A Message to the Assumption Community from President Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D.
Remote Learning Extended to End of Spring Semester;
Commencement Rescheduled to August
I wish to take a few moments to thank our students and families for their patience during this period of transition; to thank our faculty for their remarkable work to quickly transition to online learning and College staff for their tireless efforts as we responded to this unprecedented pandemic.
Students, faculty and staff have collectively answered a call to abruptly adapt to this situation and have done so with grace and tremendous patience.
However, this comes of no surprise. In evaluating each student’s application to attend Assumption, we identified in them something unique – something distinct about the students’ intellect, character and a yearning to serve. Such traits are not only found in our students, faculty and staff, but also our alumni. It is a shared trait unique only to those blessed with an Assumption education.
The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the world, nation and here in Massachusetts.
Last Friday, there were 1,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States. As of this afternoon, that figure has risen exponentially to 16,000 and counting. Here in Massachusetts, the number of individuals with coronavirus was 108 last week. Today, more than 400. That number is expected to rise sharply with the introduction of additional testing. Yesterday, we heard alarming news that this virus is having a greater effect on young people in the United States as compared to other countries.
In response, local and state governments have issued shelter-in-place orders such as San Francisco, then California. Yesterday, all businesses in Pennsylvania, including colleges and universities, were ordered closed and today, New York did the same. We have no information that such will occur in Massachusetts, but given the rapid increases in confirmed cases of coronavirus nationwide and in Massachusetts, it is necessary that we now prepare for such a possibility.
By making difficult decisions now, rather than awaiting a potential government disruption, Assumption may continue to proactively respond to this situation as we have strived to do since January.
I am truly grateful for your understanding during this global crisis.
As you know, a team of faculty, staff and administrators have been meeting each day to monitor and discuss this situation. I thank them for their tireless work and the many, many hours they have dedicated to this effort on your behalf. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved; and the outlook is not promising for the foreseeable future. This is a similar situation that we observed when monitoring developments in Italy with regard to our Rome Campus and students who were studying there.
We had hoped that the situation would improve and students would be permitted back to campus to complete the semester. This, unfortunately, is not to be. Following extensive consultation with an array of sources and contemplative prayer, I regret to inform you that to ensure the safety of our students, our faculty and our staff, the decision has been made to continue remote learning through the end of the semester. I made this difficult decision based on the data that I was reviewing and the constantly changing situation not only day-by-day, but almost hour by hour. This is not the decision that I anticipated or hoped for, but one that in the end was the most responsible not only for the well-being of the Assumption community, but for society.
You will receive specific information from the Office of Residential Life on this weekend’s move-out process. Please know there is great flexibility regarding the schedule and we will work with families to make the necessary arrangements. For students who cannot return to campus, we will store your belongings.
Students who are residing on campus have been asked to make preparations to travel home. Those that cannot travel home are welcome to remain on campus and will be supported.
Since the semester has been disrupted, residential students will receive pro-rated refunds for room and board expenses effective Sunday, March 15. Logistics of issuing the refunds are in development and will be shared in the coming weeks.
To our dedicated staff, thank you for adjusting to working remotely to ensure the continuity of our operations. We will inform you as to when we anticipate your return to campus after April 14.
I’d like to share some words with our seniors, members of the Class of 2020.
What made this decision especially heart-wrenching is the impact this has had on your final semester to be together and the typical events associated with being seniors and celebrating with your classmates these past four years. This has been foremost on my mind as I witnessed the rapid increases of coronavirus diagnosis in our country and in Massachusetts. This virus and the illness it has spread throughout the country has also afflicted you in a very personal way.
I know how much you are all looking forward to celebrating your achievements and the completion of your academic program at Commencement. This is an important milestone for you and your family. You deserve this special moment to be together with your classmates one last time. Therefore, we are postponing Commencement to the weekend of August 22-23 with the celebration of Baccalaureate Mass on August 22 and Commencement on August 23. It is also our hope to be able to have some on-campus events in which we will welcome seniors back to campus for a modified senior week. College officials will engage with student leaders to determine what might be possible.
The education of an Assumption student also includes the formation of one’s character. It is through study, struggle and perseverance that we discover unknown strengths that each of us possesses. Now is the time to rely upon those innate strengths that you have discovered during your time at Assumption and the ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
Know that this, too, shall pass.
Do Not Be Afraid. In my office is a daily reminder of those words written by Pope Saint John Paul II that are appropriate for this time of uncertainly as we all seek comfort, hope and peace. The late Holy Father wrote, “Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help …those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. God works in the concrete and personal affairs of each one of us. Don’t let the time that the Lord gives you run on as if everything were due to chance.” Allow Christ into your hearts and into your homes during this difficult time. Let Christ be formed in you at this moment, as the College motto reminds us.
These are indeed challenging times – and our greatest challenges may lie ahead. But together, we will endure this unprecedented period of uncertainty and emerge stronger, empowered by our faith and faith in one another.
After all, Hounds Are Stronger, Together.
Thank you and may God bless each of you and your families.