July 27, 2020
Dear West Virginia University Family,
As we near the end of July, we are over halfway through the year. I am certain no one envisioned this is what our world would be like as we rang in 2020. The hope and promise we felt in January has turned into anxiety and stress as we continue to navigate a pandemic that forges onward, wreaking havoc across our country and within our communities.
This is not the year any of us had imagined.
We have been closely monitoring the local health conditions, as well as those across the nation. Monongalia County and Morgantown saw a significant increase in positive cases beginning in early July. Our State leadership took swift action to mitigate the spread, including mandatory masks indoors and closing bars in Morgantown. Those responses have worked, as our community continues to see a decline in cases. We have been testing our West Virginia University employees for the past week and out of 1,531 tests results received thus far, only 3 have returned positive. That is less than a 0.2% positivity rate. We are taking the necessary steps as a community to be safe.
However, there is concern among local and state public health officials, as well as University leadership, that a full return to campus in Morgantown would place both the campus and local communities at a greater risk for an increase in positive cases and transmission rates. If this were to occur, the probability of an all online semester would escalate.
Therefore, West Virginia University will implement a phased return this fall on the Morgantown campus.
In Morgantown, the University will open with a revised schedule of course delivery beginning a week later than originally scheduled – on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Some professional programs may have alternative start dates. The revised schedule will further reduce density, while preserving the on-campus experience for freshmen, graduate and professional students as much as possible.
As a result, the majority of upper-division undergraduate courses will be transitioned to online or hybrid delivery. Hands-on courses, such as laboratory classes, clinical and studio classes, may still be offered face-to-face, as determined by each academic program. We are particularly focused on ensuring that our graduating seniors have the courses they need to successfully complete their degree programs. A final academic schedule will be released on or around Wednesday, Aug. 5, and we appreciate your patience as our colleges and schools make these decisions.
We will also delay moving into the residence halls by one week. Move-in will now occur from Saturday, Aug. 15 to Saturday, Aug. 22. You will receive an email from University Housing that will outline the next steps to select a new date. However, if you cannot change your original move-in date, we will work with you to accommodate your schedule.
Please note that our campuses in Beckley (WVU Tech) and Keyser (WVU Potomac State College) will return to campus as originally planned on Aug. 19. Our local and state public health officials have advised it is safe to do so. Our Charleston and Eastern Health Sciences campuses will follow the WVU Health Sciences schedule and will receive additional guidance from their vice deans and/or program directors.
Below you will find more details on what this decision means moving forward. However, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: West Virginia University is committed to providing each of you with a safe environment to teach and to learn. This is an interim measure to allow us to do that. We are hopeful that we can return more students to in-person instruction as the semester continues.
While we are taking the necessary health and safety precautions with this changed approach, it is important to understand that some members of our West Virginia University community who are returning to campus will contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
Therefore, we will base all future decisions on what is best for the health and safety of our community.
I also know this decision will be met with both relief and disappointment. Each of you has a vision of what university life should be, as do I. As much as I want everyone back on campus, I know this is the right decision. And it was made based on what is needed for our campus at this moment in time. Other universities are facing similar decisions and will do what is right for them. There is no one correct answer or perfect reopening plan. We must each do what is in the best interest of our community.
Though COVID-19 has created much chaos in our lives, there is one thing I know for certain: We are family at West Virginia University. We take care of each other. We support each other. And we will do the right thing when it is asked of us. Remember that you chose to work or study at West Virginia University because we are a unique institution. Along with embodying the Mountaineer values that define us, there is a spirit at our University that calls us to these hills. It is time for us to remember that calling and why we are here.
I ask each of you to view this not as an inconvenience or a detriment. I ask that you reflect for a moment as to why you are a Mountaineer. Think about those things that make you proud to be a part of West Virginia University and a part of the Morgantown community. The values and traditions we hold dear that propel us to take these measures to better work toward a future where everyone is healthy and safe. If we take these precautions now, we can work toward having everyone back on campus as quickly as possible.
Nothing would bring me more joy than to see our classrooms full, the PRT zipping by with students on their way to class and our green spaces bursting at the seams with friends catching up over afternoon snacks. We will do all of those things again – and more – if we do the right things now.
Please read through the information below, and if you have any questions, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also will be holding two Return to Campus Conversations on Thursday, July 30 at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. to further discuss changes and provide more information. University leadership will share information on academics, housing and operations. Please check the Return to Campus website for details.
