October 6, 2020
Dear Liberal Arts Undergraduates:
I hope you are doing well as we approach the midpoint of the fall semester.
Although it has not been a “normal” semester by any stretch of the imagination, I am glad to see that we have settled into some sense of “routine.” Although quieter than your typical fall, it has nevertheless been comforting to see some activity on campus. I have also been pleased with the extent to which everyone seems to be complying with University health and safety protocols – most people appear to be wearing their masks and practicing physical distancing, at least on campus.
In terms of course delivery, we did encounter a few “hiccups” early in the semester; however, it is my understanding that things have gone fairly smoothly since then. Of course, I say this based on the feedback I have received so far and realize that may not necessarily be true in all cases. With that in mind, I want to bring the following to your attention:
- We were made aware of some instances where faculty members who were supposed to be offering live lectures were simply pre-recording presentations and not actively engaging students in discussion. Please know that I find that unacceptable and have conveyed that message to your professors. If this is still occurring with any of your courses, please let your academic adviser know so the college can address the situation accordingly.
- Knowing that Penn State has announced that the University will continue to offer a combination of in-person, remote, and mixed-mode courses this spring, we in the college would really like to know how you have been faring with your courses so far this fall. If you haven’t done so already, I would appreciate if you could take five minutes to complete this student survey – your answers will remain confidential and, just as importantly, they will help shape our decisions for the spring. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
In case you haven’t seen these announcements, there are a few logistical items that I believe warrant your attention:
- As of now, the University plans to continue with the delivery of in-person, remote, and mixed mode classes this current semester until Thanksgiving break, with classes following break and finals taking place remotely.
- Penn State’s fall commencement ceremony will take place virtually at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 19. As was the case for our spring and summer graduates, Penn State will invite fall graduates back for an in-person celebration when public health guidelines allow us to do so.
- As noted in this recent Penn State news article, the start of the spring semester has been delayed by one week (to January 18). The University will maintain its observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday for students and faculty that day – no classes will be held, and Dr. King’s legacy will be celebrated through a number of virtual events.
- Courses will continue straight through April 30, with finals occurring as scheduled from May 3-7. In order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 as the result of travel, spring break has been eliminated from the calendar for 2021.
- Penn State also recently announced the cancellation of study abroad activities through the spring. Students are encouraged to contact Education Abroad in the University’s Office of Global Programs and/or the college’s Career Enrichment Network to explore possible programming alternatives for this spring or study abroad opportunities in the future.
I understand that these announcements only heighten the levels of frustration and anxiety that many of us are already experiencing. And while I realize that it may not feel like the case at the moment, I truly believe that implementing these measures in the short term will allow us to weather these crises more effectively in the long-term and allow us to return to the campus environment we want sooner than would otherwise be possible.
Although I have shared these before, I think it’s important that I share the following resources with you whenever I can:
- If you have not done so already, please bookmark the college’s COVID website, and frequent the Students and Additional Resources pages in particular, for key reminders and to access a host of academic, financial, housing, IT, career enrichment, student engagement, and health and wellness information. Be sure to bookmark the University’s COVID website as well.
- If you find yourself in need of emergency financial assistance as the result of the pandemic, the college and University might be able to provide some support. Please email StudentCare@psu.edu to inquire about possible University assistance or LAEmergencyFund@psu.edu about possible college assistance.
- Last but certainly not least, please remember that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to help if you find yourselves under emotional duress. If an emergency arises that requires on-site assistance during normal business hours ( 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday), please call CAPS at 814-863-0395 for directions; if an emergency occurs after hours, please contact the 24/7 Penn State Crisis Line at 877-229-6400.
The health and well-being of our Liberal Arts community continues to be my top priority. Please take care of yourselves, please be compassionate and understanding of others, and please reach out if you or anyone close to you is feeling distressed. We will get through this together.
Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts
Professor of African American Studies
The Pennsylvania State University
111 Sparks Building
University Park, PA 16802