As we close this trying semester and plan for our return in the fall, I wanted to share the University’s plan to provide financial relief to our students.
Utilizing funds provided by the federal government through the CARES Act and resources from the University’s Lynchburg Cares Fund, we will be distributing funds equally to all full-time undergraduates enrolled this spring. Additional funds will be distributed to our undergraduates with the most financial need; Pell Grant-eligible work-study students will be paid for all hours not worked due to the pandemic; and graduate assistants will also be paid the remainder of their cash stipends.
In addition to the direct financial support to students, the University’s Crisis Response Fund and funds from VFIC will provide urgent and necessary technology support, faculty and student support, and broader support to the greater Lynchburg area through University-community partnerships during this time of crisis.
All full-time undergraduate students will receive $350 while undergraduates who are Pell -Grant- eligible will receive an additional $450. Unpaid wages for all undergraduate work-study students and all graduate assistants will be administered by the Office of Student Employment and the dean of graduate studies, respectively. Please note that international and DACA students are not eligible for federal relief funds.
Checks will be mailed to all eligible students before June 30, 2020.
The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by the president on March 27, provides $987,990 in direct student relief. This amount will be supplemented by the Lynchburg Cares Fund and the Crisis Response Fund that was established by the Office of Advancement this spring. To date, the Lynchburg Crisis Response Fund has raised $32,000. In March, President Garren authorized a transfer of $50,000 in discretionary funds to the long-standing Lynchburg Cares Fund.
As part of these resources, a pool of $85,000 has been established for those students who can demonstrate need for additional financial relief. These need-based funds are available by application. Students who wish to apply for additional relief funds must complete this application by July 31, 2020. Applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. This additional pool is limited and applications will be considered until the fund is depleted. The first funds will be awarded June 2, with additional awards being made every two weeks.
Representatives from across the University worked with the Strategic Budget Group to develop this relief plan that I feel represents our best efforts to make our students whole. This pool of federal dollars is mandated to go directly to students. Our plan equitably fulfills this federal requirement and supports all of our undergraduate students as well as those graduate assistants impacted by the pandemic.
I do hope that this comes as welcome news and demonstrates our continued efforts to provide support in this unprecedented time. I look forward to seeing everyone again in the fall — returning students for resumption of in-person classes, and members of the Class of 2020 for our rescheduled Commencement Exercises on the weekend of October 30-31.
Stay safe and I will see you soon.
Kenneth R. Garren, President
The COVID-19 task force continues its planning for our return to in-person instruction and the reopening of the campus for the fall semester. This is an update of the University’s ongoing efforts to achieve that goal in advance of a well-deserved long weekend to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday.
Since our last update, I had the pleasure of conferring degrees upon members of the Class of 2020 — by video message. Our state’s senior U.S. Senator Mark Warner also provided a video with his congratulations and a bit of advice. I look forward to seeing this year’s graduates and their families in October when we plan to hold the in-person commencement exercises on campus.
While the spring semester has come to a close, many faculty will continue teaching online as our Summer School sessions began this week with a full complement of course offerings.
Planning continues on all fronts and we are following the guidance of the Virginia Governor’s office and the CDC. Both issued reopening guidelines for colleges and universities this week. We are currently in Phase 1 of our planning initiative. Updated charts of our three-phase plan are posted to the COVID-19 web page. Initial University-wide reopening plans are due to the task force by June 1.
A committee of faculty from across the University continues to vet course delivery models and academic calendar options for the fall. This group has received a great deal of input from faculty colleagues and is reviewing all options to make the best recommendation to the task force in order to meet the educational needs of our students.
The committee developing the public health plan continues to meet and has added Dr. Christopher Lewis as a resource. A cardiologist, Dr. Lewis is vice president of medical affairs at Centra Health and has agreed to be our point of contact with the local health care establishment. He began his partnership with the University last week when he shared his expertise with the University’s board of trustees at its annual meeting.
Members of the task force held virtual open forum meetings on Wednesday with both staff and faculty. During these sessions, members of the University community learned more about our planning initiatives, posed questions, and were asked to begin developing individual unit plans for a safe return to campus. These unit plans are due to vice presidents soon after the University-wide plans for academics, public health, and residence life/extracurricular activity are received by the task force on June 1.
The University plans to provide financial relief to our students with funding from the federal government through the CARES Act, resources from the University’s Lynchburg Cares Fund, and donations to the Lynchburg Crisis Response Fund. We will distribute funds equally to full-time undergraduates enrolled this spring. Additional funds will be distributed to our undergraduates and undergraduate work- study students with the most financial need. Graduate assistants will also be paid the remainder of their cash stipends.
As always, I am confident in the talent and expertise of our faculty and staff, and I know they will have solid plans in place in the coming weeks. I continue to welcome your input and urge you to reach out to members of the task force with questions, concerns, or advice. Please also refer to the COVID-19 web page for updates as they become available.