Again, I know we can get through this if we hold ourselves accountable and are respectful of each other. These are extraordinary – but temporary – times. Let us work collectively so we can look back on these days as a time when our community – our family – came together as one for the benefit of all.
E. Gordon Gee
Phased Return to Campus Information
- Classes on the Morgantown campus will begin on Wednesday, Aug. 26, a week later than originally scheduled.
- Classes on the Beckley and Keyser campuses will begin on Wednesday, Aug. 19 as originally scheduled.
- Those courses that are part of the Online Degree Program will start on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
- A revised course delivery schedule will focus on further reducing density, while preserving the on-campus experience for freshmen, graduate and professional students as much as possible.
- The majority of upper-division undergraduate courses will be transitioned to online and hybrid delivery.
- Hands-on courses, such as laboratory classes, clinical and studio classes, may still be offered face-to-face as determined by the academic program.
- Some professional programs may have alternative start dates. Please check with your program for confirmation.
- Health Sciences graduate and professional students will receive guidance from their specific deans and/or program directors. This includes the Charleston and Eastern campuses.
- The revised schedule with new modalities and/or classrooms will be available on or around Wednesday, Aug. 5. Students can access their schedules via the STAR system.
- Students may make changes to their schedule up to the first week of classes. However, students should work with their advisers to ensure they are making progress towards graduation.
- If students have any questions regarding the revised course delivery and how that will affect their schedules, please consult with your adviser.
- Faculty have been preparing for online instruction and therefore, students will have a quality online experience. This fall will be different than the spring semester, when there was little time to prepare. To learn more about how the University has been preparing for possible online instruction, visit WVU Today.
- Students can learn more about the academic success measures that are in place to assist with this transition.
- And please note, if health conditions improve, our goal is to bring more students back to campus this fall.
- For those moving into residence halls: Due to the delay in the start of classes, the University recommends you delay your move-in to the residence halls. Dates for move-in will be Saturday, Aug. 15 through Saturday, Aug. 22. Please watch for an email from University Housing with details on how to cancel your current move-in timeslot and how to register for a new move-in date and time. Please note that the previous safety precautions regarding move-in are still in place.
- We will include instructions in the email if you are unable to adjust your existing residence hall move-in time slot due to family work schedules or other obligations.
- For those moving into University-operated apartments: Apartments at Vandalia, University Place, University Park and College Park will be available for move-in on Saturday, Aug. 1.
- For those living in off-campus housing, be sure to check with your landlord for specific guidelines.
- As previously announced, all students learning on campus will leave campus by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 25 and will not return until the start of the spring semester. All instruction for the fall semester will be completed online following Thanksgiving Break.
- COVID-19 testing will be required for those students who will be taking on-campus courses and/or using on-campus resources (libraries, dining facilities, etc.). Additional testing dates will be made available the week of Aug. 17. Additional details will be communicated in the next few days. The test is free.
- It is also strongly recommended that any student returning to Morgantown, no matter what their course schedule, be tested to assist in preventing community and campus spread. If you will not be on campus at all due to your new class schedule, this test will be voluntary, but it is strongly encouraged. The test is free.
- The COVID-19 education module will be available beginning Aug. 4. The completion of this course is still required for all students and employees.
Student Services and Fees
- There will be a variety of resources that will be available online, including tutoring, student success tips, mental health counseling, library access, online learning tips and more.
- WVU has many accredited colleges, schools and programs, and those online classes still must meet strict accreditation requirements, so we expect our students will continue to learn at a high level consistent with our in-person levels. Therefore, there will be no reduction in tuition.
- Students who will be moved from in-person courses to receiving delivery of all courses in an online format will only be charged $220 in student fees, which is $440 less than the standard fee amount. The University is doing so in recognition that these students are studying remotely while other students will be studying on campus.
- For students moving in on Aug. 15 or later, the University will issue a 6.42% pro-rata reduction in room and board costs and a 6.36% pro-rata reduction in Go 10, Go 13 and Go Anytime dining plan costs to compensate students for the reduced days they will be living in the residence halls and dining on campus due to this change. There will be no changes to Prime plans or Dining Dollars.
- Additional information will be shared in the coming days regarding any changes to the billing schedule, refunds for payments made in full, financial aid disbursements and adjustments to payment plans.
- Since students will not be returning following Thanksgiving, the University feels it is not in the best interest of the public’s health and safety to host an in-person commencement. A virtual ceremony will be held on Dec. 19 to honor WVU’s August and December graduates. More information will be posted in the coming weeks.
- In addition, information regarding an in-person commencement for both the May and December 2020 ceremonies will be posted at a future date.