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COVID-19: Letter from the President 3-18-2020

March 18, 2020 11:00 a.m.

 

Dear Students (and Parents),

 

Some of you are home, some of you are on your way home, and a few of you are still on the mountain. All of you are adjusting to a “new normal.” I wanted to write this evening to provide further information on a few matters that I know are of interest to you as you make that adjustment. But before I jump into the informational bit, let me say again how sorry I am for the disruption the coronavirus has caused to your Covenant College experience. This really is a disappointing and frustrating way for us to finish the semester. Our hearts go out to all of you who have had performances canceled, or seasons cut short, or research disrupted, or who just didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to dear friends. We feel some of that pain, since many of us missed out on the opportunity to say goodbye to you as well, but we know that you bear the burden of this difficult decision in a particularly heavy way.

 

As I indicated in my first message to you, we have been working diligently to address the various concerns that arise naturally from a disruption of this nature. At the same time, we have been ramping up for the beginning of online delivery of courses. Below are answers to the questions that have been asked of us most frequently as we’ve undertaken this work.

 

Regarding Classes

Central to the mission and work of Covenant College are the relationships between faculty and students. We are committed to maintaining those relationships despite being separated by distance. Our aim in approaching the remainder of the semester has been to create a learning environment in which instruction and conversation would be undertaken in much the same manner as if the semester had continued in a normal fashion. To that end, we will maintain the established class schedule as though we were all on campus together. Many faculty members will continue to hold classes during regular class times, meeting with students through Canvas and/or Google Meet. You will be hearing directly from your professors over the next days regarding the specifics for each class. You should arrange your personal schedule to ensure your availability to attend classes during regularly scheduled times.

 

Regarding Work-Study

Many of you have contacted the college to ask about work-study. The college’s regular work-study program will be suspended for the remainder of the semester. Requests for an exception to this general rule will be granted on a limited basis, with priority consideration given to work deemed necessary to the ongoing functioning of the college. Students who desire to continue their work-study position should submit a request form, which will initiate an approval process involving their supervisor and the department/area Vice President.

 

I should note that suspending the work-study program was not an easy decision for the college to make but one we deemed prudent given the current situation. Our hope is that some students’ need for aid will be reduced or even eliminated by room and board refunds.

 

Regarding Room & Board Refunds

We are aware of the financial stresses presently being felt by many of our families. People are juggling the ability to pay tuition with the costs incurred due to the interruption of our semester and the move to an online classroom model.

 

Many of you have asked if you will receive a credit for room and board charges. We intend to credit student accounts for the portion of room and board that cannot be used due to the campus closure. This credit will amount to approximately 48.5% of the room and board charges for the spring semester and will be applied to your student account. Accounts where the credit for room and board charges would result in a credit balance will be in a position to receive a refund. We are still determining the process for distributing this refund. We plan to make refunds available as soon as is practical and do not intend to make you wait until the end of the semester, but at this point, a distribution date has not been set.

 

We have also been asked whether student fees will be refunded. Each fee will be assessed on an individual basis to determine if a credit for that fee is appropriate. In order to keep things as streamlined as possible, any credit for fees will be processed in conjunction with the credit for room and board charges.

 

Some of you have recognized the financial challenge the cessation of the on-campus residence presents to Covenant College. Thank you for thinking of us and for your encouragement to us. The impact on faculty and staff and on our finances is considerable. Some of you have asked whether it would be possible to forego your refund and direct those funds back to support the college, and many of you have assured us of your prayers for wisdom and strength as we deal with the challenges of this unusual time. We are exploring ways to make the redirection of refunds possible, and are deeply grateful for all of your expressions of support. We are also looking to see if it would be practical to create an option where you could choose to apply your credit balance to the cost of attendance for next year.

 

We appreciate your patience with us as we work out the details of the refund of room and board charges and fees. We are also thankful for the resilience you’ve demonstrated as we’ve navigated uncharted waters, sending almost all of you home in the middle of semester and asking you to finish the term in a format that is—frankly—less than optimal from both a student and faculty perspective. These are extraordinary times in the history of our country. Rarely have we had to deal with a pandemic, or with all of the disruption—fear, panic, stresses on healthcare systems, shortages of food staples, runs on toilet paper, etc.—that accompanies such an event.

 

In the midst of this trying time, I remain grateful to God for you all and your tenacity and good cheer. A lesser student body would gripe and moan, or would check out from the educational process. Instead, you’ve taken it upon yourselves to find ways to be connected to your fellow Scots, you’ve comforted one another, you’ve pressed to ensure that you’ll still receive an outstanding education, you’ve demonstrated care and concern for the most vulnerable among us, and you’ve lifted up the college and its community in your prayers. I am so proud of how you’ve responded to this difficult situation. Thank you.

 

Praying that God continues to grant you strength and comfort.

 

In Christ,

JDH

 

J. Derek Halvorson, Ph.D.
President
Covenant College

In omnibus Christus primatum tenens