March 25, 2020 at 11:16 a.m.
To St. Olaf College studentsFrom David R. Anderson, President Of The College
I am writing to you with a heavy heart to say that we will not be returning to on-campus learning this semester. Throughout the decision-making in our response to the pandemic, we have strived to preserve the possibility of returning to on-campus learning this spring while always keeping the safety of our students, staff, and faculty as our main priority. It is now apparent that it is no longer realistic to think we could safely resume life on campus this spring.
The rapid spread of the virus across the country, the numerous shelter in place orders in states and communities, and the thoughtful but stringent restrictions imposed by our governor here in Minnesota all testify to the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. Because our students come to us from everywhere, the likelihood is high that some of those who would return to campus might unknowingly carry the virus. We do not have the ability to effectively practice social distancing when the campus is full, nor do we have the ability to quarantine or self-isolate more than a few handfuls of students who contract the virus. This is an important step for us to take so that we do our part to slow the spread.
I am pained by the consequences of this decision for all of you but especially for the Class of 2020. It is unlikely that we will be hosting commencement at the end of May. The spring semester of your senior year is full of milestones, and the baccalaureate and the commencement ceremonies are the most meaningful. We will find a way to honor you and to celebrate with you and your families. I don’t know when or how, but I promise you that.
You will be hearing shortly from others at the College about details for claiming belongings you may have left on campus and other details. We will continue to house and feed those who for compelling reasons cannot return home.
I don’t want to end this message on a sad note. Your academic year is not over. Classes will resume online April 6 and so will the learning. You will be able to finish the semester, earn credits for your classwork, graduate if you are a senior, and advance towards your St. Olaf degree if you are not. Your College has been here for 145 years, and we are not going away. We will be here for you as soon as we can welcome you back. I am eager for that day.