March 22, 2020 9:00 PM
Carmen Twillie Ambar, President

Dear Oberlin College Community,

For the past few weeks, we have been preparing to operate the college in the precise manner that the governor’s new order now intends. Our goal has always been to protect the health and safety of our community, to take care of the students who remain on campus, and to ensure that our institution has the necessary strategies in place to support the majority of our employees either fully working from home or practicing social distancing while at work when appropriate and required. We understand that to slow the spread of COVID-19, for the benefit of all Ohioans, this commitment must be made by all organizations.

After listening today to Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, announce a “stay at home order” for Ohioans, I am confident that our preparations have placed us in a position to fully comply, while attending to those matters that are necessary for maintaining our institution. Our telecommuting policies and plans are nearly complete. We have worked hard to provide the technology our students, faculty, and staff need to continue our academic work and the business of the college remotely. We are doing our part to slow the spread of this pandemic.

The state’s order was expected, and our prior work has prepared us to honor what it asks of us. To help you understand the state’s order, and how Oberlin plans to adhere to it, allow me to share some essential elements from the order and the exemptions provided for colleges and universities:

  • All Ohioans are to remain in their homes, except for a number of exemptions, including those that apply to higher educational institutions.
  • Educational institutions are included under the “Essential Business and Operations” section of the order.
  • The exceptions for higher education indicate that work for the purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions can continue, provided that social distancing of 6 feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible.
  • Travel to and from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and other related services are permitted.
  • The order indicates that the work of our plumbers, electricians, cleaning and custodial staff, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, and other service providers who are necessary to maintain safety, sanitation, and essential operations may continue.

As we work to complete our preparations to comply with the state’s latest measure, we are keeping in mind a few critical elements:

  • The state order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday and will run for at least two weeks, until at least April 6. We are preparing for the possibility that the state will extend the order.
  • Everyone who planned to come into work on Monday should still do so. We will use tomorrow to finalize our plans based on this new order. Please remember to take your temperature before coming to work. If you have a fever above 100.4 degrees, or if you are feeling sick, please alert your supervisor and do not come into work.
  • Our senior staff is working to finalize a list of employees deemed essential to the health and safety of the 350 students who remain on campus, as well as those who are essential to the ongoing business of the college. Those who must come to campus to do their work should practice social distancing.
  • Last week, our senior staff implemented a rotation of people whose work could be completed remotely, but who would come in periodically. After Monday, that rotation will be adjusted so that all people who are able to fully work remotely will do so. This staff would only come in when it was critical and in accordance with the guidance provided by the stay-at-home order.
  • It continues to be our goal to maintain pay and benefits for all regular employees for as long as possible. This could mean that a number of employees deemed essential may need to be reassigned. Managers will provide more information in the coming days.

While this is another change, we are absolutely ready. All the work that we have done to prepare for remote work, to support our students both on campus and afar, and to maintain the work of Oberlin is in place. Over the course of the next day, we will continue to refine all the ways that we will be complying with the stay-at-home order. We will continue to communicate with you through the various administrative offices as we streamline the plan that we put in place on Friday.

I was reflecting on the fact that under normal circumstances, we would now be on spring recess. We all had the expectation of enjoying the natural changes that spring brings.

Yes, things are changing, but not in the ways we planned. But one thing has not changed for me, and that is the optimism that comes with the beginning of spring. Be assured that Oberlin will emerge from this challenge with a stronger community and a renewed determination to move forward. We always do.

Carmen Twillie Ambar
President