Coronavirus Information

Coronavirus Information

All university notifications about additional developments with the illness, Widener’s response to it, or any impact on university classes or operations, will be communicated here. 

Travel Advisory

Non-essential travel is not recommended at this time. If a student does travel, it may impede their academic progression, based on the academic and professional requirements of their program. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their academic dean prior to making travel arrangements.

Housing

First year undergraduates are not living on campus for the fall semester. Distancing requirements and other necessary restrictions would severely limit their ability to form peer relationships and enjoy a traditional college experience. We want their transition to campus living to be as successful as possible. Waiting to welcome new students into residence halls when distancing restrictions ease will allow them to more successfully engage with their classmates on campus and build friendships with the people who live around them. We are confident that this plan allows us to better provide the social and academic support they need.

Our Living Learning Community (LLC) continues remotely as a learning community for students who elected to take part. All freshmen have been assigned a personal success team that includes a faculty member, peer advisor, librarian, and other staff members who are helping them to make connections and to succeed in their academic work. 

The fall housing plan allows us to provide a limited number of single rooms for sophomores, juniors, seniors, international students, ROTC cadets, and students with housing insecurities who wish to live on campus. Only about one third of our normal student capacity is living on campus, helping to lower risks associated with COVID-19 transmission. No one is required to live on campus this year, and those who do must move out of their spaces when in-person instruction shifts to remote format on November 20.

UPDATE 9/10/2020: In an effort to contain spread of the virus on campus, we are offering students who choose to move out and return home a 100% reimbursement for housing costs, pro-rated reimbursement for meal costs, and a $500 voucher for the Widener bookstore in spring 2021. Interested students must contact Residence Life at reslife@widener.edu no later than Wednesday, September 16, as these incentives will not be extended if density in residence halls is reduced at a later date.

Campus Dining

Widener Dining meal plan rates have been adjusted for the November 20 end of limited in-person instruction and departure of students who live on campus for fall. Additional details, including information about fall dining procedures that promote social distancing and support the health and safety of everyone who eats at the university, are available on the Coronavirus FAQ page under Campus Dining. 

Athletics

Our student athletes are not participating in intercollegiate competition this fall, based on a decision announced by the Middle Atlantic Conference. Coaches are working to engage with our student athletes to make athletics a part of their collegiate experience this year. They are working to develop small-group and virtual activities for athletes that are permitted by the NCAA resocialization guidelines, as well as guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Staying Safe

Widener’s extensive safety plans for individuals on campus this fall remain in place. As a reminder, they include:

Widener, We've Got This! Protect Yourself & Others: (1) Wear a Mask in all public spaces (2) Wash your hands often (3) Keep a safe distance from others (4) Use the symptom tracker to evaluate your symptoms daily
  • Education about how to protect one’s own and others’ health on campus, reinforced by campus signage and clear community expectations.
  • Enhanced disinfecting of classrooms and buildings that exceeds CDC requirements for living, learning, and working.
  • Hand sanitizer is available in academic and administrative buildings, as well as hand sanitizer refill stations in key locations to refill personal sanitizer bottles.
  • Masks covering the nose and mouth are required indoors and outdoors at all times. (ADA exceptions will be reviewed as needed). See our Face Covering Policy
  • Social distancing is required in all campus spaces.
  • Properly configured work spaces are available on campus for student use between in-person classes.
  • Everyone living on or coming to campus is required to participate in a daily health self-assessment using the #CampusClear app and is required to report any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Contact tracing is being conducted with the assistance of public health officials.
  • Meetings and events are not taking place in person, except for approved instruction.
  • Even if meeting participants are on campus, one-on-one and larger meetings are being held electronically; individuals are not gathering in offices or meeting rooms.
  • Unless it is not possible, faculty and staff are working remotely. Academic deans and area supervisors provide necessary individual guidance.
  • Offices that must be staffed are staffed in shifts to reduce density.
  • We are not hosting visitors on campus, with the exception of official, scheduled individual or small group student recruiting that maintains required precautions.
  • To more accurately monitor who is using our on-campus facilities, all members of the Widener community will be required to swipe their Widener ID to enter the University Center.
  • Faculty and staff attend meetings off campus only through electronic means.
  • Anyone experiencing symptoms, anyone testing positive for COVID-19, or anyone who has been in close contact (within 6 feet for more than 10 minutes) with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 must follow mandated quarantine/isolation requirements.
  • Resident students who must isolate or quarantine are required to go home if they reside within 250 miles of the university. Students can request an exception to this policy by contacting the Office of Residence Life.

