President Iuliano and Provost Zappe updated seniors, juniors, and sophomores on tuition adjustments resulting from the de-densification plan, and listening sessions happening next week.
Dear Senior, Junior, and Sophomore Students,
Since our announcement on Friday, we have heard from students and parents alike expressing disappointment and frustration over our decision to de-densify the campus. Given the communications we have received, and the intensity of the feelings expressed, we want to take a moment to offer clarity as to why the decision was made and to offer our deep disappointment about the need to move away from a fully residential campus.
Let us be unequivocal: every decision we have made has been guided by our commitment to the community’s well-being and our students’ overall educational experience. From the outset, we have stressed that we would return and remain in residence only if it were responsible to do so. The implications of more than 60 positive cases, and more than 150 students in quarantine, in just one week—and less than three weeks into the semester—left us persuaded we needed to change paths.
We knew the decision would be unpopular. We knew it would be expensive for the College and, over the short-term, disruptive to our faculty, students, parents, and staff. We proceeded despite the significant emotional, organizational, and financial costs precisely because it was the most responsible decision available to us—one motivated exclusively by concern for the members of this community, as well as for our neighbors. We are not, have not, and will not compromise on those foundational commitments.
The necessity of the decision did not make it easier; it is clearly not the outcome we wanted. The College worked tirelessly over the summer, and extended significant resources, to make it possible for us to be together. There are no words to adequately express the profound sadness we felt in witnessing our students once again depart from the Gettysburg College campus. Likewise, there are no words for the sense of loss that accompanies such an abrupt separation from friends and classmates, particularly when we all believed this semester could be different. We want you here, and we know you want to be here.
Simply put, we know how disappointing this is—and we are truly sorry for the need to reduce our in-residence student population this fall.
We also recognize that the transition, mid-semester, is disruptive for you and your families, especially in these circumstances and especially after the need to move to remote education last spring. And we know that it has created unwelcome tension on campus, among students and with the College as a whole. That is not the mark of this community, who we are, or who we want to be. In recognition of this disruption, the College will issue a 10% tuition credit to the student account of all full-time students continuing with or transitioning to remote education for each semester of remote attendance during the current academic year. In addition, students who leave campus will be issued a credit to their student account for 80% of the semester cost of their College housing and meal plan. We take these steps because they are the right thing for us to do. For additional information about these decisions, please visit the website.
As painful as de-densifying the campus has been, Gettysburg has done so carefully and in consultation with our public health experts. Every student has tested negative once—some twice—in the past 10 days before they departed campus. Students who are in isolation because of a positive test, and students who are in quarantine because of a close contact with someone who has COVID-19, will complete their required time in isolation or quarantine before leaving. These students will only return home after thorough consultation between the College Health Center and their families. Out of an abundance of caution, and in recognition that we understand some students may have concerns about their exposure as they travel home, the College will issue a credit into student accounts to those students who are not accommodated in the residential cohort. The credit, totaling $100, can be used to cover the cost of additional testing, if desired, when the student returns home.
While we are acting quickly to relay these decisions to you, they will require time for the College to process. We appreciate your continued patience as we implement these decisions, and expect to have these credits applied to student accounts within 60 days.
Our decision to retain the first-year cohort
Finally, we have heard from many of you and your parents seeking additional insights, and in cases expressing disagreement, about the factors that informed our decision regarding who would remain on campus this fall. In short, we were guided exclusively by academic considerations. More so than our upperclass students, first-year students, especially in the fall, share a number of common courses, including our First-Year Seminar program; the overlapping nature of their courses facilitates teaching them in residence. Even more meaningful was the nature of the transition from high school to college, when workload and expectations increase substantially. Having first-year students on campus, with the direct ability to engage with our faculty and other on-campus resources, promises to give them the tools to navigate this transition to college successfully. While our upperclass students would also materially benefit from being on campus, they have had a fuller opportunity to acquire the necessary skills to navigate college, including through remote learning.
The fact that we could not accommodate the entire student body was inherently challenging; and, again, we understood that many students not selected to remain on campus would understandably be upset. When forced to make these difficult choices, we relied on principled, mission-based factors to guide us.
It is important to underscore that the decision we made speaks only to the fall semester; if we are forced to be partially remote next semester—and we hope that is not necessary—the impact on class years and cohorts will inevitably be different and those different considerations will inform our decisions. As we look ahead to the spring, informed by the lessons of the fall, we commit to keeping you informed of our plans as they develop.
In an effort to hear what’s on your mind and move forward together, President Iuliano will host listening sessions with students in the coming weeks. The sessions will be limited to a small group of students to allow for productive and honest conversation. We will continue to schedule sessions as long as there is interest from the students. Please email Pam Eisenhart at email@example.com ranking your available dates and times in order of preference.
Wednesday, 9/16: 3:00 - 3:45 p.m.
Friday, 9/18: 12:30 - 1:15 p.m., 2:00 - 2:45 p.m., 3:30 - 4:15 p.m.
Monday, 9/21: 5:00 - 5:45 p.m.
Wednesday, 9/23: 4:00 - 4:45 p.m.
Let us close by again acknowledging the disappointment many of you feel as a result of the extraordinarily difficult choices we have been forced to make. We promise to work as hard as possible, this fall and thereafter, to make every student’s experience as vibrant and engaging as possible.
If you have additional questions, please contact the College phone bank today from 11:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. at 717-337-8800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christopher J. Zappe