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July 23, 2020
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 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.
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. President
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