Please stay safe and enjoy your Memorial Day.
Kenneth R. Garren, President
The COVID-19 Task Force continues its planning for our return to in-person instruction and the reopening of the campus in August for the fall semester. This is my weekly update of the University’s efforts to achieve that goal.
There are five key elements to the planning effort and the task force has directed every office and department on campus to develop individual plans for the safe return of students, faculty, and staff. Our planning is based upon a phased reopening of the state as guided by the federal government, the Virginia Department of Health, the CDC, and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Once departmental plans are in place, they will be brought to the task force for approval and implementation.
Governor Northam is calling for a gradual reopening in Virginia beginning today. We are using this first phase as the beginning of our planning effort that includes:
- Public health plan
- Academic plan
- Residential life plan
- Extracurricular activity and event plan
- Educational campaign for Lynchburg campus
This chart represents the three-phase timeline to reopen for fall. We are planning in Phase 1; will begin a gradual return to campus for key faculty and staff in Phase 2; and expect a complete and controlled return of the community in Phase 3.
In addition to the departmental planning, a group is working on an overall public health plan for the University. This group is led by Dr. Jeremy Welsh, dean of PA Medicine. PA Medicine will serve as a model for our reopening as its new cohort of students and their faculty return to campus in the coming weeks. Protocols for their safe re-entry and in-person coursework are now being developed and will serve as the basis of the overall public health plan for the University.
Earlier today, Provost Allison Jablonski, co-chair of the task force, sent detailed instructions to supervisory staff so that they may begin their planning. The task force has scheduled town hall meetings for next Wednesday, May 20 for both staff and faculty. At these open forums, members of the task force will detail the planning effort and provide directions for all units to begin their planning.
I have every confidence in the work of the task force and of the faculty and staff who have come together over these past months. As always, you may reach members of the task force with questions, concerns, or advice and expertise. We welcome your continued feedback and support. Please also refer to the to the COVID-19 web page for updates as they become available.
Please stay safe and I hope to see you soon,
Kenneth R. Garren, President
As you know, last week I shared the news that we fully intend to resume in-person classes at the University for the fall semester. There is much work to be done and many variables to consider as we plan for our reopening. I wanted to update you on our progress to date.
The task force meets every other day and is looking at all aspects of life and work at the University as we plan. Here is a representative, although certainly not exhaustive, list of the areas the group is examining:
- Health and safety issues such as testing, social distancing, and protective masks
- Academic implications such as course delivery, class size, daily and semester schedules
- Technology and infrastructure
- Financial implications
- The student experience and residential life
The group is following the guidelines of the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control in recommending various opening scenarios. Stay at home instructions issued by Governor Northam remain in effect until June 10. After that date, we expect to begin a phased return to campus of those employees most critical to our operations and to our opening efforts.
The task force is engaging members from across our community, and several area-specific subgroups are actively meeting to develop plans.
One group in particular is charged with making recommendations related to public health and safety. Led by Jeremy Welsh, dean of the School of PA Medicine, and Lisa Geier, clinical director of student health services, this group is following CDC guidelines and newly released guidance by the American College Health Association to make recommendations on how best to bring our community back to campus safely and, as importantly, how to keep all healthy once they are here. Additional members of this planning team include:
- Tonya Price, Health Promotion
- Michael Jones, Communications and Marketing
- Brittany Smith, Athletic Training Services
- Caroline Wesley Siler, Athletic Training Services
A faculty group led by Associate Provost Chip Walton is working on academic plans for curriculum and scheduling and will build on lessons learned this spring as we moved quickly to respond to the evolving pandemic. Members of the group include:
- Maria Nathan, College of Business
- Autumn Dodge, College of Education
- DuAnn Kremer and Price Blair, College of Health Sciences
- Amy Merrill-Willis, School of Humanities
- Jacinda Shin, School of Nursing
- Jenna Rolfs, School of PA Medicine
- Sue Barlow, School of Physical Therapy
- Christine Terry, School of Science
- David Richards, School of Social Sciences
- Cynthia Ramsey, School of Visual and Performing Arts
- Beth Savage, Westover Honors College
The crisis management team, which convened in January, continues to meet regularly to address immediate concerns posed by the pandemic. This group was critical in our initial decision-making process that allowed us to move our community safely away from campus and take our course delivery online so that our students could complete their semester coursework.
I will update you on our planning efforts each Friday and details will be published to the COVID-19 web page as they become available. Should you have questions, concerns, or advice, please reach out to members of the task force. Many of you have already shared your thoughts and we welcome your input.
I have great confidence in the many faculty and staff who are working tirelessly to bring our community back to campus for the fall semester. Please stay well and I hope to see you on campus soon.
Kenneth R. Garren, President