St. Olaf College | COVID-19

April 10, 2020 at 7:45 a.m.

To St. Olaf College studentsFrom Pamela McDowell, Associate Dean Of Students For Residence Life

Hi everyone,

I hope you are well and adjusting to your classes being online. You received a message from President Anderson yesterday announcing that the stay at home order was extended until at least May 4 in the state of Minnesota, causing the college to make the difficult decision to postpone commencement, have online summer classes, and cancel on-campus summer research and work opportunities.

I’m following up to provide additional information. I apologize for the length of this email, but this is an evolving situation and I’m providing as much detailed guidance as I can with a tentative window for when you can return to retrieve your belongings. If the stay at home order is not extended on May 4, I will send an email with specific dates. Continue to email me with any questions you have. I will respond as soon as I am able; please give me 24 hours to reply before emailing again.

The most important takeaways from this email:

  • There is one last (hopefully) form that everyone needs to fill out AFTER reading this email. Many of your plans will now change, and I need you ALL to fill out this very brief form.
  • Room draw for next year will be online and will be AFTER finals — most likely the first week in June.

As of now, I anticipate a window of mid-May through the end of June for families who are within driving distance to return to campus to retrieve belongings. We will offer daily weekday and weekend 3-hour appointments during this time for families to return so we can limit the number of people on campus and in residence halls. We will expect families to follow social distancing guidelines while on campus.

We will continue to monitor and adhere to the governor’s restrictions. Once the stay at home order is lifted and we know families may safely travel in Minnesota, students will receive an email with access to a scheduling calendar for their specific hall to schedule a time. Each student will be allowed one 3-hour slot to pack up items and load cars. Likely times are 9 a.m.- noon, noon-3 p.m., 3-6 p.m., and 6-9 p.m. To limit residence hall access, a student’s ID will work only for the scheduled day and time period. We hope this process will protect the health and safety of the students who remain on campus and the families returning to campus.

Please do not come to campus if you are sick or anyone in your household is sick. See below for instructions for shipping or storing your belongings.


If you live farther away and cannot return to pack up your items, we will have students on campus pack and put them in campus storage. This project will likely start after April 17 and go throughout the summer. We may contact you to see which part of the room is yours prior to packing.


We will ship items for seniors if your items are packed properly for shipping. We will need an address where you want items shipped, and the college will cover the cost of shipping. Please answer the appropriate questions on the new form.


I need to know the updated plan for everyone’s belongings. I need every student to fill out this form — even if you have already taken your belongings with you. Please fill the form out by April 17, 2020. Thank you!!!!


If you still have your keys, please mail them no later than April 15, 2020 to:

Residence Life Office — KEYS
1520 St. Olaf Avenue
Northfield, MN 55057

This will prevent students from forgetting keys when they return to pack. Staff will be available to unlock your room when you return. Keys do not travel well through the mail. Please put keys in a padded envelope or wrap in a paper towel before putting in an envelope.


I imagine many of you were disappointed today when you heard commencement ceremonies were postponed. I am sorry. Even after the stay at home order is lifted in Minnesota, we don’t believe we will be able to have large gatherings in the state and will ease back into social gatherings. I am excited to be able to house you and your family when you return to campus in 2021. I could even put you back in your first room on campus 🙂 The college will be planning events and a ceremony that will be separate from the commencement of the Class of 2021. It will be a very special event, and we are excited to have you and your family back to campus, providing more closure to your incredible achievement. We’ve received feedback and ideas already from several seniors, and we will be continuing to evolve our plans over the next few months.


Students currently in housing have been sheltering in place and have not left campus. We will still have essential staff on campus to ensure students who remain have food, security, and other key services. President Anderson’s email announced that on-campus experiences will be limited this summer — classes are online, no on-campus research and/or work. We will offer summer housing to students who cannot travel home because of travel restrictions or have no other home. A housing application will be available May 1 for those students.


We will prepare for an online room draw that will occur after finals — likely the first week in June. You will receive more information after May 4 about the process. Between now and May 4 you should think about who you would like as roommate(s). The most important part of room draw is picking a compatible roommate(s); the other logistics of choosing a room we will figure out and communicate later.

I hope this email has answered many of your logistical questions. Offices all around campus are working hard to offer online experiences for you to engage in campus life. I hope this first week of online classes is going well. This is an odd “new-normal.” I miss seeing many of you on campus and hope you, your family, and friends are safe.

This is a work in progress. We have been able to see what has and has not worked at other campuses with a geographically diverse student body — this plan will still evolve in upcoming weeks.

As always, thank you for your patience.

– Pamela