     

View Updated Coronavirus FAQs See Fall 2020 On-Campus Courses


Reporting Illness or Potential Exposure to Covid-19

If you start to exhibit any concerning symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or flu-like symptoms; believe you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or you have tested positive for COVID-19, you must contact Student Health Services at (610) 499-1183 or studenthealth@widener.edu. They will work with you to connect you with the Department of Health and/or your medical provider. Additionally, they will have the ability to communicate with people with whom you may have come into contact. Your name will not be shared with anyone.

Community alerts of positive case results are shared by email and do not identify names. Positive cases are reported on our online dashboard.

Health & Safety Plan for PA Dept of Education

The Pennsylvania Department of Education required Pennsylvania postsecondary education institutions to publish a “Health and Safety Plan” before resuming in-person operations. See Widener's Health and Safety Plan 

Additional Information

  • Student Success & Support: The Offices of Student Success, Student Accessibility Services, Career Design and Development, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Exploratory Studies remain open virtually. These offices are available to connect with students via phone, email, and other electronic means.
  • Wolfgram Memorial Library: The library building will reopen to Widener students, faculty and staff on September 8, 2020, and close for the semester on November 20, 2020, when all classes go fully online. Virtual assistance will continue through December 11, 2020. See the library website for more information about the changes to library operations due to COVID-19. 
  • Student Health Services: Students who need assistance from the Student Health Services office should call 610-499-1183. Staff will respond to calls and provide appointments and other services as needed. Individuals who are residing on campus should also connect by phone first.
  • Campus Safety: Our Campus Safety Department will remain staffed to ensure the safety of anyone on our campus. 
  • Mail Service: Mail services on campuses have ceased temporarily. Any mail delivered to campuses will be securely stored until we are able to return. 

Counseling & Psychological Services

We are living in stressful and uncertain times. Our Counseling and Psychological Services office is available by telephone (610-499-1261) and email during regular business hours (Mon-Fri, 9-5 p.m.) until further notice. 

In accordance with CDC guidelines, all university-affiliated global travel is suspended temporarily. We encourage you to review the CDC travel guidelines as you consider future global travel.

Difficult circumstances can generate worry and anxiety. It is in trying times that we must recommit to the principles of We’re All Widener and dedicate ourselves to practicing compassion, respect and inclusion. We recognize no one group is responsible for the spread of this virus and we treat all members of our community – whose diverse backgrounds enrich our campus – as part of the Widener family. 

If you are a faculty/staff member or student who would like to report discrimination, please contact Alison Kiss Dougherty, Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator at 610-499-1301 (akdougherty@widener.edu) or use the form (can be anonymous) on the:

Report It Page

For information on education, workshops, or programs, Chief Diversity Officer Micki Davis is available to all students, faculty, and staff. Reach her at mmdavis@widener.edu or (610) 499-4103.

The university has assembled a collection of Frequently Asked Questions to assist faculty and staff as we maneuver the changing landscape. See FAQs on My Widener. 

We are observing strict distancing requirements; therefore, all faculty and staff who are able to work from home should continue to do so. If you plan to report to campus, please check with your supervisor. 

If you are a non-exempt employee working remotely, you are required to work your regular work hours. Overtime requires prior approval from your supervisor. You are required to take rest and meal breaks while working remotely in compliance with federal and state regulations. You must continue to complete web time entry. Managers will need to continue to review and approve time entry.

