Dear Seattle University Community,
Over the course of the past month since I shared with you our initial reopening plans for the fall, we have witnessed a significant worsening of COVID-19 health conditions in the United States. The increasing rate of infections nationally, in King County and across Washington state are concerning to us all and necessitate some changes in our reopening plans. We have prepared for this possibility and are making these changes with the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff the paramount consideration.
I want to reiterate my appreciation for your patience, understanding and flexibility and my gratitude for the ways we are caring for one another individually and collectively during this time of a global pandemic, social unrest and economic hardship. The pandemic continues to pose a serious public health risk, present us with many challenges and create much uncertainty.
Let me share the following key decisions we have made in terms of adjustments to our fall reopening plans:
- Seattle University will reopen campus for single occupancy housing in our university-managed residence halls. We previously announced plans for singles and doubles. While two students may still request to be roommates with one another in a double occupancy room, there will be limited exceptions granted. This change in student housing will allow for approximately 950 students to live on campus in single rooms, all billed at the lower double occupancy rate for the fall term. Student housing is also available through the privately owned and managed Vi Hilbert Hall and the Douglas apartments at their standard rates. If there is an unmet housing need beyond these options for the fall, students should contact Housing and Residence Life.
- Academic courses will now be primarily virtual, with some in-person and hybrid instruction for performance-based, clinical and laboratory courses and for students living on campus. Additionally, with the exception of some programs that include licensure requirements, every student will have the option to take their courses virtually and every faculty member will have the option to teach remotely. As announced in late May, the fall quarter is starting early on Wednesday, September 9, and ending on Tuesday, November 24. (The School of Law, which is on a semester system, starts on August 24 and ends on November 25.)
Seattle U is well positioned to deliver an impactful and highly engaging education regardless of the mode of delivery. In our end-of-year survey, students expressed high levels of satisfaction with their virtual courses this past spring. It starts with our great faculty who are deeply committed to the development and success of each individual student and is made possible virtually through their creative and innovative ways of teaching and the technology support, training and resources provided by our leading-edge Center for Digital Learning and Innovation.
While we will adjust some fees and are able to lower the single room housing rate, fall tuition rates will need to remain as published last January. As a private, nonprofit university, we are dependent upon tuition to fund faculty and staff salaries and meet other obligations in support of the student learning experience. Additionally, the university has made significant investments in technology and equipment to support faculty in delivering our high-quality education virtually—in ways that are significantly better than most—and fund critical, yet costly, health and safety measures and equipment for reopening campus this fall.
- We expect most faculty and staff to continue working remotely during this time, which will help in de-densifying campus and protecting our entire university community. Faculty and staff needing to be on campus will develop individualized safe and flexible work plans in consultation with their supervisors and are expected to follow the policies and protocols outlined in our Returning to the Campus Workplace Guide. These measures are being put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are a shared responsibility of everyone on campus. They include the wearing of face coverings, physical distancing, daily self-screening and monitoring for symptoms, testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting and changes to dining areas, classrooms and other campus spaces to promote distancing and other safe practices.
- A comprehensive testing plan is being developed as part of our health and safety practices for reopening and returning to campus. We are planning to require testing for students prior to their arrival on campus and are strongly encouraging faculty and staff to be tested before returning as well. You can expect to receive more information on these testing protocols soon.
These adjustments and changes are being made based on the best information available to us at this time, prioritizing your health and safety and our commitment to meeting or exceeding public health directives and Washington state’s Safe Start guidelines. It is important to make and share them now, before the end of the month, for both your planning and our preparations. They follow Governor Jay Inslee’s recent decision to pause and pull back on the state’s phased reopening plan and announcements by K-12 school districts in King County that they are starting fall remotely, with the support of Public Health – Seattle & King County, due to the current level of COVID-19 transmission in the greater Seattle area.
We know students and families will continue to have many questions. We will be hosting a virtual university forum for students and families on Thursday, July 30, in the afternoon. More details about the forum will be shared early next week. I also encourage you to continue visiting our COVID-19 website for reopening information, updates and frequently asked questions and to reach out to our student and family support teams as needed. We are here to help as best we can with faculty and staff who are genuinely dedicated to putting the good of students first.
While the pandemic requires a number of temporary changes to your college experience this fall, none of which any of us were planning for at the start of the year, I very much look forward to welcoming everyone back to the start of the new academic term, whether in person or virtually. I truly believe that our kind of distinctive Seattle University education—in the heart of one of the world’s most innovative and progressive regions—was made especially for moments like this and that you, our students, have the opportunity to make this one of the most rewarding learning experiences you will ever have. Our faculty and staff will be here for you every step of the way.
Please know you have my continued well wishes and prayers.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.