October 30, 2020
Dear Liberal Arts Undergraduates:
I hope this message finds you well as October quickly comes to a close.
It seems hard to believe that we’re already two-thirds of the way through the fall semester and just a few weeks away from the November break. Even during a “normal” fall, I know many of you would be looking forward to the upcoming break as a chance to rest and rejuvenate before tackling end-of-semester projects and finals. I suspect that is even more the case given the unique circumstances we’ve been dealing with this year.
As you know, this year’s fall break also marks the end of in-person classes for the semester; all remaining classes for the fall and finals will take place remotely. For those of you who have been taking in-person classes, it means that you will also most likely be moving out of your residence halls or apartments until at least January. If that is the case and you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to find the time to review Penn State’s fall departure plan. In addition to outlining the steps that you, your family, and your roommates should follow when coordinating your departure, the plan also provides guidance to international students, students in isolation and quarantine, and others who for other reasons may need to remain in on-campus housing through the November break, the remote learning phase, and/or winter break. Additional information can also be found at the University’s Coronavirus Information website.
I realize that in a year like no other this has been a fall semester like no other. The results of the recent survey some of you completed a few weeks ago support that assessment—not surprisingly, some of you noted feeling less motivated, less connected and looking forward to returning to the campus environment we’re all more accustomed to when it is safe and appropriate to do so. What also was evident in your responses was that the current situation has not taken away your desire to pursue a Penn State education or your motivation to succeed. I am inspired by your perseverance and resilience.
A couple of additional highlights from the survey:
- Many of you taking some or all of your classes remotely expressed your desire for your professors to be more actively engaged in your classes. I appreciate and agree with that perspective and will strongly encourage our faculty to play a more interactive role in your classes this spring.
- Several of you also indicated an interest in seeing “wellness days” or “Zoom-free” days incorporated into the spring calendar. Penn State recently announced it will hold three “wellness days” on which no classes will be held.
- Some of you also mentioned the emotional and financial toll that the pandemic continues to exact upon you.
- If you find yourself in need of emergency financial assistance, 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.
- If you are experiencing emotional distress, please remember that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to help. If an emergency arises that requires on-site assistance during normal business hours (8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. EDT, 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.
In closing, with Election Day quickly approaching I’d like to remind everyone to exercise your most important right—and responsibility—as a citizen and vote on Tuesday. How you choose to vote is not my business—but ensuring that you are prepared to arrive at your decision through a process of serious study, thoughtful conversation, critical discernment, and deep reflection is my concern. And as dean of this college, encouraging individuals to actively engage in our democracy is a responsibility I take seriously.
A few other election resources that might be of interest to you:
- Penn State will host a virtual open forum on the election for students, faculty, and staff from 2:30–3:30 p.m. EDT today (October 30). The forum will be accessible via this Zoom link. While registration is not required, participants are asked to submit questions in advance using Google Forms.
- On November 4, experts from across Penn State—including several from our college—will take part in a roundtable discussion exploring the results and potential impact of the 2020 U.S. presidential election in the final installment of the “Toward Racial Equity at Penn State: Social Difference, Social Equity, and Social Change” event series. The roundtable discussion – titled “The Day After: Assessing the Post-Election State of the Nation” – will be livestreamed at watch.psu.edu/toward-racial-equity from 6:00–8:00 p.m. EST that evening.
- Additional information and resources about the upcoming election can be found at psuvotes.psu.edu.
Until the next time we connect, please be safe, be smart, and be well.
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