effective today, Friday, March 13, WWU will move to a higher level of response that continues the essential operations of the university, but seeks to reduce the frequency of interactions among students, faculty, staff and visitors throughout our main campus, and at all centers, facilities and operations statewide.  

This response includes a continuation of remote teaching during spring quarter, as well as a delay in the start of spring quarter classes to Monday, April 6.  We expect on-campus classes to commence again on Monday, April 27, 2020, consistent with Governor Inslee’s executive order on K-12 school closures in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. 

We will continue to assess the COVID-19 situation and the status of these new measures on a weekly basis, and we will give students at least one week’s notice if there is a change in plans for the spring term.  Our primary focus is on taking care of our people and continued university operations.

In taking these steps, we continue to be informed by the public health guidance of our local county health departments, the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Following is a summary of the new actions effective today and additional steps we will take for spring quarter to address the spread of COVID-19.

Actions Effective March 13, 2020:

  • WWU facilities and operations statewide will remain open.
  • Winter term finals week exams and activities will be delivered remotely where possible. Where remote testing is not possible, maximum social distancing measures will be utilized.
  • University academic and remote meeting tools, including Canvas, Office 365 and Zoom, will be used to minimize in-person meetings.
  • All non-essential travel on behalf of the university is suspended.
  • All Western employees are encouraged to work remotely where work responsibilities and duties allow.  Supervisors and employees are encouraged to review this guide to remote work
  • All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to avoid personal travel over spring break. University residences and dining halls will be open for those who wish to remain on campus, and Wilson Library will be operating on a modified schedule
  • All WWU athletic events and competitions are suspended until further notice, as are all non-conference competition for WWU’s 15 varsity intercollegiate sports.

 

Actions Effective March 31, 2020: 

  • All of the above actions are maintained, plus all spring term courses, labs and exams will be delivered remotely where possible, starting April 6 through April 24.  In a circumstance where remote teaching, coursework and testing is not possible, maximum social distancing measures will be utilized.   
  • The spring quarter, scheduled to start Tuesday, March 31, will now start on Monday, April 6 to enable faculty to prepare for remote delivery and complete migration to virtual instruction for the first three weeks of the term.  The quarter is expected to end on the regularly-scheduled date of June 12. 
  • Until at least April 30, non-essential WWU-sponsored events of more than 50 attendees will not be permitted. All essential events with fewer than 50 attendees will be held with maximum social distancing.

Again, we expect on-campus classes to commence on Monday, April 27, 2020.  We will continue to assess the COVID-19 situation and the status of these new measures on a weekly basis.  We will give students at least one week’s notice if there is a change in plans for the spring term.

As a reminder, following are the key actions we took effective March 4-15, 2020, and which remain in effect:

  • Moved classroom instruction online for the remainder of the winter term.
  • Cancelled large group meetings, including the Winter Commencement event.
  • Ensured the availability of continuous service for students, including regular operations in residence halls and dining services, computer labs, the Libraries, and the Recreation Center.
  • Restricted international travel.
  • Provided options to faculty and staff requesting flexibility in their work environment, including policy changes that allow remote work for staff.
  • Implemented extra measures to clean and disinfect surfaces in classrooms, laboratories and public areas and added hand sanitizer dispensers.
  • Increased prevention education efforts.
  • Implemented the CDC-recommended social distancing practice for academic and other campus activities.

We recognize such steps will prompt many questions and cause disruption.  We ask for everyone to accommodate these changes, pay close attention to personal health measures, support other WWU community members, and frequently check the university’s COVID-19 website for updated information.

Finally, I would like to remind you that good hygiene practices remain the most effective ways to control COVID-19. These include: washing your hands frequently; covering your mouth and nose when coughing; avoiding touching your mouth, nose, or eyes; engaging in social distancing; and staying home if you are feeling ill and consulting a health care provider about your symptoms. 

I thank you all for the extraordinary work during this difficult time, and I appreciate your understanding and partnership as we make our way through this challenge together.

 

Sabah Randhawa