March 12, 2020 2:30 PM
Carmen Twillie Ambar, President

Dear Oberlin College Community,

We are drawn to Oberlin because of our community. The dedication of our faculty and staff to the aspirations and dreams of our students establishes life-long bonds. I have been reflecting on the essence of our community for the past few days as we have begun to contemplate the effects of COVID-19 on our academic year.

As you might imagine, responding to this global pandemic has been extremely difficult. We are having to make choices that are upending our sense of community, and it can feel overwhelming. It is requiring us to literally change almost everything within days. And of course, there is a sense of loss for all of us, but especially for our seniors for whom this is their last semester on campus.

I have tried to have as my guiding principle the health and safety of our community, even as we balance our academic mission. It has become clearer that we need to make firmer decisions about the remainder of the semester, move more expeditiously to support our students’ departure from campus earlier than we planned, and to provide more time for our faculty to prepare for remote instruction.

We have been in frequent consultation with our local health department to ensure that our decisions are in keeping with their assessment of the impact of COVID-19 in our region. In light of rapidly moving events, we have re-evaluated our timeline for student departures from campus and our views about the remainder of the semester.

Key Dates
Friday, March 13 Last day of classes. Distribution of packing boxes for students begins at 10 a.m.
Monday, March 16 Students depart campus housing no later than noon.
Monday, March 16-20

Classes suspended.

Saturday, March 21-Sunday, March 29 Spring Recess.
Monday, March 30 Remote classes begin.

Spring Recess: In-person classes will now end tomorrow, Friday, March 13. Students will be dismissed from in-person classes on Saturday, March 14, a week earlier than planned. We will be moving to remote learning on March 30.

Remote Classes: Once we move to remote learning on March 30, we will continue in this mode of instruction for the remainder of the spring semester. It is our expectation that students will not return to campus for academic coursework this semester. This change will allow us to be firm in our plans to provide remote instruction and to develop strategies accordingly.

Students’ Departure: Since classes are ending on March 13, we have moved up the date by which students will need to depart campus. Students will now have Saturday and Sunday to pack and will be required to depart by Monday, March 16. Students will be receiving an email later today that provides details about this change. Students should pack all essentials they will need to complete their classes. Those items include books, papers, electronic documents, notebooks, and technology including laptops, tablets, and related chargers as well as personal items. In addition, students are being provided boxes to pack whatever items remain in their dorm room. 

Students can contact Residential Education at resed@oberlin.edu if they have questions.

Social Distancing: Health officials stress the need for social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Life on a college campus makes social distancing difficult to achieve because of communal dining, shared bathrooms, and group settings. To help protect our community, we are changing the practices of our dining services. Beginning this evening, students will be asked to pick up their meals and eat away from dining halls.

Zoom Technology: Faculty are preparing to use Zoom technology to provide academic coursework remotely for the rest of the semester. Training is underway to support Zoom technology and will continue through March 20. 

Study Abroad: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now designating all of Europe a Level 3 travel destination. Last night, President Trump announced that all travel of non-U.S. residents from Europe will be banned as of Friday. Oberlin has 70 students in the U.K., Ireland, and Europe. Oberlin is asking all students to return home no later than March 18 and plan to complete their studies remotely.

Athletics: All athletes will be asked to depart campus with other students. Athletic competitions will be cancelled for the remainder of the semester.

Faculty and Staff: Faculty and staff will continue their regular schedule next week. Staff will continue their regular schedule during Spring Recess. Once remote learning begins on March 30, both faculty and staff will continue their regular on-campus schedule.

Conclusion: A significant factor in moving towards this decision now is to provide clarity. Health professionals have indicated that this pandemic will impact us for many weeks. This approach will allow us to do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and to protect those who are most vulnerable. Additionally, this decision also ensures that we can avoid more dramatic disruptions later and enables our students to return home while the option still exists.

I know that with these changes a series of new questions will arise. We will do all that we can to work through each new question deliberately. We will continue to inform you as we arrive at the solutions for the myriad of complications that will present themselves.

I know that this is such a disruption to our campus. I, like you, chose to be a part of a residential liberal arts college. We all chose to be a part of Oberlin. We know that this semester will be so different than what we have come to know. And yet, we will do what we can to build community from near and afar. The bonds of Oberlin are strong enough to withstand any obstacle. As always, we will meet this one with a sense of optimism and a belief that we can overcome even the most unprecedented challenge.

Sincerely, 

Carmen Twillie Ambar
President