Dear Faculty and Staff,
I write to thank you for everything you are doing as we prepare our campus for the return of students in August, as well as to address questions regarding our decision to reopen.
As we announced to the community on May 4, 2020 following the meeting of the Board of Trustees and to the media on May 13, 2020, the college will welcome students back on campus for in-person classes beginning August 24, 2020. We have been thoughtfully exploring and addressing all circumstances and impacts of COVID-19 on our college since the initial development of the six planning groups on April 21. We have also consulted with peer institutions and local and state health experts, including the Mississippi State Department of Health, and are currently working with our neighbors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center on the safest and most effective way to bring students home to Millsaps.
Last week, Dean of Students Demi Brown sent our students information on what campus will look like upon their return. You may read that email here as well as access both the Return to Campus Guidelines and the Return to Campus graphic.
I recognize there are unknowns that come with our planned return to campus, as there are at all colleges across the country. I have recently been asked what would need to happen for the college to reconsider these decisions and take instruction to online-only. To that end, because we are following guidelines for the protection and safety of our community as established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as consulting with our local health officials, the only benchmarks or milestones that could cause us to reverse our current position would have to come as a clear directive from the CDC or Mississippi State Department of Health or as an executive order from the governor, mayor or federal government.
As a reminder, the planning groups working to prepare our campus and community for our August return include:
- Academic program (including summer school), chaired by Keith Dunn
- Community life, chaired by Demi Brown
- COVID-19 and health-related matters, chaired by Annie Mitchell
- Finances (budget and financial modeling), chaired by Whitney Emrich
- Instructional technology and services, chaired by Susan Womack
Please reach out to the chairs of these planning groups with any specific questions. The college will hold a virtual town hall for faculty and staff after the Fourth of July holiday, and we will take questions during that time; details to be announced soon. Finally, if there are other ways Executive Staff or the planning groups themselves can improve their communication to the community on findings, results and next steps, please let me know. For example, A&S faculty have suggested we use Course Connect as a platform for posting questions to the planning groups, which is a great idea. We want to be as informative and transparent as possible in these efforts and are happy for these systems to be put in place.
Finally, please remember the information and documents circulated recently by director of human resources Julie Daniels. Your attention to these materials and your timely response where needed would be much appreciated.
Thank you again for your dedication to our students and to the mission of the college.