The university cannot be responsible for expenses associated with your remote work space.

Resources for Working Remotely

  • "KEEP WORKING" Website: This site provides you with a one-stop location for information relevant to working remotely. 
  • Loaner Equipment: We are not offering loaner laptops (or printers, scanners, etc.) for working remotely. 
  • ITS HelpDesk Support: ITS HelpDesk 24/7 Support is still available, via QuickTicket submission or by phone at 610-499-1047. 
  • In addition to the KEEP WORKING site, we have built KEEP LEARNING (student-focused) and KEEP TEACHING (all faculty).  These can all be found on myWidener.edu using the search word “KEEP”.

Taking Time Off for Self-Quarantine or If You or a Family Member is Sick

The University will provide all employees with 14 additional sick days to be used in the event of self-quarantine or if you become ill with the virus. If an employee is absent beyond 14 days, the employee should contact human resources to apply for Family Medical Leave (FMLA) and Short-Term Disability (STD).

Employees may use accrued vacation or sick time if they are not able to work remotely to care for immediate family and household members who are not ill but need care due to any COVID-19 related closures of schools or day care centers, or for other breakdowns in care arrangements.

 Employee Resources

  • The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available for employees who may feel stress and anxiety around these events.
  • Complete the Emergency Contact form in the tasks section of MyWidener.
  • Employees on Widener’s health insurance plan have access to Telemedicine in the event they cannot get to a medical provider and as a method for doctors to safely screen and treat patients for COVID-19. Members can visit MDLive and then click Activate Now. 

Additional Questions?

Faculty and staff should check their email for further information and updates.

Please visit the Information for Alumni page for helpful alumni resources and services, important information about events, as well as a multitude of ways you can help support students during this trying time. 

Widener Student Emergency Fund

The purpose of the Widener Student Emergency Fund is to assist undergraduate and graduate students in navigating unexpected financial dilemmas that may negatively impact their continued studies. These may include the loss of a job, a family crisis, a debilitating illness, or a major national crisis. The fund has been established with gifts from alumni and staff. Anyone interested in supporting Widener students in need may donate to the fund at any time.

Donate to the Widener Student Emergency Fund

Widener Student Emergency Fund

The Widener Student Emergency Fund was established to assist undergraduate and graduate students in navigating unexpected financial dilemmas that may negatively impact their continued studies. These may include the loss of a job, a family crisis, a debilitating illness, or a major national crisis. Funds have been made available through the donations of alumni, faculty, staff, and friends and the availability of awards is dependent on the balance of the fund.

Apply for Student Emergency Funding

 

CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

Widener University received funds as a result of the CARES Act to support students with expenses related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the Spring 2020 semester. Instead of requiring students to apply for funds, Widener is automatically sending Emergency Financial Aid Grants to those students who meet eligibility requirements. 

Learn More About CARES Act Funds 

Archive of Recent University Communications

Dear members of the Widener community,

As you have seen in our daily updates, new positive cases of COVID-19 on or near Main Campus are steadily increasing. Therefore, we are taking steps to further contain spread of the virus.

Since the start of the semester, there have been few positive COVID-19 cases among students on our campus. And nearly all of those cases have involved students who are not taking in-person classes.

However, the growing number of students living off campus, in close proximity to Main Campus, who have tested positive for COVID-19 is concerning. A number of on-campus students are now in quarantine after being identified as close contacts with off-campus individuals who have tested positive. Demands on our Student Health Services and Residence Life staff are increasing as they work to keep up with the process of documenting a growing number of positive cases, contact tracing, and supporting the health and well-being of our campus community.

