JAN. 21, 2021: Dr. McPhee gives update on Spring semester

As we approach the start of a new academic term, allow me to express my hope that you had a restful and joyful holiday with family and friends. I also hope that you share my sense of excitement and anticipation as we return to our campus community and begin our spring semester on Monday, Jan. 25.

While the campus may have appeared quiet for those of you living in the area, let me assure you that there was considerable activity as we finalized our plans to resume classes. Our faculty and administration utilized the December down time to reflect on the lessons we learned last year, as we dealt with the issues created by the pandemic. Today, I am confident we are much better prepared to meet your needs and expectations.

I am pleased to inform you that we will open next week with a similar mix of on-ground and online courses as we had in the fall.  We are not transitioning to all online. That’s not to say the coronavirus is no longer a concern or that there won’t be challenges ahead. But, as I have seen myself, you have an incredible ability to adapt, persevere and thrive – even in the face of adversity. Those traits will serve you well, not only in school, but in life. By working together, having a sense of empathy and compassion and building on our shared commitment to the success of every student, I am confident you will succeed this spring.

With infection levels remaining high in many parts of the country, we cannot let down our guard or be less diligent in our activities. Doing so could mean that we would have to pivot our efforts to an all-online offering, a situation we hope to avoid. Accordingly, there will be precautions and mitigation strategies that we must follow if we are to maintain our on-ground educational offerings. We need the commitment of every member of our Blue Raider community to help us avoid a spike in COVID-19 cases, and I expect that we all abide by all the requirements outlined in our Return to Campus Playbooks. The playbook with student information can be found here, while the faculty and staff playbook can be found here.

As we have heard from the beginning of this health crisis, there are some simple, but highly effective, steps that have proven to limit the spread of the virus. The most effective means of stopping the spread of COVID-19 are wearing a mask; frequent hand washing (or use of hand sanitizer if you do not have access to soap and water); and maintaining six feet of separation from others.

Our policy requires that masks be worn in all campus buildings and are strongly recommended for wearing while outdoors – especially if you cannot maintain social distancing. If you need a mask, you can pick one up for free, starting Monday, at the MT One Stop desk on the second floor of the Student Services and Admissions Center and at the reception desk on the first floor of the Student Union Building. We will also have personal-sized bottles of hand sanitizer available as well. The masks and hand sanitizer are available while supplies last.

Additionally, in an effort to mitigate potential spread of the coronavirus as students return to the campus, I am asking students, faculty and staff NOT to plan for any face-to-face extracurricular activities until at least Feb. 8. While we encourage a variety of virtual activities to begin the new term, we ask that students not plan to hold student organization meetings or group activities of any sort during this period. We will reevaluate the safety of face-to-face extracurricular activities prior to Feb. 8.

Similarly, we will plan for all on-campus meal service to be offered “to-go” only and will hold off on allowing students and other patrons to eat in our dining venues until at least Feb. 8.

Should you require medical attention, our Student Health Center is open and available to assist you with COVID testing and any other health related needs. Please check their website for information about testing and appointments

It is my hope that with the arrival of an effective vaccine, we will begin to see a slowed, but noticeable stabilization of infection levels across our community and that we can carefully begin to ease some of our restrictions as the semester progresses. We understand the challenges the virus has created, both in and out of the classroom, and we are making every effort to provide you with the best educational experience possible. 

I am excited and eager to welcome everyone back to campus next week for the beginning of the Spring semester, and I look forward to a productive year ahead.

Sidney A. McPhee