Union News

COVID-19 MAR 12 Update: Remote Learning Extended, Planning for a Virtual Commencement

Categories: COVID-19, Union News

I hope those of you who are traveling have arrived safely at your destination, and those who are on campus are finding ways to connect with one another in meaningful ways. We continue to follow the situation here closely.  As you are aware, the situation is changing rapidly and plans are being adjusted accordingly.  Here is an update on the present state of affairs:
  • We have no confirmed cases on campus at this time, nor do we have any community members under quarantine.  If that changes, we will let you know immediately.
  • Along with our partner schools, we have decided to extend remote learning to the end of the semester.  Similarly, we are canceling all public and internal non-essential events until the semester concludes. We will plan to hold a virtual commencement ceremony, and we will be in touch with you soon about the alternate plans.
  • As before, our buildings will continue to remain open and our entire staff, while working remotely, is available to you should any needs or questions arise.
  • Many universities and colleges are encouraging students to vacate dorm buildings because they are shared living spaces.  Specifically, health officials have expressed concern about shared bathrooms. Private apartments are fine. In an effort to try to protect your well-being, and limit the risk of spreading the virus, we encourage those of you who live in shared dorm living spaces in McGiffert, and also in International House, to move off-campus, if you are able, for the remainder of the semester.  For those of you who do not have a place to go, you will be able to stay and we ask that you carefully follow all preventive recommendations. We will work tirelessly to make sure everyone is safely housed. For those of you who live on these floors in McGiffert and have gone home for spring break, please consider staying home for the duration.  We are also requesting that residents on dorm floors not have outside guests on the floors, to minimize risk to your fellow dorm community.

I realize this is an extremely stressful time for all of us at Union and, indeed, for millions of people around the world. The hope is that by taking these strong measures, we might slow the spread of COVID 19 down and allow our communities to more effectively care for those who are at greatest risk should they contract the virus. It is a time for us to exercise compassionate responsibility for our neighbors, in the face of the hardships this situation has brought.

I want to reiterate that if anyone feels sick, students should contact Columbia Health at 212-854-7426. Faculty and staff should contact their primary care physician. If you do not have a provider, and need help finding a health care provider, dial 311. The NYC hotline for information on coronavirus is 888-364-3065.  We also have set up a webpage with COVID-19 guidance, and you can access it here.  This is also a good time to remind you about the Emergency Notification System we have.  If you have not yet signed up to receive emergency texts from us, please do so by using this form.

We will all stay connected online, and I am confident that together we will continue to teach and learn through this trying time. I can’t pretend, however, that I am not deeply saddened to be making these decisions.  Nothing replaces face-to-face connections, the fun of hanging out with friends, and the lively back and forth of classroom conversation.  Not holding our regular commencement ceremony is also heart-breaking, not just for graduating students but for the many family and friends who have waited years to see their loved ones walk across the stage. It’s a great loss.

I am grateful to the good will and hearty spirit our whole community has shown as we have made these transitions.


President Serene Jones