In-Person Instruction Suspended Through Academic Year: March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020 

Dear Saint Mary’s Community,

I am writing to you today with some important updates as we continue to navigate and respond to new information about COVID-19. We are in uncharted waters as a university and nation and every day brings new information. Our decisions are being informed by guidance from health officials, our own university experts, and colleagues at other universities. I want you to know that Saint Mary’s College is committed to a proactive approach to this unprecedented situation while placing its highest priority on the health and safety of our students and community. 

As of this writing, we have no confirmed cases of the coronavirus on our campus. However, given the exponential rate of infections in the Bay Area, we have taken immediate action and mandated various forms of social distancing to help curb the spread of the virus. These include canceling events and shifting in-person instruction to virtual learning. Our faculty and staff are working tirelessly to make this transition as seamless as possible. We expect there to be a learning curve as we work our way through this process and greatly appreciate your patience, kindness, and understanding as we put these new systems into place.

My sincere hope was that we could return to in-person classes in mid-April. However, the latest COVID-19 information has necessitated Saint Mary’s to suspend in-person instruction through the end of the academic year. Paramount in our decision-making is the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. 

I recognize that this transition is not easy and will impact our community in significant ways. In making this difficult decision, we join more than 150 universities who have taken similar steps for the well-being of their student bodies and the greater community. We are committed to continuing to offer our students the rigorous and transformative education that reflects our Lasallian core values. 

The Provost will provide information about additional resources and support services to help faculty and students adjust to the extension of virtual instruction. She will also be working with the appropriate faculty governance bodies on interim academic policies that are adaptive to the new situation. Students, please continue to regularly monitor communications from your professors. 

Residential students: With the decision to offer online instruction through the end of the academic year, we have decided to close most residence halls for the spring semester, with limited exceptions. We are aware that some students have extraordinary circumstances (including some international students) that require them to remain in on-campus housing and we are committed to supporting your needs. For this reason, certain exceptions will be granted. Our housing staff are working out the details now and will be in touch with further information as soon as possible.

Spring semester room and board charges: With the move to online classes and closure of most residence halls, many students will not be living on campus. Saint Mary’s will calculate and post a pro-rata credit of these charges to the student’s account. Calculation and processing of these credits will happen in the next several weeks. More information, including details about timing and other logistics, will be forthcoming from Student Life.  

Commencement: Commencement at Saint Mary’s is full of traditions our whole community looks forward to sharing each year. We are not making any decisions yet about how and when to celebrate Commencement 2020. We understand how important Commencement is to our 2020 graduates and we will provide you with more details by the end of Easter break (April 13).

I know every member of our Saint Mary’s community may be experiencing a tremendous sense of uncertainty right now and I am particularly sensitive to the worries students may have for their individual situations. The College will continue to provide all existing support services for our community and I encourage each of you to take advantage of these. 

As we move through the weeks ahead, I have every confidence in College leadership to navigate this shifting situation with unerring attention to our mission and will keep you informed of critical changes in our crisis response plan. If you have questions or concerns, please consult our website for COVID-19 and campus updates

I am grateful to our faculty, staff, and students who are responding to this unprecedented moment in our nation’s history with generosity, kindness, and creativity.

These are extraordinary times, but we will find strength together.
In the spirit of De La Salle, 
James A. Donahue