For these reasons, we will take the following steps immediately:

  • Students currently living in our residence halls who move out and return home now will receive a 100% reimbursement for housing costs, pro-rated reimbursement for meal costs, and a $500 voucher for the Widener bookstore in spring 2021. Interested students must contact Residence Life at reslife@widener.edu no later than Wednesday, September 16, as these incentives will not be extended if density in residence halls is reduced at a later date.
  • Touchdown space in classrooms and computer labs open for general use will be significantly reduced and will be closely monitored by campus safety officers for compliance with masking and social distancing policies. The available room locations and access codes will be posted on MyWidener shortly.
  • The Schwartz Center and the Pride Rec Center will remain closed for the semester.
  • To more accurately monitor who is using our on-campus facilities, all members of the Widener community will be required to swipe their Widener ID to enter the University Center.

These actions serve as a next step in reducing the number of positive cases on our campus. However, if the number of positive cases in the coming days increases significantly, we will have to take more drastic steps.

We each play an important role in allowing in-person learning safely on Main Campus by wearing masks at all times, maintaining at least six feet of social distance, and reporting any symptoms to Student Health Services.

Our beautiful campus should be bustling with people heading to classes and activities, and it saddens me that we have to further restrict campus life, but COVID-19 represents a serious threat to public health. We must remain vigilant, and these steps are necessary.   We’re all Widener; your safe behavior shows that you care about our community and helps to keep your peers, colleagues, and professors healthy.

Thank you for your understanding,

Julie E. Wollman, PhD
President, Widener University

Dear members of the Widener community,

I hope you have all been in good health since my last message outlining Widener’s fall 2020 plans. As we prepare for the upcoming year, I look forward to welcoming hundreds of new students into our university family. As always, your health and well-being remains a top priority.

This summer, we have been closely monitoring the coronavirus pandemic and reviewing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as state and local health departments, which reflect growing scientific understanding of COVID-19. We are deeply concerned by the recent surge in cases nationally and here in Delaware County, particularly among young people.  Likewise, we have learned from the experience of other universities about how rapidly the virus can spread on a campus with a high density of students and staff. Additionally, COVID-19 testing has become more difficult to access, and those who do undergo testing are finding it can take more than a week to receive results. These trends demand our attention. As much as it saddens us and disappoints you, we have concluded that we must revise somewhat our plans for the fall semester.

Fall Courses

On Main Campus, on-campus undergraduate teaching will be limited to classes in which it is extremely difficult to teach using distance learning options. This includes primarily laboratory, clinical, performance, studio time, and academic research sections. Distance learning options for these courses will also be provided. All other courses will be taught in a high-quality distance learning format. Graduate and law programs will offer online classes except for those that necessitate some measure of in-person instruction. 

The list of classes that will be offered in person has been posted here and will be reflected in students’ online schedules later this week. Graduate students will be notified of their in-person courses by their deans. As previously announced, the academic calendar will not change. The semester will begin on August 24, and all instruction will switch to remote format after Friday, November 20.

Our dedicated faculty is fully prepared, as they continue to emphasize the personalized instruction that distinguishes a Widener education. They have been working with our talented instructional designers this summer to ensure remote classes will be engaging and impactful. As always our professors will develop mentor relationships with students, sharing their knowledge and industry contacts to prepare students for success. Widener will continue delivering on its promise to give students an inside track to career success.

Housing

After careful consideration, we have revised our fall plan for residence halls. First year undergraduates will not live on campus for the fall semester. We recognize this change, and the move to largely online instruction, is especially disappointing for our new students. However, distancing requirements and other necessary restrictions would severely limit their ability to form peer relationships and enjoy a traditional college experience. We want their transition to campus living to be as successful as possible. Waiting to welcome new students into residence halls when distancing restrictions ease will allow them to more successfully engage with their classmates on campus and build friendships with the people who live around them. We are confident that under the current, very challenging conditions, starting our incoming students online will allow us to better provide the social and academic support they need.

When circumstances improve we will eagerly invite our newest undergraduates to live on campus. In the meantime, our new students will begin meeting classmates through online courses where they can gather safely, encouraged by professors who will focus on building a welcoming and rigorous academic community. Students who have signed up for a Living Learning Community (LLC) will still have that experience virtually, and your faculty leader will reach out to you before the semester begins. All freshmen will be assigned a personal success team that includes a faculty member, peer advisor, librarian, and other staff members who will help them to make connections and to succeed in their academic work. 

