Today, Lesley University announced plans for Fall 2020. In a message to the community, President Janet L. Steinmayer, emphasized the university’s commitment to protecting the health and safety of students, faculty and staff while continuing to deliver our innovative, human arts-focused programs in the most engaging and valuable way possible during the pandemic.
“In charting the course that we believe is the most appropriate one for Lesley University, we have consulted medical and public health experts and surveyed stakeholders across our diverse community on how the global COVID-19 pandemic is likely to impact us all in the coming months,” Steinmayer wrote. “We have listened closely to your voices and to those of our faculty and staff, and we have assessed the facts on the ground that are unique to our setting.”
Taking these factors into consideration, Lesley will employ a primarily online model for the fall semester, which begins Tuesday, Sept. 8, with most students attending classes online and learning virtually.
Out of an abundance of caution, all dormitories will remain closed through December, though housing at area hotels will be provided for those students who receive approval, namely student athletes, Threshold Program students, those with housing insecurities, and those whose coursework requires in-person contact and/or access to facilities.
The decision to keep dormitories closed and most classes virtual comes in light of a potential surge in coronavirus cases predicted this fall.
“As an urban university in a region that was one of the pandemic’s early hot spots, our decision to employ a hybrid, mostly virtual model for the fall reflects the sober, and perhaps likely, reality that the Boston metro area could experience another surge before winter,” Steinmayer wrote.
More than Zoom
Although most students will not spend time on campus in the fall, online courses will offer a rich, uniquely Lesley experience. In addition to more than two decades of remote learning experience — through low-residency graduate programs, bi-coastal education courses, and more — faculty and staff have further refined and improved our virtual academic experience this summer to reflect the lively, interactive and intimate classes that characterize the Lesley learning experience.
Lesley will also provide toolkits that include the hands-on materials and specialized software required for certain art and design courses, while our librarians will offer virtual research assistance and curbside pickup of some materials. Access to technology will also be provided for those without the resources to meet the needs of their coursework.
Outside of the virtual classroom, plans are in progress to offer extracurricular, community-building activities, such as conversations on race and justice, an all-community book read and ways to be civically engaged, in addition to student clubs, which will continue to meet.
Tuition and financial aid
On the financial front, Lesley is increasing aid and support for students, recognizing the economic hardship and uncertainty many families are experiencing due to the pandemic. As such, President Steinmayer announced that tuition grants will be given to all full-time traditional undergraduates and Threshold Program students to offset any increase to tuition for the 2020-21 academic year. Additionally, many fees associated with a physical presence on campus will be eliminated or reduced.
This announcement comes in addition to funds already distributed to students since the spring to alleviate financial difficulties. To date, the university has distributed almost $950,000 to 1,251 eligible students under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and awarded an additional $1.9 million in need-based aid in addition to merit awards. Our community has raised about $175,000 in funds to further assist students who may not have been eligible for CARES Act funds. Other unmet needs are also being reviewed.
Safely distancing together
Both the university and students who will have access to campus this fall will be required to follow health and safety guidelines established by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including wearing masks and being tested for the coronavirus and self-quarantining in the event of exposure to the disease. Each group on campus will interact only with the other people in their module. This policy includes student athletes, who will be allowed to practice on campus but will have no competitions this semester following the cancellation of all games and meets by the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC).
While President Steinmayer announced the framework for Fall 2020, she also said cautioned that plans for spring are still unknown, and she praised the community’s resilience and promised more updates in the near future.
“I am enormously proud of how the Lesley community has responded to the unprecedented disruptions we are all experiencing.”
See the full announcement at lesley.edu/plan.