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COVID 19: Spring Semester Information to Students – A Message from President Clark

Office of the President
Thursday 1/21/2021

Subject: Spring Semester Information – A Message from President Clark

 

Dear students and families,

Happy New Year! All of us at BSU are eagerly awaiting your return for the start of Spring semester classes on Wednesday, January 27. As I have said so many times before, I am very proud of our students. Overwhelmingly, you demonstrated tremendous responsibility in adhering to our public health standards, including maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks/face coverings and avoiding large scale social gatherings. As a result, BSU was able to complete what was admittedly a challenging Fall 2020 semester without interruption.

Since I communicated our Spring plans with you at the end of October, there have been some changes that I wanted to bring to your attention. These changes were made both in response to your helpful input about how we could improve your experience this upcoming semester and to further enhance the health and safety of our campus community. Here are a few important updates:

Academic Experience

As we previously announced for the Spring, most classes at BSU will continue to be held remotely, while science labs, studio and performing arts, and selected seminar and capstone courses will blend on-line and in-person instruction. For this semester, however, we have significantly increased the number of synchronous classes that more closely replicate an in-person classroom experience to about 80 percent of all online classes. Synchronous classes more closely replicate an in-person classroom experience with faculty and students being together at the same time via Zoom or other platforms. We are committed to delivering the courses in the modality, either asynchronous or synchronous, identified at the time of registration, throughout the semester.

In response to student suggestions, BSU is also expanding the hours at Maxwell Library, which will now be open Monday-Thursday from 8:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. and Friday from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

More than 700 students participated in our end-of-semester survey. From your comments and input, it is clear that many students are not utilizing the many services and resources we have available to support you academically. The Academic Achievement Center is continuing to provide a full range of academic support services. You can contact the Academic Achievement Center at academicachievement@bridgew.edu and you also can access specific resources by contacting:

For a broader range of university services available to students, please visit our resource portal focused on online student success. You are not alone during this challenging time, and we are here to help you.

Student Wellness

We know from the survey and conversations with students that the pandemic has created high levels of anxiety and stress. BSU has a wide range of mental health and counseling services available to students. Last semester, the Wellness Center launched Together All, a virtual peer-to-peer mental and wellbeing support service. We also offer WellTrack, a self-guided and interactive tool for helping you understand your feelings of stress, anxiety and/or depression and teach you techniques to minimize these feelings. Please visit the Wellness Center Counseling Services site for information on accessing TogetherAll and WellTrack.

Student Financial Assistance

We know that the pandemic is continuing to impose severe financial strains on many of our students and their families. For that reason, BSU disbursed approximately $4.5 million in emergency support to students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Thanks to new funding from a second round of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, BSU will again have significant student emergency resources to provide to students throughout 2021.

I am pleased to announce that BSU will increase student emergency funding by 35% by allocating $6 million in new COVID-19 related student emergency funds and student support this calendar year.

Residence Halls

Approximately 1,200 students are planning to live on campus this semester, similar to the number of students who were residing in our residence halls at the close of the Fall 2020 semester. Students living on campus have shared that they find it easier to concentrate on their studies, access resources, keep in touch with friends and participate in activities by living on campus.

The residence halls will officially open for move-in beginning on Saturday, January 23, and continuing through Tuesday, January 26. Residence Life and Housing is ready to welcome back to campus any students who either deferred their housing deposit until Spring 2021 or did not deposit for housing at all because of concerns pertaining to the pandemic. If you have any questions about living on campus, or would like to live on campus at any time during the spring semester, please feel free to contact Residence Life and Housing at ResLife@bridgew.edu or 508-531-1277.

Dining

Following student input from the Student Government Association, the Residence Halls Association and an ad hoc student dining planning committee, Bridgewater Dining will provide services in the Bear’s Den and East Campus Commons based on current service schedules for the entirety of the Spring semester 2021. Starbucks will remain open in Crimson Dining. In addition to the very popular Bear Bites food truck, which was launched towards the end of the Fall semester, BSU will be the first college in New England to offer a new robot food delivery option beginning next week.

Events

BSU is working with student organizations to offer a variety of student programs. As a result of ongoing public health restrictions, the university will continue to emphasize virtual programming with limited, on-campus, in-person meetings/events. Strict physical distancing and state gathering guidelines currently limit the size of any indoor gatherings to a maximum of 10 persons and outdoor gatherings to 25 persons. Further, BSU will be unable to permit any off-campus organizations from holding events on campus until further notice.

Student organizations will need to seek approval for any in-person meetings or activities by initially submitting an event plan to the Center for Student Engagement. Students should also consult the list of specific requirements and activity limitations that are in place for current operations.

BSU will continue to keep student organizations and the campus informed as state guidelines evolve and we are able to expand in-person, on-campus gatherings.

COVID-19 Testing & Contact Tracing

BSU will provide enhanced surveillance testing through its partnership with the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology throughout the Spring semester under guidance of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

All residential students will be tested at the time they move into their residence hall and will be tested every week thereafter; and, all students coming to campus for classes or for use of campus resources are being strongly encouraged to test at least every other week. BSU has increased the number of COVID-19 tests we will provide to the campus community accordingly. All residential students and students taking in-person classes will be regularly invited to testing appointments. All asymptomatic employees of BSU are also eligible to voluntarily participate in testing. There is no cost for testing for members of the BSU community.

Last semester, BSU administered 18,842 tests (with only 177 positives, a positive rate of 0.94%), and plans to administer approximately 22,000 tests in the Spring of 2021. COVID-19 testing results are published weekly on Thursday and viewable at the COVID Dashboard.

Our Broad Institute partnership has been very successful, and the rapid turnaround of test results within 24 hours or less has allowed BSU to react quickly in isolating students with a positive result and quarantining any potentially affected members of the BSU community.

BSU implemented a very robust contact tracing process in the Fall semester, which proved effective in identifying and rapidly quarantining students and other members of the BSU community who came in contact with persons who tested positive. We strongly encourage all members of the BSU community to utilize SafeScan on the BSU Mobile App. QR codes have been generated for approximately 500 locations across campus. These codes can be scanned through the BSU Mobile App; the more frequently students and other members of the community scan, the more impactful our contact tracing will be.

Personal Responsibility

Our students have done well in following important health protocols. In the final months of the pandemic, we must remain vigilant by continuing to follow basic public health rules, including:

  • Following BSU’s Bear Paw Pact (pdf)
  • Staying home when you are sick
  • Maintaining physical distancing of six feet
  • Wearing masks or face coverings at all times except when in residence hall rooms or eating in one of our dining halls
  • Limiting the size of any social gatherings (based on state mandates)
  • Participating in regular COVID-19 testing (for residence hall students and those in hybrid classes); and
  • Assisting with COVID-19 contact tracing procedures

Looking Ahead to the Fall 2021 Semester

As a result of the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, I am very optimistic that Massachusetts will get control of the COVID-19 virus this year. Subject to state guidelines, BSU is planning to return to delivering courses primarily in-person starting with the Fall 2021 semester. In pursuing the goal of having the majority of our on-campus experiences returning in the Fall, BSU remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the health and safety of all members of its campus community. Importantly, BSU will continue to monitor public health guidance at the state and federal levels through its Fall return planning effort.

We are reconvening the BSU Safe Return Task Force, under the leadership of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Karim Ismaili, to make recommendations and begin planning for the Fall semester. At this time, we anticipate BSU returning to (essentially) pre-COVID operations with some continued public health restrictions (e.g., maintaining some level of physical distancing and wearing masks in public).

We will update the campus in regard to our planning efforts throughout the Spring semester. In the meantime, please continue to check the COVID-19 website for new information.

Finally, I want to again express my gratitude to our BSU students and families. The pandemic has turned your college experience upside down, but you have remained undeterred. The strength, resilience, courage, determination and pride that our campus community has exhibited over the past year is truly inspirational. In the face of unprecedented obstacles, our students are moving forward and reaching higher to achieve success. That remarkable BSU spirit continues to motivate all of us as we say in one voice, “We’ve Got This!”

 

Warmest regards,

Fred Clark
Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.
President