The fall housing changes for freshmen will decrease student density on campus and allow us to provide a limited number of single rooms for sophomores, juniors, seniors, international students, ROTC cadets, and students with housing insecurities who wish to live on campus. This will result in about one third of our normal student capacity living on campus and help to lower risks associated with COVID-19 transmission. No one is required to live on campus this year, and those who do must move out of their spaces when in-person instruction shifts to remote format on November 20.

Residence Life staff will reach out to students who completed the modified room preference form before July 6, as well as any students on our current waiting list. Any students who have not already completed this form and wish to do so should contact the Office of Residence Life. We will continue to assess our spring housing plan during the coming months. More information is also forthcoming about our dining plans for fall.

Athletics

Our student athletes will not participate in intercollegiate competition this fall, based on a decision announced last week by the Middle Atlantic Conference. While this decision is also disappointing, coaches will continue to engage with our student athletes and make athletics a part of their collegiate experience. They are working to develop small-group and virtual activities for athletes that are permitted by the NCAA resocialization guidelines, as well as guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Staying Safe

Widener’s extensive safety plans for campus this fall remain in place. More details are available at www.widener.edu/coronavirus. We strongly encourage students, faculty, and staff who will be on campus to review them.

At the beginning of 2020, we could not have envisioned our fall semester starting in this way. After months of staying home and vigilance with masks, hand washing, and distancing, we all had hoped to come together in person for the start of the new academic year. I miss seeing all of you on our beautiful campus, interacting with each other, with our dedicated staff, and with the professors who are shaping your learning experiences. I am hopeful there will be notable progress combatting the virus soon, so that Widener may offer a plan for spring that brings our vibrant community back together in person. We each have the power to help get closer to that goal by following our campus safety measures.

In the meantime, I am thankful for our Widener family and for the brilliant technology that is keeping us connected to learn, to socialize, to plan, and to grow as a community. I am also thankful for your patience and understanding that although this fall will look different, Widener will continue to provide you with an experience that is distinguished by the excellence for which we are known.

With best wishes for a successful semester,

Julie E. Wollman, PhD
President, Widener University

Dear Widener Pride Community:

I am pleased to share an update about our evolving plans for the start of the upcoming academic year since the state recently permitted the re-opening of college campuses. Based on careful planning and close monitoring of guidelines for colleges and universities, we will return to in-person education on Main Campus this fall. The deans of our law schools will provide updates specific to their campuses.

Our dedicated faculty will offer a high-quality and flexible blend of in-person, hybrid, and online classes that best meet our students' needs and emphasize the powerful mentoring and personalized instruction that distinguish a Widener education. We are planning for a phased return to campus that prioritizes our community's well-being, as well as our students' learning and academic success. Our flexible approach will also allow every student to continue the semester uninterrupted, even if there is a pandemic resurgence.

The university’s Crisis Management Team and multiple task forces, including faculty and staff members, have worked diligently to collaboratively develop plans for a safe return. They have been guided by public health data, recommendations from local, state, and federal agencies, and a dedication to providing all graduate and undergraduate students the best possible learning experiences. With the additional expert guidance of an industrial hygienist, we are reconfiguring spaces and how we will maneuver them as part of a safe return to campus.

Return to Campus

We will gradually welcome back as many students, faculty, and staff in person as possible as we comply with public health guidelines. This phased approach will allow us to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19, and to continually reassess our plans as public health information evolves.

For all students, faculty, and staff, our return to campus in August will include:

  • Education about how to protect one’s own and others’ health on campus, reinforced by campus signage and clear community expectations.
  • Enhanced disinfecting of classrooms and buildings that exceeds CDC requirements for living, learning, and working.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available in academic and administrative buildings, as well as hand sanitizer refill stations in key locations to refill personal sanitizer bottles.
  • Masks covering the nose and mouth will be required (ADA exceptions will be reviewed as needed).
  • Social distancing will be required in all campus spaces (exceptions must be approved for select lab, clinical, or similar experiences).
  • With input from the faculty, classroom configuration and capacity will be adjusted to provide the best educational experience while maintaining safety.
  • Properly configured work spaces will be available on campus for student use between in-person classes.
  • Everyone living on or coming to campus will participate in daily health self-assessments using a screening tool provided by the university, and will be required to report any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Contact tracing will be conducted with the assistance of public health officials.
  • Meetings and events will not take place in person, except for approved classroom instruction.
  • Even if meeting participants are on campus, one-on-one and larger meetings will be held electronically; individuals will not gather in offices or meeting rooms.
  • Whenever feasible, faculty and staff will work remotely. Academic deans and area supervisors will provide necessary individual guidance and our Human Resources office will provide relevant policies shortly.
  • Offices will be staffed in shifts to reduce density.
  • We will not host visitors on campus, with the exception of official, scheduled individual or small group student recruiting that maintains required precautions.
  • Faculty and staff will attend meetings off campus only through electronic means.
  • Anyone experiencing symptoms, anyone testing positive for COVID-19, or anyone who has been in close contact (within 6 feet for more than for 10 minutes) with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 will follow mandated quarantine requirements.

The university is prepared should positive cases of COVID-19 arise. Testing will be provided for anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or has been in close contact with a person who has tested positive. Anyone who is not symptomatic but wants to be tested will be directed to available services. Dedicated residence hall space will be reserved for quarantine, as needed.

The number of students, faculty, and staff on campus will gradually expand as local, state, and federal guidance allows, and we will begin to engage in more in-person activities when we can safely do so.

Fall Courses

The academic calendar for fall remains unchanged; the semester will begin on August 24 with a blend of in-person, hybrid, and online courses to best meet the needs of all students. The university is making significant technology investments in classrooms this summer so that every class may be offered in a flexible format. The provost and deans are working with the faculty to develop an option for every class that will allow students to choose to participate virtually in classes that are offered in person.

Social distancing guidelines will limit the number of people who can gather in classrooms; in-person instruction will be initially prioritized for classes with labs, simulations, or clinical experiences. Additionally, every first-year student will be offered some in-person instruction during the fall semester.

In order to provide in-person instruction for the greatest number of students, we will expand the scheduling of classes beyond the Monday-to-Friday daytime timeframe to ensure maximum use of space. Larger classes and those that can be effectively offered remotely may be taught virtually until social distancing restrictions are eased. The provost and deans will continue to work closely with the faculty to design the most pedagogically sound and feasible plan that meets public health guidelines. The provost will host several open sessions with faculty members to inform the plan, which will be completed by the end of July.

All in-person instruction will conclude on Friday, November 20 and classes will shift entirely online in order to minimize exposure to the virus at a time when health experts expect a surge. All classes and exams will conclude online.

We know that our new and returning students are looking forward to starting their classes and to beginning or renewing their connection with our faculty. This personal support and attention is what makes a Widener education distinctive. We will also support our faculty in continuing to develop mentor relationships with students, sharing their knowledge and industry contacts to prepare students for success. Widener will proudly continue delivering on its promise to give students an inside track to their career goals.

Residential Life

Our newest members of the pride family, first-year undergraduates, will have priority for campus housing and are guaranteed a single occupancy room. They must confirm their intention to live on campus when contacted by the Office of Residence Life. Returning students who live outside a 25 mile radius will also be offered campus housing, as well those who must live on campus for specific reasons.

There will likely be space available for others, as well, but we will have somewhat fewer students than usual living on campus this fall in order to ensure compliance with public health guidelines. Some returning students will live in single rooms, while others will be offered the option of a roommate. No one will be required to live on campus this academic year.  The cost for residency on campus has been reduced to accommodate for the end of in-person campus experiences on November 20.

Athletics

The Middle Atlantic Conference of the NCAA is still developing guidance for fall athletics. This information will be communicated to all incoming and continuing athletes as soon as it is available.

A Vibrant Experience

While the fall semester will be somewhat different than usual, Widener is dedicated to maintaining a vibrant campus environment and we will continue to provide quality activities, programs, and services while evaluating the formats in which we can offer them safely. In-person activities will be phased in as we are able; however, the undergraduate activity fee for fall will be eliminated.

Being a member of the “We’re All Widener” community means we are part of a culture of respect, mutual understanding, and unity. It also means we have a responsibility to each other. We will return to campus committed to following the new guidelines, which are designed for the health and well-being of all, and to growing together as a community of learners.

Whether you will be arriving for class on campus or online this fall, you are part of a community that treats one another like a second family. I look forward to welcoming you! Until then, we will continue to refine our plans and provide you with updates as the fall semester approaches.

Warm regards,

Julie E. Wollman, PhD
President

Dear Colleagues,

I think it’s fair to say that we are all growing tired of uncertainty; of waiting for answers, for trustworthy predictions about what’s next, and for a return to the privilege of lives unfettered by social distancing and by fear.  I don’t have all the answers we seek but I do want to update you on some key issues relevant to our work as members of the Widener community. I am certain of two things: First, the coming academic year will pose new and significant challenges for the university and for each of us. Second, we will rise above these challenges, adapt, and emerge stronger than ever. That’s what we do at Widener!

As you know, Governor Wolf last week extended the stay-at-home order for our region of Pennsylvania through at least June 4; continuing our designation in the red category. (Commonwealth guidance on color-coded phased reopening may be found here: https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#PhasedReopening.) Also last week, the Department of Education confirmed that higher education institutions in areas designated in the state’s yellow category “are not authorized to resume face-to-face instruction.”  Thus, we cannot assume that when our area is re-categorized from red to yellow that we will be permitted to resume face-to-face instruction.

We are planning for online instruction through Summer Session II, with the possible exception of health care programs should the state develop policy allowing these specific programs, in high-need areas, to hold certain learning experiences on campus. Summer camps and other activities will be offered only in an online format.

We do not know when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will deem it safe to resume on-campus instruction, but we are confident that our return to campus will have to occur in stages to ensure social distancing and allow for procedures to enhance safety. To that end, Provost Workman recently shared with the faculty that: We must be prepared to offer a quality distance learning experience for all classes for at least part of the fall semester.  Even if students are allowed on campus, we need to be able to educate those who can’t attend in person because they are ill or immune compromised or because entire classes cannot meet together to maintain social distancing. All faculty must begin preparing courses that can be offered in multiple formats.  To help with this necessity, deans are developing plans to support faculty in their course preparation and the university is offering several professional development opportunities during Bridge Week and throughout the summer.  

The Crisis Management Team is actively developing logistical plans for our return to campus. A precondition for that return is the governor’s approval for face-to-face instruction.  We do not have any indication of when that will occur but the fundamental principles for this work are:

  • We want to begin to return to campus as soon as it is deemed safe to do so by state and local officials.
  • We will be prepared for that return ahead of such notice by planning for the procedures, working conditions, equipment, and supplies that will be necessary to meet and exceed safety standards and mitigate transmission of COVID-19 on campus.
  • We will ensure a high quality learning and campus experience reflective of Widener’s expansive welcome and care for members of our community even if we must continue teaching and working remotely for some time, or if we are back on campus following social distancing requirements.

To enhance enrollment, we have developed a wide range of initiatives to a) provide more flexible options for starting classes this fall, and b) reduce the cost of attending Widener as individuals and families struggle with the economic fallout of the pandemic.  For some, these will include assistance with the cost of books, transportation and meals, as well as enhanced financial aid to meet overall need.  Additionally, new graduate students were offered a free summer class to “try out” Widener and freshmen and transfers who deposit now will be offered two free courses next summer to help them stay on track for graduation in 2024.  All Main Campus new student orientation sessions will be held in June so that new students may accelerate their progress and become familiar with Widener by taking an online summer course starting in July. In the fall there will also be support for new students in how to navigate and maximize the experience of an online class. 

