Message to Academic and Student Affairs from Provost Cimitile, March 6
Welcome back from what I hope was a restful spring break. As I'm sure you are aware, a new coronavirus (COVID-19) is now here in North America. Though Grand Valley is not in a high-risk area currently, we do need to plan in case the virus hinders our usual academic and co-curricular activities. I write today to inform you about our planning for the COVID-19 situation and to ask you to be proactive in planning for the needs of our students.
The university's Incident Management Team (IMT) has been meeting regularly, communicating daily with public health officials, and planning a campus response in case of an outbreak. A website has been created to convey information with timely updates, found here. Please regularly check the website for updates. I would ask all faculty to make contingency plans to use Blackboard for teaching activities in case we have to close our campuses. Resources and guidance can be found on the Pew FTLC Academic Continuity site. While I do not anticipate a campus closure to occur, we need to be ready for all situations.
If there comes a time when we need to make alternative arrangements for students to complete their courses, we will find the path to do so. Should students express concerns or ask questions about this, please reassure them that their ability to graduate on time and complete their in-progress coursework is of the utmost importance to us all. Please be mindful of student illness with regard to absences from class and work-study employment. Should conferences be canceled, or faculty/staff determine it is in their best interest not to attend a professional development opportunity, professional development expenditures will be compensated up to the allotted reimbursement, determined by department faculty development funds. CSCE and Pew FTLC have details posted on their websites regarding conference cancellations related to COVID-19.
The Padnos International Center (PIC) has been communicating with Grand Valley students who are out of the country on study abroad trips, as well as with students and faculty who are planning study abroad travel this coming spring/summer term. We have suspended programs in Italy, China, and South Korea. PIC will regularly monitor the international health situation so we can protect our community as best as possible. The PIC Office will be in contact with those faculty planning on spring/summer study abroad programs. Vice Provost Jean Nagelkerk is working with our clinical placement partners to review proper protocols around student learning experiences in health settings. College Deans Offices will work with experiential education coordinators across campus to communicate expectations to students who are engaged in internships, co-ops, service activities, and other community engagement activities.
Student Affairs is working with the IMT and other university partners to plan for special student situations that would require additional accommodation if the need to close the university arises. While I don't anticipate that occurring, we need to have a plan so we are prepared to support our students. As always, any decision to close our campuses will be communicated clearly through the processes described in GVSU's Cancellation/Closure policy.
I have every confidence we will all take a calm, evidence-based approach to dealing with any potential outbreak on campus. We have always worked collaboratively as an institution and now is no different. Thank you all for your attention and preparation on behalf of our community.
Maria Cimitile Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs