New Policies Governing Visitors, Campus Events and Travel: March 12, 2020

To: The W&L Community
From: Sidney Evans, Marc Conner and Mary Main

Yesterday we wrote regarding W&L's current plan for Winter and Spring Term. Like colleges across the country, W&L is consulting with regional and national public health experts and making difficult decisions in the interest of our community. There continue to be no reported cases of COVID-19 on our campus or in Rockbridge County. Based on current guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, we believe attempting to finish Winter Term classes on campus remains the best course of action.

All of our decisions are guided by our two primary commitments: the safety of our community and the education of our students. At this time, we believe these commitments are mutually compatible.

While current guidance suggests that COVID-19 is likely to result in a mild rather than severe or life-threatening illness for most of our students, faculty and staff, there are those among us, as well as in the greater Lexington and Rockbridge community, for whom this disease presents a grave concern. That group includes individuals over 60 and those with weakened immune systems or serious underlying health conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease.

We must work together to protect the health of our community and increase the likelihood that our students may safely finish their Winter Term courses. To that end, we write with several policy updates that will take effect this weekend and remain in effect through the end of Winter Term, unless circumstances change. The purpose of these policies is to stem the spread of the COVID-19 to the extent possible by limiting our community's contact with individuals who may have been exposed to the virus and with those who are at the highest risk from exposure:

Effective 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 14, through Saturday, April 18:

  • All university facilities will be closed to the public. No visitors or guests will be permitted in academic buildings, athletic facilities, libraries, museums, student residences or dining facilities.
  • All campus events featuring external speakers or visitors are canceled.
  • All events for prospective students and families, including admission visits, tours, information sessions and admitted student days, are canceled.
  • Large gatherings of over 100 people, including Fancy Dress, the Equality Gala and the Barristers' Ball, are canceled.
  • All athletic competitions are canceled.
  • All university travel must be approved by the appropriate dean or vice president, who will determine whether it is essential.
  • All Spring Term Abroad classes are canceled. Spring Term courses involving domestic travel are still being examined, and any changes will be conveyed to enrolled students via their faculty member.
  • Community-based courses and programs will be evaluated by our staff and community partners to determine how to proceed in the best interests of both our students and those they serve.
  • Dining Services will transition to food served exclusively by Dining Services employees, which is possible in all facilities except sorority dining. Self-serve stations with shared utensils will no longer be available in the Marketplace, Café 77, E Café, Foodside/Fireside and the Tea House. Fraternity dining staff will be asked to make the same changes. Sorority dining is suspended during this period, and Dining Services will be in touch with affected students with further information.

Personal Travel

We understand that many of you have plans for personal travel that you are reluctant to reschedule. We strongly advise you to carefully consider any upcoming travel in light of the most recent guidance from public health professionals and regional travel restrictions. If you plan to visit a part of the country where there has been widespread community transmission of COVID-19, you run the risk not only of coming into contact with the virus, but of being unable to return to campus should national or state officials decide that your return is prohibited or inadvisable. If your plans include attendance at an event that involves large crowds of people or contained environments, including cruise ships, you increase the risk to yourself of community transmission. We urge you to consider the advisability of these plans, think about the well-being of the community, and plan for the possibility of an extended absence from work or school if guidance changes.

Accommodations for Individuals at High Risk for COVID-19

We urge students, faculty and staff who are members of high-risk categories to avail themselves of options that will help to ensure their health and safety during this time. Students who desire academic accommodations due to health concerns should contact the Student Health Center for assistance. Faculty who wish to explore options for online instruction should contact Marc Conner. Employees seeking options for telecommuting or other accommodations should contact Mary Main.

Employee Guidelines

We understand that this evolving situation will require flexibility for our employees, whose ability to come to work may be impacted by their own personal and family circumstances in addition to W&L's policies and procedures. Human Resources has developed a series of guidelines governing employee eligibility for up to 14 days of additional paid leave, regardless of benefit eligibility. Faculty should work with their department head or dean regarding their classes in the event of illness, exposure, local school closure or high-risk needs.

We encourage all faculty and staff to familiarize themselves with these guidelines and contact Mary Main with questions.

Important Reminders

Finally, we continue to stress the importance of common-sense measures that each of us can take personally to help protect ourselves and those in the community who are at higher risk:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe at least daily.
  • Practice social distancing when practical.

While we hope that these measures will be sufficient to ensure the continuity of classes on campus for Winter Term, we will continue to evaluate the risk to our community and prepare for the possibility that on-campus classes may need to be suspended due to changing circumstances or new guidance from the regional and national public health officials. We appreciate your cooperation and assistance in keeping our community safe as we move forward together.

Sidney Evans, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students (sevans@wlu.edu)
Marc Conner, Provost (connerm@wlu.edu)
Mary Main, Executive Director of Human Resources (mmain@wlu.edu)