F&M Leadership Team leadership@fandm.edu

Mon, Aug 3, 6:57 PM

Dear F&M Community,

I am writing with an important update that has a significant impact on our first-year and sophomore classes. 

Throughout our planning and preparations for a return to campus in the fall, we have continually assessed our capacity to support our students, faculty and staff safely in light of fast-changing conditions in our area and across the country. In recent weeks, the trajectory of COVID-19 has surged upward, requiring us to reassess our plans and pivot appropriately. You may be aware that other schools are currently adjusting their plans in similar ways to hold true to the first principle of re-opening, which is the health and safety of our students and employees. 

After serious consideration, including broad consultation with health experts and our Board of Trustees, we have determined that we must further de-densify our campus population during the upcoming fall term and perhaps also during the spring term. To realize this objective, we have made the difficult decision to reduce the number of students in our on-campus residential halls, which primarily house first-year students and sophomores, as follows:

Fall term (Module 1 and Module 2): 

  • First-year students will live in on-campus housing.
  • The sophomore cohort will be required to continue remote instruction, with the exception of sophomore HAs, who will be permitted to live on campus. The sophomore cohort is defined as any student who started at F&M as a first-year in fall 2019, and is NOT based on credits earned or expected graduation year.
  • The small number of sophomores who currently are approved to live in off-campus housing will still be allowed to do so and attend the in-person portion of classes in which they are enrolled. 
  • New transfer students living in on-campus and off-campus housing will be permitted to come as planned.
  • Juniors and seniors living in on-campus and off-campus housing will be permitted to come as planned. 

Our hope is that conditions will improve enough for the spring term that all of our students who want to be in residence on campus can return. At the moment, it is too early for us to know what will be safe and appropriate at that time. If conditions continue to make it necessary to have a reduced campus population in the spring, our plan is to then prioritize the sophomore class as follows:

Spring term (Module 3 and Module 4):

  • First-year students will be required to complete the year with remote instruction.
  • The sophomore cohort will live in on-campus housing. Sophomores approved to live in off-campus housing will still be able to do so.
  • Juniors, seniors, and transfer students living in on-campus and off-campus housing will still be able to do so.

 This is unexpected and disheartening news for all of us. While our primary focus has to be on physical and mental well-being, I regret the disappointment many sophomores will feel at this unexpected change of course for the fall. We also realize that this decision will come just as many of you were beginning to prepare for your return to Lancaster in a few weeks. We recognize that some sophomores may have already incurred expenses, such as airline tickets, for a return to campus. We will make reimbursement funds available and ask that you submit requests and documentation of those expenses using a form that we will send soon to sophomores affected by this decision.  

In addition, we understand there are some among the sophomore class for whom remote learning creates a significant hardship. Early next week, we will create a petition process for sophomores in such circumstances to apply for permission to live in on-campus housing. Please be aware that petition approval will be extremely limited. It is an unfortunate reality that demand to return to campus this fall considerably exceeds the number of students we can house safely in the current circumstances. For the health of all concerned, and in order to re-open campus at all, we have no choice but to strictly curtail our on-campus population.

Although this decision to further de-densify presents unique obstacles and challenges for each of us in locations across the country and around the world, F&M will move forward as a community. 

Over the course of the last several months, your professors have displayed remarkable creativity in enhancing their pedagogy to ensure the rigor, caliber, and engagement you expect of an F&M education in an online and hybrid environment. At the same time, our dedicated professional staff has developed a robust student life program with an array of virtual gatherings and activities designed to bring us together around shared interests and compelling topics. I firmly believe that our sophomores, and all other students who have decided to continue their studies online, will have a fully connected F&M experience this fall. Whether you are studying remotely or on campus, you will be participating in the personalized F&M education that connects you with your peers, with faculty and staff, with alumni, and with the resources and co-curricular benefits that makes this a unique and powerful preparation for life. 

For those of you returning to campus, we have updated the website with move-in dates so you can begin your planning. You will soon hear from the College with more information on move-in, housing, and testing. Please continue to check your email and the fall 2020 reopening website, which we are in the process of updating to reflect these changes. In the meantime, questions can be submitted using the fall 2020 question and comment form.

I share your frustration that we cannot bring everyone back for the fall, but the pandemic demands that we all respond responsibly, with resourcefulness and resilience, and adapt as the situation evolves. I cannot wait for the day when we have you all back with us in Lancaster! However inconvenient, taking appropriate action now to open safely will help improve our prospects for the spring and beyond.

With warm wishes from Lancaster for our whole community,

Barbara K. Altmann

President and Professor of French