Dear Campus Community:
I write to share a change in our Safe Fall Opening Plan. As you know, months of planning have gone into the plan that we initially shared about welcoming back our residential and commuter students to campus in the fall. Although we still plan to do so, the decision has been made to delay their return from the end of August until the end of September.
First day of classes for the fall semester will remain as Wednesday, Sept. 2, at which time all academic courses will be delivered remotely or online. On Sept. 29, the delivery of those courses will revert to the originally intended mode—In-person (NORMAL), Hybrid-blended (HYBRID), Remote (synchronous-RMSYNC), or Online (asynchronous-ONLINE).
This was not an easy decision. And unfortunately, the unpredictability of COVID-19 does not provide for any absolute right answer or course of action. Months of diligent planning had gone into our original plan to welcome back students at the end of August. Westfield State University was prepared. However, in conversations with medical professionals and recent guidance provided by our City of Westfield Public Health officials, I cannot in good conscience allow for the return to take place at the end of August. I made this decision to delay the return to campus until the end of September with the safety of our campus community as the leading consideration.
Quite frankly, we simply don’t know if the decisions right now being made by all institutions of higher education are right or wrong. What I do know is that I would rather err on the side of caution and safety. As you can imagine, the easier decision would have been to move forward with our original plan.
I realize today’s announcement will be met with much disappointment, especially for our residential and commuter students who are eager to join our physical campus after many months of being away, or for our first-year and transfer students who looked forward to moving into their new home away from home.
Just yesterday, I observed a handful of families enjoying an appropriately social distanced tour of campus. Although I could not see their facial expressions through their masks, their other body language said it all—they were happy to be on campus. After all, our physical campus is one of the leading attractions for students who chose Westfield State University for their higher education. I empathize with you and ask for your continued patience as we delay students’ return for four weeks.
I realize that this announcement will also be met with many questions, and we will do our best in the coming days to provide clear and timely updates associated with our adjusted plan. Next week, expect more information about:
The Safe Fall Opening website will soon be updated to reflect our adjusted plan and will include all updates to be emailed to students, faculty, and staff next week.
I appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we work together and lean on each other through these unprecedented and difficult times.\
Roy H. Saigo, Ph.D.