Update from Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett on Campus Planning Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic
March 12, 2020
Our world is now confronted with a rapidly changing and unprecedented global emergency. This is not the experience that anyone wanted for this semester, and our hearts go out to all of you at this difficult moment. We are also enormously grateful to every member of the Penn community for your partnership and your patience. We are all in this together, and we cannot do it without you.
We are deeply committed to the safety and health of our students, faculty, postdocs, staff, patients and visitors. That is why we announced our intentions yesterday to move as many people as possible off campus as quickly as possible and to complete the semester with virtual classes.
This is no small undertaking, with thousands of variables. We know that these changes are extremely disruptive. Yet we must do our part, in this worldwide emergency, to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
Amid the turmoil of this change, please know that we will work with you to make this transition as smooth as possible under the circumstances. The situation is fluid, so we don’t have all the answers, and some of the answers may change as the situation changes. We ask for your patience and are committed to keeping you consistently updated throughout the process.
Below are some key questions and answers that we hope will help clarify where things stand. Of important note, we are moving the deadline for Move-Out from Sunday, March 15th, to Tuesday, March 17th. We also encourage you to check for updates on our central university website, which has a FAQ that will be updated regularly: https://coronavirus.upenn.edu/students-families/student-faq
What is the deadline to move out of University housing?
While we originally announced Sunday, March 15th, we have now extended that deadline to Tuesday, March 17th at 8 p.m.
Why are you moving students out of their rooms and off campus so quickly?
The COVID-19 virus is readily spread through close human contact, which is a fact of life in a university environment, whether in classrooms, dining halls or at University events. Eliminating large gatherings and creating social distancing are important steps to help prevent the spread of the virus. To achieve this, we want as few people on campus as possible. The risk of keeping people on campus in close quarters is far greater than sending them home.
Will I be able to graduate?
Absolutely yes. Classes and examinations will move to a virtual platform effective March 23rd. If you expect to graduate this year, provided you complete and pass your coursework as you would under normal circumstances, it will have no impact on your graduation date. Details on class instruction will be provided to students directly by the respective Schools.
Will there be Commencement?
As of this date, it is impossible to know whether we will be able to hold Commencement this year, which is currently scheduled for Monday, May 18th, 2020 at Franklin Field. As soon as we are able to make that determination we will advise the Penn community.
I went out of town for Spring Break and I want to get belongings out of my room. What should I do?
Students living in University housing who are currently out of town should not return to campus. Penn Residential Services, working with the Division of Public Safety, the College Houses, Greek and other University housing, will secure your belongings until it becomes safe for you to return to campus to retrieve them.
We recognize that there may be items of particular importance to you (e.g. laptops, course materials and personal effects). If you have a genuine emergency that requires access to your room, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following in the subject line: Retrieval followed by the name of the College House (for example, Retrieval Lauder College House) in which you are living and include an explanation of the item you require and the extenuating circumstances.
Please note that the University’s security policies do not allow parents, family or friends to enter the College Houses without the student.
I didn’t leave for Spring Break and am currently in University housing. What must I do?
If you remained on campus during Spring Break, you are required to Move-Out of your College House, Samson Place or Greek housing by 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 17th. Residential Services staff will be available to assist with check out, provide carts and answer questions about other moving related needs. Parents, friends, guests and others may assist you during Move-Out but you will need to be available to sign them into your College House. After 8 p.m. on Tuesday, you will no longer be able to access your room and your residential building. Additional information about the Move-Out process will be available at your College House Information Center.
It is impossible for me to return home at this time. What can I do?
We understand that some of you are unable to travel home for personal reasons or because you live in an area that is under travel restrictions. With that in mind, we are requiring anyone who feels they need to remain in University housing for the rest of the semester to fill out a short application. You can access the application at www.upenn.edu/rhsportal. You must complete the form by noon on March 14th. We will respond to your request within 24 hours.
If you are approved to remain on campus, Residential Services will provide you with additional information relative to the operation of the College Houses during this period. Security will remain in place and dining facilities will remain open, but on a more limited basis.
I’m an international student. What should I do?
International students from Level 3 countries who are living in University housing will be permitted to stay on campus. All other international students living in University housing must plan to return home unless there are special circumstances that necessitate that they remain on campus. All students requesting permission to remain in University housing must fill out the application. Please know that International Student and Scholar Services is here to assist you. Contact https://global.upenn.edu/isss.
Will I get a refund on my housing or dining fees?
With respect to a refund of University College House housing and dining fees paid this semester, the University expects to issue a pro rata refund or offer a credit for future housing or dining meal plan. An application process will be announced later this semester. We appreciate your patience as we develop the process and guidelines.
I am a graduate student. How will I complete my labs?
Guidance on completion of labs and other non-classroom academic activities for graduate and professional students will be provided by each school. PhD students who are on dissertation status or have completed their coursework are being advised separately in consultation with their graduate deans and the Vice Provost for Education, as we recognize individual research is different from classroom education.
Will support services still be available?
Student support services such as CAPS will continue to be open for students on campus, and those off campus will be able to utilize virtual tools to maintain a continuum of care. Please contact CAPS by phone at 215-898-7021.
For students living on campus, will dining be available?
Limited dining options will be open for the remainder of the semester. For more information see https://cms.business-services.upenn.edu/dining/.
I am a student receiving financial aid. How do I manage this financially?
We know this transition is all the more challenging for many of our Penn First Plus students. Please be assured that the University will help you through this difficult time. There are answers to many of the questions around financial support and contact information at the Student FAQ under the heading of Finance/Financial Aid/Work-Study. The FAQ can be found at https://coronavirus.upenn.edu/students-families/student-faq.
We know that these are just some of the questions that may have come up since yesterday’s announcement. There will be many more. Penn’s faculty and staff are working diligently to address the many issues involved in this transition.We will continue to keep you updated as new information is available and urge you to check back to the coronavirus website regularly at https://coronavirus.upenn.edu.
Please keep in mind that the steps we are taking are for the fullest protection of the health and safety of the entire Penn community. We enormously appreciate your cooperation and goodwill as we continue to do everything we can to ensure the well-being of the Penn community.