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Planning for Academic Continuity

Dear Swarthmore Students and members of the Faculty and Staff,

We are making our way toward the close of a semester we will never forget, under the threat of a virus whose name will be stamped on our memories for decades to come. As we continue to navigate these challenging and uncertain times, I hope we can also find ways of keeping ourselves as upbeat and focused as possible on schoolwork, friendships, family, and mutual support.  

As President Smith shared with you last week, a Financial Study Group (FSG) made up of faculty, administrators, and Board of Managers members is working to discern ways forward that will meet our mission and needs, while also reflecting our values and our available financial resources. 

I wanted to let you know that, in concert with the work of the FSG, faculty and administrators are working on academic plans for the weeks and months ahead.

For more immediate planning purposes, both the Provost’s Office and the Division of Finance and Administration have teams working on summer plans for the College. Those teams will forward their recommendations to the President’s Staff soon, and we expect to share those plans with all of you on or before Tuesday, April 21.

Meanwhile, to ensure academic continuity, I have asked a group of faculty and relevant staff members to explore a range of options for how we structure the 2020–21 academic calendar and course delivery. By early May, the group will share with the President’s Staff the pros and cons of those options. Each option has implications and ramifications for the budget and staffing that the FSG will need to consider. Though the immediate future remains uncertain, we have time to develop a suite of scenarios that will allow us to live into our mission, even under suboptimal conditions. We anticipate being able to share plans for the next academic year with students and their families, faculty, and staff in June.

Several of you have asked whether our plans for the fall will impact advising and preregistration now. As you know, faculty are already engaged in spring semester advising; it has been wonderful to hear about Zoom meetings, phone calls, and emails exchanged between advisers and students across the continent and around the world! In consultation with Assistant Vice President and Dean of Academic Success Tomoko Sakomura, we have decided to move ahead as planned with preregistration April 27–29. And while our approach to the fall may require some changes, our expectation is that it will not change so drastically as to be undermined by proceeding with preregistration. If and when our plans alter in such a way to require adjustments, we will be back in touch with everyone with plenty of lead time. 

This said, undertaking registration is provisional. Our decisions to move ahead will be based upon the most effective and up-to-date public health information available. Indeed, the ad hoc advisory group’s charge is to consider a range of plans that take community safety, public health, and the excitement and rigor of our academic curriculum into account.

The advisory group on academic continuity will be co-convened by Associate Deans of the Faculty Lynne Steuerle Schofield and Jean-Vincent Blanchard. As they progress in their work, they will consult with various others in our community, including leaders of the Student Government Organization. If you have particular ideas that you would like to share with Deans Schofield and Blanchard, please email both of them with the words ACADEMIC CONTINUITY in the subject line. 

The following individuals, nominated by the President’s Staff and the Committee on Faculty Procedures, have agreed to serve on the advisory group on academic continuity:

  • Casey Anderson (Student Health)
  • Varo Duffins (Financial Aid)
  • Vince Formica (Biology)
  • Alisa Giardinelli (Communications)
  • Rachel Head (Office of Student Engagement)
  • Patricia Reilly (Art/Art History)
  • Tomoko Sakomura (Academic Success)
  • Christy Schuetze (Sociology & Anthropology)
  • K. Elizabeth Stevens (Theater)
  • Ernie Wright (Finance)

This is a challenging extended moment for each of us, in different ways and to different degrees. As we consider how to be present for those who are in greater need, let us remember that our strength lies in our work as thinkers and doers, researchers and observers, humanists and artists, natural and social scientists, communicators and teammates, individuals and groups committed to the exploration of ideas for the common good. In an uncommon time, we will discover that common good together. 

Sarah Willie-LeBreton
Provost and Dean of the Faculty