March 23, 2020
Dear Members of the Villanova Community,
Although I have several updates and announcements to share with you, I want to start by saying that you and your families and friends have continually been in my thoughts and prayers. My hope is that you are taking care of yourselves, physically, mentally and spiritually.
No one has been left untouched by COVID-19, and it is important—maybe more than ever—that we are here for one another. This past week has had an impact on us all, and I am grateful for everyone’s care, concern and flexibility. We have successfully moved classes online and are continuing to provide a Villanova education. While the transition wasn’t without its challenges, it highlights how Villanovans step up in times of trial. I continue to be inspired by the kindness of our community; grateful for the devotion of our faculty and staff and the perseverance of our students; and awed by the selfless efforts of everyone to keep Villanova moving forward.
The situation surrounding the COVID-19 virus in our country has continued to escalate, and, as promised, we have closely monitored the advice of experts. I was hopeful that some of the difficult decisions shared below would not be necessary, but, like all of you, I have watched the additional precautionary measures being taken by government, business, institutions and individuals to safeguard our country and communities. Given recent developments, it became clear that we cannot return to our normal routine as quickly as we all had hoped. Therefore, I feel it is best for our community that we take the following actions:
CLASSES and RESEARCH
- Classes will remain online for the rest of the spring semester. Given the most recent updates from health experts, it is no longer advisable or safe for students to return to campus as I had hoped. The Bursar’s Office will be providing information regarding prorated refunds and credits for dining and housing. If you left any belongings in your residence halls, we will continue to safely store your items. The Office of Student Life will reach out soon with details regarding retrieval.
- Faculty items related to teaching and research will be addressed in a separate communication from the Provost. In that communication, Provost Maggitti will address numerous questions and open issues specific to faculty.
EVENTS and COMMENCEMENT
- All events on campus are canceled for the spring semester. This does not include small internal meetings, during which social distancing guidelines should be followed. However, this cancelation does include Reunion 2020, which will likely be combined with Homecoming Weekend in October. The Office of University Advancement will be in contact soon to provide additional information.
- I know this is particularly difficult for our graduating seniors and their families to hear, but Commencement cannot take place as originally planned. I promise you that on May 15, 2020, the day of your scheduled Commencement, I will confer your degrees via a live-streamed event. When it is safe to gather, we will honor you in person at Villanova. We are currently exploring dates and will share details with you as soon as the plans are finalized.
FACULTY and STAFF
- All employees, including graduate assistants, who can work remotely should continue to do so; employees who cannot work remotely should continue to check with their supervisor. Our full-time and part-time faculty and staff will receive their normal compensation and benefits for the foreseeable future. While we cannot predict the length of the current crisis or its economic ramifications, there may come a time when we need to reassess, but it is our hope—and plan—to weather this crisis together as a community.
- The Office of Human Resources will send another communication soon with additional information for student, contract, temporary and casual employees.
- For the time being, I am implementing a temporary hiring freeze. All verbal offers that have been extended will be honored. Beyond this, if you have urgent personnel needs, please contact your Dean or Vice President.
STUDENTS ON CAMPUS
- This weekend, the Governor of Pennsylvania ordered the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses. Let me assure you that the small number of students who remain on campus will be supported for as long as they are with us.
Amid this unpleasant news, there are some bright spots. I have heard from numerous faculty members stating that “you can teach an old dog new tricks,” as many have embraced online instruction. The Career Center staff is available to assist students and alumni with their employment needs. This is true for all of the support offices on campus, whether it’s Learning Support Services, the Student Health Center, Student Life, Campus Ministry or the Counseling Center—our staff is available and ready to help. I also appreciate the staff members from Dining Services, Facilities Management, the Student Health Center, Public Safety and others who have continued to report to the campus to serve the vital needs of our remaining students. And, thank you for the countless notes from people sending prayers for our community. Please know how grateful I am to everyone for making the best out of a very stressful situation.
I am truly sorry that it has come to this point. Never could I have imagined the far-reaching and lasting impact COVID-19 would have. If anything, this whole situation is a good reminder for all of us. Going forward, let’s not take for granted the simple joy of an uneventful day or daily routines. Let us hope that we will soon be able to resume our normal activities. And let us come back stronger and more determined to live out our Augustinian values of VERITAS, UNITAS, CARITAS in everything we do. Throughout our history, Villanova has pulled through many difficult times, and we will do the same again.
Let’s continue to be there for one another. Everyone is experiencing this—the anxiety, the uncertainty, the stress. Let’s make sure we are checking in on one another, helping those most vulnerable find resources—both physical and mental—and let us remember we are not alone. We are in this together, and together we will get through it. As Augustine reminds us:
Let’s not allow past things to hold us back from hearing about what lies ahead; let’s not allow our involvement in present events to prevent us from thinking about the future. Let us look forward to the things that are to come. Don’t let the sweetness or bitterness of the past hide the word of God from you. Don’t let your past or present prevent you from looking to the future. (Commentary on Psalm 66, 10)
Finally, a good friend shared a song with me by Forest Blakk and I want to share it with you.
If you need me or anyone at Villanova, please put your hand up, we will be there! And please continue to visit our website for updates regarding Villanova operations impacted by the coronavirus.
May God protect you and your families,
Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA