St. Olaf College | COVID-19

April 9, 2020 at 11:09 a.m.

To St. Olaf College studentsFrom David R. Anderson, President Of The College

Dear Oles,

Yesterday Governor Walz announced that he is extending Minnesota’s stay at home order through May 4. We will continue to do everything we can to support the state’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, including keeping the campus closed to the public and having all non-essential on-campus employees work remotely. It’s difficult to see campus so empty and quiet, but we know that having a nearly empty campus now is an important way that the College can help slow the spread of the virus, and it’s the best approach to hasten the day when we can all return to the Hill.

In light of the governor’s announcement yesterday, and the data showing the trajectory of the virus over the next several months, we have had to make the following difficult decisions about on-campus programs this spring and summer.

We have made the painful decision to postpone our on-campus commencement ceremony. I have previously warned that it would be unlikely that we could host commencement on the Hill at the end of May. As our view of the upcoming weeks has sharpened, it is clear that this cannot happen. I know how difficult this is for our seniors, and I am truly sorry that the pandemic has taken away so many important moments from your senior year. I promised you that we would find a way to honor and celebrate you, and we will. We are tentatively planning to host a commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 in late May or early June of 2021.

All of the College’s summer courses will be taught online. Provost and Dean of the College Marci Sortor is working with faculty to develop and modify those courses as needed. You will receive additional information from the Registrar’s Office in the coming days about registering and planning for these courses.

Our other on-campus programs and work for the summer will also look different:

  • We will not host students and faculty members on campus for our Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry Program (CURI). The program’s director, Professor Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak, is evaluating how some of these projects can be completed remotely, and she will be in further communication with students and faculty members who had planned to do this research.
  • Our Human Resources staff is evaluating what limited summer work positions will be available for students, and they will be in contact with supervisors. The approach to summer student work will be similar to the approach we have taken for the remainder of the semester: supervisors will need to seek and gain approval for students to work on campus or remotely.
    Piper Center for Vocation and Career staff members will evaluate whether — and which — internships and summer cohort programs can continue in a remote work setting.
  • We will not host on-campus camps, conferences, and events this summer; staff members are working with St. Olaf camp leaders to see how some of these programs might be offered virtually. Many of the other camps and conferences that the college typically hosts in the summer have let us know that they plan to cancel for the very same safety concerns that have prompted our own decisions.
  • The purpose of all of these decisions is to support the state’s valiant efforts to stop the spread of the virus in Minnesota and to focus our time and attention on preparing to return, if we are able, to a full campus in the fall.

We didn’t make any of these decisions lightly. We know they impact your plans, your career preparation, and your relationships with peers and professors. Please know that the College will continue to provide Oles with support and resources, even from afar.

I know many of you have questions about when, given the governor’s most recent announcement, you can return to campus to pick up your belongings. Pamela McDowell will send a follow-up communication in the coming days with further information and an update on the College’s plans.

In the meantime, please be well and take care of yourself.