Skip to main content

Important Changes Amid Global Coronavirus Epidemic

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Parents, and Families,

I am writing to share with you the latest information on Swarthmore College’s response to the global coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) epidemic. Since first learning of the disease, we have worked to address the situation proactively. Our actions — guided by recommendations from local, state, and federal officials — have held paramount the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff members. While there are no suspected cases of COVID-19 on campus, the epidemic continues to expand, and our community is not immune from that reality. 

In the interest of the well-being of our entire community, we seek to reduce the number of people on campus while minimizing the impact on the execution of our academic mission. With that in mind, the College is implementing the following changes:

Academic Schedule and Classes

First, we are extending spring break through Friday, March 20. There will be no classes during that time. The College will use this extended break to prepare for the transition to online classes; as of March 23, all classes will be taught remotely either through Zoom video, teleconference, or a similar technology. This pertains to all enrolled students; students who are on campus during this time will not be permitted to attend classes in person. We will continue this practice through at least Friday, April 3. At this time, we do not expect this extended break to impact the timing of the end of the academic year. 

  • Spring break extended through March 20.
  • Online classes run March 23 through April 3.
  • Normal campus operations resume Monday, April 6, unless otherwise communicated.
  • Classes and seminars end May 1, as originally scheduled.

Students should either remain home or return home now through Sunday, April 5, if at all possible. Again, we seek to reduce the number of people on campus in the interest of the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff, and to slow any spread of the virus in the broader community.

At the same time, we understand that some of you are unable to travel home for any number of reasons. With that in mind, we are requiring all students who feel that they need to return to or remain on campus between now and April 5 to complete this housing request form. Students will be asked to include the reason why they feel they must be on campus. A member of the Dean’s Division will contact you as soon as possible to discuss whether the College can accommodate your request. You must fill out the form even if you already registered to remain on campus during the regularly scheduled spring break. Please note: OneCard access will be shut off to any student who fails to register, effective March 15. If you have general questions about registering for campus housing, please email as soon as possible.

We also understand that some of you may not have access to a computer and/or a reliable internet connection while you’re off campus. If that’s the case, please contact Information Technology Services for advice/consultation at or 610-328-8513.

We are sensitive to the burden this may place on students who change their travel plans, and we understand such changes might incur additional fees. Several airlines are waiving fees for changes related to COVID-19. If you are unsuccessful in recovering those costs by working with your respective airlines, the College will work to reimburse those fees. If your financial circumstances prevent you from returning home, please contact the Dean of Students Division at 610-328-8365 to discuss how the College can best support you. 

Our goal is to resume normal academic operations on Monday, April 6. We will adjust that timeline as necessary, depending on how the situation evolves. We will continue to provide regular and prompt updates so that you can plan accordingly, and we will ensure that all students have the ability to meet their academic requirements.


As we work to balance our desire to reduce the number of people on campus with the need to provide a sense of normalcy for those who need to remain on campus, we will offer students access to meals at Sharples on a limited basis, beginning on March 15 through dinner on April 5. Normal dining operations are expected to resume on April 6, unless otherwise noted. We will take additional measures within the dining hall, including avoiding self-serve options and arranging furniture to allow more distance between tables. For more information on dining hours and other information during this period, please review our FAQs for students, parents, and families.


Faculty may choose to teach their online classes from home or campus. The staff members in Information Technology Services have materials on remote teaching that include information and training resources to support this effort. Training sessions for faculty are scheduled for next week. Provost and Dean of the Faculty Sarah Willie-LeBreton consulted with the Committee on Faculty Procedures, the Curriculum Committee, and the Council on Educational Policy, as well as department and program chairs, to seek their advice; she will soon send additional details to instructional staff about holding online classes.

Staff Members

At this time, staff members will continue to work their regularly scheduled hours. We encourage staff members whose positions and job responsibilities are conducive to working remotely to talk with their supervisors about doing so. 

The extended break and this period of reduced campus activity will not affect the pay of any part- or full-time, benefits-eligible employee. 

