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COVID-19 Updates

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March 30, 2020

Dear Colleague,

I have been meeting daily with the Senior Staff since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and I wanted to share the following with the Eastern “virtual community” to start the week.

Teaching and Learning

Today is the start of our second week of online learning, and I am heartened by the response of the faculty and students to this unanticipated challenge.  Provost Salka tells me that we are fully operational online.  Software and hardware have been distributed to faculty and students who needed technology support and we are resolving the few wrinkles we encountered last week.

Faculty are using a range of technology platforms — including Webex, Office365 Teams, Zoom and Google platforms — to deliver courses.  (The VPN, for instance, is averaging more than 500 users a day.) A number of innovative approaches are also springing up, ranging from an art exhibit of posters being designed by Yulia Tikhonova’s graphic design class that reflect the social implications of being away from each other, to Ross Koning using a microscope adapter for his cell phone as a way to demonstrate a lab exercise virtually.  In addition, Theatre Professor David Pellegrini is curating a virtual mini-film festival for Theatre, Film, and New Media Studies students using the Kanopy streaming movie platform. I invite other faculty to share their challenges as well as discoveries so that we can continue to point to best practices and sources of inspiration. Just email your stories to editor@easternct.edu.

Student Accomplishments

It is also important for our virtual community to find opportunities to celebrate student accomplishments, even if we cannot do so in person.  I am pleased to hear that a number of our honor societies will still be inducting new members, despite the fact they will not be hosting induction events this semester. We have also selected this year’s Barnard Scholars and will be announcing those results shortly. Our biggest celebration each year is Commencement — we are all disappointed we will not be together on May 19 at the XL Center this year.  However, we are close to having a plan to acknowledge this year’s seniors in fitting fashion, and I hope to be able to announce those alternative plans soon.

Committee Work

I have asked our campus leaders to continue their committee meetings, using the virtual tools at our disposal, so that we do not slow down the progress being made to improve our University.  I know that the Strategic Planning Committee met last week, and tomorrow the University Senate, led by Professor Andrew Utterback, will convene for the first of four virtual meetings for the balance of the semester.  The new LAC Learning Outcomes — complete with rubrics and an implementation plan — are on the agenda for discussion, and I want to thank the faculty who have worked hard to advance this critical component of our liberal arts education.

Housing

I want to acknowledge and thank the Housing and Facilities staff for their efforts to help students move out of the residence halls — this is exhausting work under trying circumstances. I am very proud of the staff for their commitment to getting this completed quickly for the safety and benefit of our students. 

It has been gratifying to see the positive response we have received from students and their families as we have worked with them to vacate their rooms.  One student had to accelerate his move-out plans as he has been called up by the Army Reserves. Housing staff were able to accommodate him and his mother writes, “Thank you LaMar and Paul for your assistance with the change in move-out day.”  Another parent writes, “Very easy moving my daughter out this morning. Thank you for the sweatshirt, Eastern.  See you in the fall.” One more parent tells us, “As an emergency manager for a Hartford suburb, I appreciate the planning and effort the school put into making the move out as easy and safe as possible. As we have commented during the good times of the school year, Eastern rocks!”

Student Financial Accounts

Tomorrow we hope to have all room and board refund calculations in place so that we can begin to credit student financial accounts.  Our students have pitched in to quicken the process — more than 600 new students signed up for e-Refund through this past Friday as we continue to encourage students to use this option. This will shorten their wait for refunds by a week, providing much appreciated financial relief to Eastern families.

We also are working with students who have payment plans. Here’s a note from a grateful parent: “I received our updated payment plan amounts with the credits noted today.  I have to say Eastern is really on top of things and moving along quickly!  I give them a lot of credit for all they are doing during this crazy time.”

I truly appreciate the work of Housing, Card Services and the Bursar’s Office for their work on the housing and meal plan refund process.  This process was an unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary task involving several thousand students.  I know our Eastern families appreciate the quick work to release these funds back to them.

Adjusting Deadlines and Other Procedures

Due to the need to vacate the campus and teach, study and work remotely, we have moved back a number of deadlines and various procedural schedules, including:

  • Housing and tuition deposits moved back two weeks to May 15
  • The housing deposit was waived for returning students
  • Registration for returning students was also moved back
  • Credit card fees on payment plans have been reduced to one-tenth of one percent (usual rate is 2.85%) through June 30, 2020. Debit card/ACH bank transfer payment services are also being offered at no charge.  

