Dear AU Community,
While there have been many communications since our last Monday update, we wanted to continue with weekly messages to community. Since last Monday, the COVID-19 situation has changed dramatically, and we have taken a number of actions to support the health of our entire community. The disruptions to all parts of society are difficult, but they are necessary to enhance social distancing and reduce the potential for further spread of COVID-19, and ensure our health system can handle the strain. While our daily lives are upended, this is the best path to lessen the impact of the virus. Thank you to our community for all you have done and will do.
I hope you saw the message from our medical director Dr. David Reitman earlier today. We know it is concerning news that a member of our community, a student living on campus, has tested positive for COVID-19. The student is receiving support and medical care and all precautions are being taken for the safety of our community. This includes thorough cleaning of key areas on campus and appropriate precautions for our teams who are supporting the student. The DC Department of Health has completed their investigation and determined that there were no close contacts on the campus. I encourage you to read the message, and we will be updating our FAQ. We hope our student recovers quickly.
With so many developments, I want to make sure we continue our regular communication to you. There are many questions, and you are receiving a lot of information, so I want to focus here on a few priority areas. Please regularly visit our COVID-19 Resources page, which we are updating as quickly as we can. The page has information for the students’ move out process, financial transactions, and more.
For our broader DC community, here is the latest information as of this moment. On Sunday, March 15, DC Mayor Bowser issued new guidance for restaurants, bars, and multi-purpose facilities to increase social distancing. This includes limiting the total number of people in an establishment and other constraints on seating and service. This is information that will likely be updated at any moment, so please continue to closely monitor the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the DC Department of Health.
Thank you to our students and families who are moving quickly to adapt to the situation. I had the opportunity to meet families who were here this weekend, and I know the sacrifices they are making for their students. We are also working with members of the community who may have more of a challenge returning home, because we want to make sure we are doing everything we can for our students. Our Housing and Residential Life teams are working tirelessly to make this week’s move out process as seamless as possible, and I am so grateful for their dedication and care. I know this process is challenging, but the team is providing students and families with support, answers to questions, and alternative arrangements like storage wherever we can.
Additionally, the university is providing refunds for housing and meal costs on a prorated basis as of March 24 for the portion of the semester where students are not living in the residence halls or using meal plans. Students do not need to apply for a prorated refund, and credits will appear on their student accounts.
As online classes begin this week, we are committed to continuing our high-quality educational experience. The good news is AU has a successful track record of offering online courses and programs. There are typically more than 500 online classes each year that are equivalent to our face-to-face classes and have the same requirements and tuition levels. We are fortunate that our new chief online officer, Joseph Riquelme, is supporting our faculty and students with his extensive experience in online learning.
I thought this example from Professor Andrew Taylor, the chair of Performing Arts department in CAS, demonstrated the creativity and problem-solving spirit that is happening across our campus. Professor Taylor and his colleagues added videoconferencing/media workstations to performance and rehearsal spaces to provide remote demonstrations and presentations. This is just one of many ways that our faculty are making sure students can continue their studies.
To our faculty and staff, I appreciate your professionalism and dedication to providing excellent service as online classes and telework begin this week. While this may be a new work environment for many of our teams, there is strong experience with remote work across the university. Please use the information from Human Resources, the Office of Information Technology, and other offices to support the transition and check the COVID-19 Resource page and FAQs. I know you will execute our services and functions at the highest levels, as we all adapt to this disruptive time. So thank you all.
As I have said in recent days, we all must take this situation seriously, follow the guidance from health authorities for social distancing and limiting transmission of COVID-19, and take the appropriate steps for health and safety. And importantly, we are doing this in ways that support each other, because we are all part of this response together.
Be safe, be well, and I am looking forward to that day when we can be together in person again at American University.