We insist that any employee who has cold or flu-like symptoms stay home. They should contact a health care professional immediately. The College provides a Telehealth medical benefit to employees in the College’s health insurance plans; a brief registration process [PDF] is necessary. Given these unique circumstances, staff members exhibiting these symptoms and who must stay home during part of this period of modified operations — which we expect to last through April 5 — will not have sick time deducted from their balance. We are developing a series of FAQs that will help address this and other questions you may have, and we expect to share those with you in the days ahead. You may also direct your questions to

Please note that the Matchbox will be open to students but closed to faculty and staff (except for staff whose roles require them to be there) through Sunday, April 5. This measure will allow us to reduce possible contamination; to conduct more regular, deep cleaning; and to ensure the space is reserved for students who cannot leave campus during this period.

Campus Events and Access

In the interest of social distancing, group gatherings and events on campus are limited to no more than 25 participants in the same physical space, effective March 15 through at least Sunday, April 5. If you need to cancel or reschedule your event, please contact Events Management at

Given the timing of this decision, we want to highlight a couple of events specifically. While we will still host an NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament game this Saturday, spectators will not be permitted to attend. We are also postponing the Chester Children’s Chorus performance of Handel’s Messiah scheduled for this Sunday, March 15. 

Following their spring break travel schedules, we are suspending all spring-sport athletic activities, including practices and home and away games, until further notice. Winter sports teams will be permitted to finish the season without spectators at home games and with careful provisions for travel.

Though the College will continue to operate during this period of modified operations, the campus grounds will be closed to outside guests effective March 12 through Sunday, April 5, unless otherwise noted. That includes visitors to Scott Arboretum, the libraries, and the Matchbox. During this time, all campus facilities will require OneCard access 24 hours a day. If you are a student or member of the faculty or staff, please carry your OneCard with you as you move about campus. 

The Inn at Swarthmore, the Broad Table Tavern, and the Campus & Community Store will remain open to the public and operate under regularly scheduled hours.


Effective immediately and through April 5 (unless otherwise noted), all College-sponsored travel, both international and domestic, is prohibited until further notice. Exceptions will be considered in certain limited circumstances, but will require approval by a supervisor and from an appropriate member of the President’s Senior Staff. Faculty members with questions on these travel restrictions should contact the Provost’s Office. We again urge you to be judicious in making your personal travel plans and try to avoid all nonessential personal travel. 

Honors, Commencement, and Other Considerations

We are committed to ensuring that students are able to earn academic credit and that seniors who are eligible to graduate can do so without delay. At this point, it is too early to know how Honors, Commencement, and other important aspects of the semester may be affected. Commencement and other events may need to be modified depending on how this situation develops in the coming weeks; we will communicate as soon and as clearly as we can about any changes.

Helpful Resources

You may have a number of questions and concerns about these temporary changes, as well as other issues related to COVID-19 and its impact on Swarthmore College. We’re working to develop a series of FAQs around various related topics, and we will share those with you soon. We will also continue to add helpful resources and information to the College’s COVID-19 information site. In the meantime, if you have questions about COVID-19 as it relates to the College, please email them to

We want to reiterate that this is a dynamic situation, and our approach may change depending on how it evolves. A number of individuals have invested a significant amount of time and energy into helping guide the College through this extraordinary time, and we are committed to keeping you apprised of relevant developments in a clear, timely, and transparent manner. I want to thank all of you for your patience as we navigate this situation. I especially want to thank our Environmental Services team for the remarkable measures they have taken in recent weeks to procure appropriate disinfectants, redouble efforts to sanitize public surfaces, and begin to install additional hand-sanitizing stations around campus.


We are profoundly saddened to have to share these developments; we did not easily arrive at these decisions, and we recognize the disruption they will bring to your lives, as well as the life of the College. Swarthmore’s exceptional educational experience is predicated on the residential, living-learning environment in an intellectually curious, caring, and imaginative community, and I feel deeply for those of you whose brilliant creative work, exhilarating athletic feats, pathbreaking scientific research, and innumerable other accomplishments will be affected in the weeks ahead.

But foundational to our shared sense of community is the way in which we care for one another. Considering the extraordinary circumstances before us, and in the interest of the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff, we feel a deep responsibility to do what we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 — both across campus and beyond. Though we are temporarily altering our normal way of life, we make these sacrifices in service to the greater good.

The College will make every effort to continue to live into our ideals and to communicate fully and openly in this uncertain time. Thank you for your patience, your cooperation, and your understanding. 

Valerie Smith