Private Fundraising

Another critical function at Eastern is the philanthropic work of the Division of Institutional Advancement. Their most important cultivation event each year is the Eastern Celebrates alumni reunion, planned for May 16 this year. We were forced to cancel it along with all campus events for the remainder of the academic year.  Despite that, staying in touch with alumni and other donors is doubly important in the current healthcare crisis — we hope to enlist alumni in supporting our students during what for many is a difficult financial time. This week we are mailing 6,000 alumni and emailing countless more, asking them to give generously to the Annual Fund or to an endowed scholarship fund of their choice.   The Development Office has also contracted with a third-party mail house to manage the spring fundraising campaign we normally staff with student workers on campus. The campaign will include a short audio message from me, reminding donors that students with unmet financial needs are especially vulnerable at this time. The continued support of our alumni and friends has never been more important.

Thank You!

From what the vice presidents are seeing, it is clear all our employees are working diligently and with great purpose from home to manage the daily work of the University.  These are truly extraordinary times — in our own lives and perhaps in human history. The way in which our faculty and staff have stepped into the breach continues to inspire and motivate me.

These unparalleled times are straining the fabric of our society and the world community. In such times, I am amazed by the tenacity, resourcefulness, ingenuity and kindness displayed by people.  These are the same words I think of when I look at what is happening within our Eastern community.  I know each of you will continue to put your best effort forth in supporting each other and our students.  Because of all of you, I know we will succeed in our efforts to provide a quality education to all our students. Thank you.

Elsa M. Núñez
President

View previous updates on the Updates Archive page.

A summary of Eastern's COVID-19 Responses

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on Eastern Connecticut State University, the state of Connecticut, our nation, and the world community.

These challenging, difficult times have disrupted the daily lives of our students, faculty, and staff. In response to the pandemic, the University continues to make decisions to limit the spread of COVID-19 while also finding ways to continue to function as a teaching and learning institution

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Be Respectful

In the wake of COVID-19, there has been an increasing number of national news reports of stereotyping, harassment, and bullying directed at people of Chinese or Asian descent. Please be reminded that we do not tolerate ethnic harassment or other forms of bullying at Eastern. Check out Eastern’s Pluralism Policy.(https://www.easternct.edu/equity-and-diversity/policies-and-procedures1/eastern-policies/policyonpluralism.html)

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  • All courses for the remainder of the spring semester are being delivered online starting March 23, 2020. Additional details will be provided by the Division of Academic Affairs; also check “Academics” on the menu for updates.
  • Students should remain at home or otherwise off campus following spring break. Check with your professors for details on the online delivery of your courses.
  • A plan and schedule to allow for the safe retrieval of belongings from residence halls has been developed and communicated to students. No one will be allowed in the residence halls to retrieve belongings outside of that schedule.
  • Prorated refunds or credits of room and board for residential students are being calculated and will be communicated as soon as possible. See “Housing” on the menu for updates.
  • Commencement exercises in May have been cancelled, with alternatives being considered including a virtual ceremony or postponement to later in the year.
  • All campus buildings are closed until further notice.
  • All campus events have been cancelled for the balance of the semester.
  • All athletic games and practices have been cancelled for the remainder of the semester.
  • All University-sponsored travel, including faculty/staff professional development, athletic trips, and study abroad travel, has been cancelled. See “Travel” on the menu for details.
  • Students who develop flu-like symptoms should self-quarantine and notify their physician.
  • All employees should be telecommuting from home until further notice. The only exceptions must be approved in advance in writing by a vice president or their designee; exceptions must be for a specific duty and date/time frame and cannot be on a regular basis. Check “Human Resources” for details.
  • Employees who develop flu-like symptoms should self-quarantine and notify their physician. They should also notify Maria Weinberger in Human Resources at weinbergerma@easternct.edu or (860) 465-0654.
  • Any employee who tests positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus must notify Maria Weinberger in Human Resources at weinbergerma@easternct.edu or (860) 465-0654.
  • For more health-related information, visit “Symptoms/Precautions” on the menu.
  • Watch President Núñez’s video update on Wednesday, March 18, which provided information on a range of topics.
  • For additional Eastern updates, visit https://www.easternct.edu/coronavirus.

Self-monitor your health: COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

Practice these precautions:

  • Wash your hands in hot water/soap frequently
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Cough into a tissue or your elbow
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Practice social distancing

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