Dear F&M Community,
Following a great deal of thoughtful consideration, debate, collaborative planning, and creative problem-solving, and in accordance with state and federal guidelines, we are pleased to share with you our intention to reopen the Franklin & Marshall College campus for residential learning in the fall. We will use a blended model of in-person and online instruction with an emphasis on our community’s health, our close mentoring approach, and the need for flexibility and equity, while observing current and evolving guidelines from federal, state, and local public health officials.
This decision follows months of intensive strategizing and planning across the College and was endorsed by the Board of Trustees. To enlist expert and community guidance in this work, we engaged higher education consultants Keeling and Associates (K&A); formed a Board of Trustees task force and multiple working groups and committees to consider specific issues and develop solutions; and charged the ReOpening Operations Team (ROOT) with integrating these college-wide efforts into a single, comprehensive plan. I thank everyone involved for their diligent and collaborative work to bring us to this point, and for their commitment to the extensive work still to be done. Thank you also to the many students, professional staff, faculty, parents, alumni, and friends of the College who have offered their consultation, wisdom, time, and energy to this crucial first phase of planning.
As we considered the multifaceted issues and explored the right course of action for F&M, what emerged was our community’s shared determination to be creative and adaptive in delivering our educational mission, while also being attentive to the health and well-being of our campus community members and Lancaster neighbors.
Although we have shown that F&M can adopt new modes to deliver our curriculum, we are, at our heart, a community that thrives in a residential environment. This is a pivotal moment in our history. Now more than ever, we need students across the globe working collaboratively with each other and with faculty to sharpen their minds, find their voices, raise their games, and broaden their worldviews. At the same time, to stay true to our mission, we also have an obligation to create spaces and experiences for learning and connecting in ways that prioritize health and safety.
Health and Safety First
Right now, under current guidelines and recommendations, an on-campus experience is possible for us, but only if we are willing to recalibrate expectations, make modifications, and abide by new regulations. We cannot ensure the prevention of COVID-19 cases on our campus, but we can all try to mitigate the risk of transmission through careful planning and shared responsibility.
As a community, we will pledge to follow protocols and guidelines that reflect our commitment to the health and safety of our fellow Diplomats – and of our neighbors in Lancaster – and our shared belief that we live, learn, work, study, and play best when we’re together. Nonetheless, much may change between now and the start of the semester. As we move forward with our planning for in-person instruction, we also continue to examine the risks of returning to campus and monitor the spread of COVID-19 locally and nationally.
We aim to be on campus from the beginning of classes on August 26 until we close on November 20 for Thanksgiving break. Nevertheless, we may need, at any given moment, to modify our approach or reverse our decision to reopen campus if factors outside of our control require it. Should the campus need to close, F&M will be ready with a safe and orderly process for a return to remote instruction.
Flexibility and Equity
Flexibility and equity are essential elements of F&M’s plan to return to campus. Students will have the choice of whether or not to return to campus. We also will provide flexibility where possible for faculty and professional staff, recognizing that we do need certain employees on campus to support a residential learning experience. In making decisions, we will take into account the needs of the many different populations on campus, integrate those needs into our planning, and remain ever-attentive to considerations of equity and inclusion in a hybrid model of education.
Students and families, as you review what has been decided thus far and contemplate what will be required of us all to make this plan work, I invite you to consider seriously whether returning to campus is right for you. As we all know, COVID-19 is a highly transmissible disease that may be dormant or present asymptomatically. In these circumstances, F&M cannot and does not guarantee a COVID-19-free environment on our campus. If you choose to return to campus, you are understanding and accepting of this reality.
Returning to campus should not be a given, but a decision you make in partnership with your family and primary health care provider, based on your own health and judgment of the risks, your willingness to pledge your commitment to the health protocols in place for the safety of our community, and your capacity and preparedness to adapt quickly to shifting circumstances and regulations, which may include the need for a rapid closure and departure from campus.
For those who decide to continue remote learning during the fall semester, a full slate of course offerings will be available, and courses will include significant online, personalized interaction, collaboration, and mentoring with faculty and peers. The cost of tuition will be the same whether you study in person on campus or online, but of course, there will be no room and board fees for those who attend remotely. The “J-term,” or January term, will be entirely online, and there will be no additional cost for students who choose to take a course during that term. It will be an excellent opportunity to get ahead or catch up by a course, or to try a course in a new discipline.
F&M will conduct a brief survey of incoming and returning students about their intentions for the fall. Survey input will help the College prepare to welcome those students who are able and choose to return to campus.
Fall 2020 Plan Website
To ensure you have the latest information, we have developed the first phase of what will become a comprehensive Fall 2020 Plan website. Here you will find a preliminary summary of the protocols and plans we are implementing to enable all those who desire or need to be on campus in the fall to do so safely. As we find solutions and finalize decisions for a return to campus, we will continue to update and expand this site. I encourage you to bookmark the link and check back frequently.
We will not have immediate answers to every question, and I appreciate your patience and generosity of spirit as we work hard to refine the details and provide updates over time. More information will follow in community emails, website updates, and town hall meetings. We soon will provide details on topics including health protocols, return-to-campus procedures, athletics, campus events, college travel, housing, dining, club and extracurricular activities, student employment, a commitment to being good neighbors in the Lancaster community, and much more.
With this in mind, if you have a question or comment not currently answered on the website, I invite you to submit them here using the Fall 2020 Plan Question and Comment Form.
There is much still to be decided, but with a lot of hard work and planning, and a shared commitment to the well-being of others, we will do this well. Time and again, this community demonstrates an intrepid spirit. We will put our unflagging determination, resourcefulness, and creativity to work as we prepare for an exceptional and individualized learning experience in the fall.
I look forward to sharing more information with you as our plans evolve and we continue to monitor the changing landscape. To offer further details and hear your feedback in real time, we will be hosting a series of webinars, the dates and times of which are listed here on our site. Log-in information for each webinar will follow via email. I invite you to submit questions in advance using the Fall 2020 Form.
Thank you for your patience, flexibility, and understanding through what has been, and will continue to be, a period of great uncertainty. I ask that you take that same approach as we prepare together, and move forward into what we hope will be a safe and richly experiential fall term on campus.
With warm wishes from Lancaster,
Barbara K. Altmann, Ph.D.
Professor of French
Franklin & Marshall College