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Our Commitment to You Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Friends,

First, we want to thank you for your incredible generosity of spirit and flexibility during this remarkable moment. Even amid fear and confusion, our resilient community has united to support one another and our students.

The Dean’s Division and Off-campus Study staff members, in particular, continue to work tirelessly to ensure that students travelling around the world make it safely to destinations where they are safe and comfortable. Their attention to individual circumstances — even as they process many hundreds of requests for assistance — is a testament to their professionalism and care. All across campus, people have been thinking strategically and behaving responsibly and compassionately.

Such a deep commitment to each other should be reciprocal. In this uncertain time, President Valerie Smith has asked us to reassure you that all benefits-eligible employees will continue to receive their full pay this semester, even if operations are further modified or if we are forced to extend the period of modified operations beyond April 6. To be clear, we do not yet know if that will be necessary. We continue to closely monitor this situation, and we will communicate as soon as we can if there is a change.

Preparing for Additional Modifications to College Operations

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf outlined new mitigation measures for Delaware County specifically. Those measures include asking people to refrain from non-essential travel. According to the Governor’s office, gas stations and supermarkets, such as the Swarthmore Co-op, which is independent from the College, will remain open.

Given those measures, coupled with the drastically reduced number of students on campus, and with remote instruction and the necessity to preserve core College operations, we are working to further reduce the number of people on campus through the following steps:

  • We are reassessing how we designate “essential” and “non-essential” employees and will share more on that as soon as details are available
  • We are now encouraging remote working wherever possible. Supervisors will work with you to determine if this is possible with your role.
  • Further, we are actively planning to pare down operations in the coming days to reduce the number of people traveling to and from campus without compromising core College operations, including support of virtual learning. Note that, in some cases, a “blended” approach of limited days on campus combined with remote working may be necessary to accomplish these dual goals, and work schedules may need to change for some employees. Such changes will be evaluated on an ongoing basis.
  • We have closed the Campus and Community Store to in-person customers, effective today, for at least the next 14 days
  • The Inn at Swarthmore operates independently, and we are encouraging them to think about ways to promote social distancing.

To be clear, we are putting these measures in place to continue the College’s commitment to social distancing and doing what we can to mitigate the possible spread of COVID-19. The campus itself is no riskier than the region more generally.

K-12 School Closures

Governor Wolf also announced that all K-12 schools in the Commonwealth will close for at least 10 school days, beginning on Monday, March 16. We understand the concerns and anxiety this raises, particularly for the working parents in our community. If you are unable to work remotely and need to remain home for part or all of those two weeks, please talk with your supervisor about making such arrangements. You will not have sick or vacation time deducted from your balance during this two-week closure if you are staying home to care for children. We will continue to reassess the situation in the event of longer school closures.

Questions from Faculty and Staff

You may find this evolving list of FAQs helpful in answering additional questions on topics such as travel, compensation, sick leave, etc., during this period of modified operations. If you have a specific question that isn’t addressed in the FAQs, please email covid19@swarthmore.edu. Faculty with questions specific to the academic operations of the College should refer to the “COVID-19 FAQs for Faculty” document that was shared by the Provost's Office through Department and Program Chairs.

Several of you have asked about what happens in the event of either confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 on or adjacent to Swarthmore. We appreciate your concerns and desire for more information. Privacy concerns typically prevent us from sharing specific, potentially identifying information. As a matter of practice, the Pennsylvania Department of Health works to identify any individuals who've come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, when possible, the College works to identify individuals who may have come in contact with those either being tested for or assumed to have COVID-19. According to our health care professionals, the risk to campus remains low. We emphasize the importance of following best practices around hygiene to reduce spread.

Next Steps

In the coming days, supervisors will communicate directly with you about what this means for you. Supervisors will receive a separate follow-up message on this topic early next week. Again, all benefits-eligible employees will continue to receive their full pay this semester.

Please bear in mind that this is uncharted territory. We continue to work through the many questions that need to be answered in order to maintain College operations during this constantly shifting global health crisis. We are committed to providing you with clear, timely, and relevant updates as new information becomes available.

Your safety is paramount — as is our commitment to doing our part to reduce the opportunity for community spread of the coronavirus, even as we meet our educational mission.

Sincerely,

Members of the COVID-19 Planning Group