Certainly, as we have come to recognize over the past several weeks, no predictive muse has come forth to guide America’s colleges and universities in determining calendars and actions that can move our institutions forward with certainty. Each campus is making the best “real-time” decisions it can with imperfect and often changing data, and many audiences understandably are seeking attention and answers. One thing that has become clear since the March 27th announcement of the potential for a May on-campus “capstone” and a May 30th Commencement is that this scenario will not be realized.
Without a doubt, the Federal extension of the national health emergency to 30 days (on March 29) and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Stay at Home order that will take effect at midnight assures that an on-campus option associated with the Spring semester will not be possible. Our very mission and profile, however, demands that we do undertake a focused approach to closing out the academic year virtually. Next week, the Senior Staff and I will meet to discuss the best means for achieving this within the academic calendar.
We know that this decision will disappoint many students. The reality is that as eager as the community is to reunite on campus, stemming the spread of the pandemic and the sustained health and safety of every member of our community are paramount.
The national scenario in which we find ourselves was unimaginable one month ago. Certainly, the public health and economic news before us for at least the next month is not promising. Even so, Beacon has adjusted to a remote work environment to plan carefully for the short- and long-term future. As both families and businesses are confronting cost-cutting measures to regain footing after the emergency passes, so too has Beacon.
Today, the College announced several essential economies to ensure the community continues its positive trajectory once our students return for the Fall semester. This meant reducing College operating expenses and service contracts as well as personnel adjustments. In this regard, 26 staffers were furloughed (but will continue with their benefits), and the remaining 108 faculty and staff will endure salary decreases of 5 percent to 20 percent, based on income level. These actions — as sad as they are to implement — will assure the College can weather the difficult days ahead. Our forecasting has been conservative; we anticipate no further cost-cutting actions.
Some families have contact us regarding the prospect of room and board rebates during the emergency period. While the College fully expects to provide such an adjustment, myriad factors will determine how we proceed — forthcoming Federal guidance chief among these factors. This is not a delay, but a request for understanding.
We also understandably have received many inquiries regarding the timing of a return to campus to retrieve personal belongings, including vehicles, and vacate residences. As you can appreciate, the College is not in a position under the current circumstances to address the timeline for these activities.
Finally, the College’s revamped COVID-19 Information Center launched this afternoon. This site serves as the clearinghouse for the latest information about how Beacon is managing the evolving pandemic: https://www.beaconcollege.edu/covid-19-information-center/
At a moment of increasing hardship for all of us and our neighbors, and in a world in which you can be anything, be kind. We will all get through this together. Beacon Strong!