We demonstrated our agility, resilience, and compassion this spring.  Those qualities will be just as important when we return to campus. Business as usual will no longer suffice in the post-pandemic world.  Rather, the norm for success will be agility, creativity, innovation, and flexible, proactive design to meet the needs and expectations of our students and their families.  We are already demonstrating that we can excel at this through new initiatives that are underway. Despite the pain it has caused, the pandemic has and will continue to bring out the best in us. Thank you for your role in adapting and imagining an even better future for our university.

Please, take care of yourself and stay well,

Julie

Julie E. Wollman, PhD
President

Dear Widener community,

As I reflect on the unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation we are experiencing, it is difficult to believe that just two weeks ago, our vibrant campuses were buzzing with their usual activities. The upheaval coronavirus has brought to our learning community would have been difficult to imagine in early March.

And yet, in the face of tremendous adversity, our Widener community has stepped up to meet this challenge with courage, determination, and brilliant problem-solving. Our culture of collaboration has never shined brighter, allowing us to continue our most important work – educating students in a caring and supportive intellectual environment and putting them on the inside track to success.

Aware of the need to prioritize the health and safety of our campus community, Widener was among the first universities to announce a move to electronic instruction for all. Our Information Technology and Teaching and Learning Technology staff members worked quickly with our dedicated faculty to launch a well-conceived plan. In just a week, all of our full- and part-time professors prepared to transition to digital instruction, so that learning could continue and students would progress toward their degrees and their dreams.

More than 1,400 students followed instructions for moving out of residence halls to promote health and safety and we have continued to provide space for fewer than 20 students on our main campus and about 20 on the Delaware Law campus, who have no other housing options currently.

At every turn, despite the unknowns and need for rapid change, the Widener family has demonstrated resilience, grace, and agility.

Most recently, state governments are limiting personnel on our campuses to only “life-sustaining” staff who are assisting students who must remain. Still, we continue to teach and fulfill our mission. Although this new virtual learning environment may seem strange at first, it has been reassuring and exhilarating to see classes resume. Already I am hearing many success stories. Some of our most seasoned, veteran professors are excited by their new abilities to teach electronically, and students have enjoyed participating in class from comfortable personal spaces while engaging extensively in discussion and interaction with classmates and professors. We are all learning from this experience together, and we are constantly monitoring for trouble spots, and answering calls for help as soon as they arise. Challenges are inevitable as we learn to maneuver virtually, but overall the results of our first few days of online teaching have been excellent and even enlightening.

Above all, I want to thank every member of the Widener community for your role in making it possible to continue pursuing our mission: educating students and giving them the tools to succeed.

I am grateful for the staff who organized and deployed our digital tools to facilitate online learning, for professors who eagerly accepted the challenge of moving their courses online, and for students who are  excited to continue learning.

I am grateful for the employees who have worked tirelessly to keep our campuses clean and safe, and for those who are constantly finding ways to keep the university’s business moving forward remotely, and to ensure all faculty, staff, and student workers are paid, in such unpredictable times.

These last weeks have been challenging, and at times disorienting for everyone, both professionally and personally. Our leadership and crisis management teams continue to monitor the situation, and refine Widener’s response, and I am committed to remaining in regular and frequent communication with all of you. Your well-being is paramount in all of our decisions.

As I review our progress, I am astounded and deeply moved by the enormity of what we have already accomplished together. These accomplishments have required an extraordinary level of commitment, creative problem solving, and faith in our university and in each other.

The words seem wholly insufficient, but they are the best I can offer right now: thank you.

Julie E. Wollman, PhD
President

This page was last updated September 10, 2020 at 2:40 p.m. 

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