Dear USF Community:
I am writing to share important updates and changes as a result of the spread of COVID-19. These changes affect all members of our community, and include details that impact our employees’ working arrangements, our students’ online instruction, our faculty’s teaching resources, our residential students’ on-campus living situations, as well as important travel information for everyone at USF. I urge you to reference the myUSF resource page for more detailed information.
We are taking these actions in support of the University of San Francisco’s commitment to protecting your health, safety, and well-being in accordance with our Jesuit mission, vision, and values. I realize that all of you (and your families) are dealing with anxiety, disruption, and uncertainty due to the spread of COVID-19. Please know that today — and in the days and weeks ahead — you and your loved ones are in my prayers.
As we navigate this challenging time together, I am grateful for your patience, understanding, and flexibility. Every member of our community has adjusted their schedules and changed their established practices as USF has shared news and announced changes. It is what members of this community do for each other.
We had hoped our intermediate steps would be sufficient, but it is clear that we need to take a next wave of actions to help slow the spread of COVID-19. These are very difficult actions to take, but we are asking individuals to make deep sacrifices for the good of those in our community who are most vulnerable to the threat of infection.
I am so grateful for the flexibility and understanding of students and their families during this time. I am also thankful for the dedication of faculty, staff, and administrators who are working around the clock to help our community adapt to, prepare for, and support our students and one another during this public health crisis. Even if we are not in the same geographic location, I hope you know that we are companions for one another at this moment and through all that lies ahead.
The Situation in San Francisco and the Bay Area
Although we have yet to have a confirmed case of coronavirus on campus, we have community members who have had exposure to the virus. Late yesterday afternoon, Mayor London Breed announced that there are 23 cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco, at least 117 cases and one death in the Bay Area, and an increasing number of assumed cases by community transmission. Mayor Breed also ordered a series of restrictions* to be put in place, and encouraged private organizations and institutions to consider how we can work actively to reduce the spread of this virus, limit day-to-day interaction and activities, and focus on providing essential services.
For the sake of our own community and our neighbors throughout the Bay Area, we must embrace the concept of social distancing and continue to work to minimize risk and exposure to our campus community.
Remote Instruction Extended Through the End of the Semester
In consultation with university leadership and deans, we have made the decision to extend our online instruction, which will begin March 18, through the end of the semester.
This was a very difficult decision, but we knew it was the best choice as we prioritize the health and safety of our students and our community. USF, of course, is not alone. We are joined by nearly 150 colleges and universities that have had to make difficult decisions when facing this unprecedented global crisis. We all wish we were not in this situation.
Students, faculty, and academic support staff are encouraged to review USF resources for how to keep teaching and learning through this crisis.
On-site experience or other experiential learning required for progression and graduation in programs such as nursing and education will continue and will follow CDC guidelines.
I trust that our students will continue to have transformative educational experiences as they connect with our talented, dedicated faculty online in the weeks ahead. Our professors and staff have stepped forward to prepare these courses, immersing themselves in trainings about online education and infusing that with the Jesuit, liberal arts approach we value. I’m so grateful to our staff and faculty who are committed to ensuring that our students have an outstanding educational experience.
We will only be able to provide on-campus undergraduate housing and dining for a very limited number of students — those who have no other option than to be here. We will prioritize international students who cannot go home; students who have known and severe health or safety risks; and students who currently are experiencing housing insecurity. Students will need to move out of their residence halls by March 21, 2020. Additional information, including about remaining in campus housing and exceptions to the move-out date, will be sent to all residential students on Monday, March 16, 2020. Please know that for those who remain on campus, there will be a number of actions taken to further reduce the risk of infection spread. For example, there may be no in-person programming for students; dining options will be limited; students may be asked to change residences; and students staying will be expected to remain on campus and not bring guests from off campus.
Remote Work for Employees
While we do not mandate telecommuting, we do want to increase the number of employees who are working remotely to the greatest extent possible, while doing so in a way that still supports the necessary operations of the university. Decisions about who can telecommute should be made in consultation with each dean, vice provost, or vice president (or their delegate) at the school or unit level. Please review the USF telecommuting and remote work policy.
Travel Guidelines and Quarantine
There have been significant developments in the global efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, including new local, state, and national health advisories regarding travel. As a result of the new advisories issued this week, USF has updated its travel guidance.
This is not the spring semester you — or any of us — imagined. This time of the year is typically packed with anticipated and treasured events and occasions, lectures and gatherings. It must be particularly difficult and sad for our students to be separated from our campus at this time. But I have faith that our students will stay in close communication with friends and mentors wherever they are.
At this time, I find myself reminded of how St. Ignatius and the early Jesuits talked about their communitas ad dispersionem — community in dispersion. In contrast with the older religious orders, who often lived, worked, and prayed together in a single monastery or convent, Jesuit communities spent much of their time scattered or dispersed in service to those in need. It wasn’t just that communities were dispersed; it was rather that the communities existed precisely to be scattered in this way.
While we may be scattered temporarily during this time of disruption, wherever they are living, working, and studying, the people of USF are strong, supportive, and members of one beloved community.
Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.
* Please note that the email of this message sent 3/14 had the incorrect link to the additional series of restrictions put in place by Mayor Breed on 3/13. This page contains the correct link.