DEAR BLUFFTON CAMPUS COMMUNITY,
As we near the end of the 2020 spring semester, I wanted to reach out with gratitude and appreciation for all that students, faculty and staff have accomplished in the last few weeks. With new recommendations emerging almost daily, our ability to adapt and continue our educational mission in the light of a rapidly changing world speaks to our resilience and the strength of our entire campus community.
I also write to share with you that as we ready ourselves to conclude this semester, we are looking forward to fall 2020 with hope and anticipation. We plan to follow our usual practice, which is to welcome our first year students to Bluffton University during Welcome Week (beginning August 28) and look forward to having all of our returning students back on campus by no later than the start of the regular academic year on Monday, August 31. As we all are learning to live with the new realities that are quickly becoming a part of everyday life, we also have increased knowledge of how to keep our campus community functioning and safe as we move forward. We are paying close attention to federal and state guidelines regarding best practices for health and safety as well as partnering with our local Allen County health officials. Bluffton University is committed to continuing to provide our students with our stellar community-based residence life experience, while they also are participating in our highly-ranked academic and athletic programs.
In order to be fully ready for a return to campus life that is as normal as possible, Bluffton University has been busy planning for resuming campus life. Because we have very few classes of more than twenty students, we are confident that we can provide face to face learning even if we are still required to practice social distancing. We also know that if we need to “learn in place,” the past semester has shown us how we can best move back and forth between remote learning and in-person learning if that need arises. We are grateful to have Bluffton Hospital, which is part of the Blanchard Valley Health System, as well as a walk-in clinic operated by Mercy Health within walking distance of our campus. We are working with local and state officials as together we determine the types of pre-testing and ongoing testing that might be needed in ensure the safety of all of our students.
We are anticipating a vibrant bunch of new Beavers this fall and can’t wait to see them racing their canoes during Freshman Olympics at the Nature Preserve pond. We also can’t wait to see all of our returning students back on campus and in the residence halls as we continue to prepare students for “life as well as vocation.” A liberal arts education is designed to shine light into all aspects of life. Bluffton University, as a faith-based University, looks forward with certainty and trust in all that we know and that which we will discover. We are BEAVERS All!
Blessings for the journey ahead,
UPDATES FOR THE END OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR:
We will hold Move Out on May 6-9 for students to return to campus and move out of their residence halls, return their keys, rented text books, instruments, pick up mail, etc. The Student Life Office will send an e-mail to all students with specific details of how and when the move out process will work.
It is still our plan and our intent to hold an in-person graduation for the 2020 class. We have a scenario planned for holding Commencement on Saturday, July 18, for those able to attend. Once we get confirmation from the Governor on large gatherings, we will communicate final details with seniors. Caps and gowns are on campus and all seniors will get them in time for graduation. Please know that based on regulations, there could be a ticket limit for guests per graduate. The event will be live streamed for all family and friends. If we are not able to hold Commencement on Saturday, July 18, our back-up date will be after Homecoming, on Sunday, October 11. We are looking forward to an extra-special celebration of our seniors and their families.
CREDITS AND REFUNDS
The Business Office is working to confirm the calculations from the last six weeks of pro-rated room and board that will be refunded (to seniors) and credited to returning students, assuming there is no outstanding balance owed. All room and board credits will be posted to student accounts between May 1 and May 15. If you have questions or want to confirm your contact information, including direct deposit is correct, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
STIMULUS MONEY FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
As part of the CARES Act, Bluffton University will receive funds from the Federal Government that are intended to be passed along to enrolled students who suffered disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each institution is given the authority to determine how best to allocate these funds to its students based upon the impact to its campus. As we understand that for undergraduate residential students there would have been additional travel costs in coming to and from the residence halls multiple times, as well as costs for setting up learning environments at home, and for traditional, undergraduate face to face commuter students there also could have been additional costs for setting up learning environments at home, Bluffton University is issuing the following amounts directly to students: All undergraduate residential students enrolled full-time as of March 18, 2020, will receive $500 per student and traditional undergraduate commuters will receive $200 per student. According to Federal guidelines, international students and DACA students are not eligible for the direct stimulus money. When the university receives this money, funds will be distributed as directed by the Department of Education.
Additionally, for students returning to campus next academic year, there will be some additional emergency relief aid available for students who have increased financial need because of the impact that COVID-19 has had on their personal or family’s financial situation. We are working to confirm a process for how to apply for this aid; please be watching for more details.
Dear Bluffton Campus Community,
As I write this from my desk looking out over the College Hall lawn, my heart goes out to each and every one of you with deep gratitude for continuing to live out the mission of Bluffton University during these turbulent times.
Bluffton University remains open and operational, while observing the guidelines for virtual working and learning environments as we begin a new order from Governor DeWine to “stay at home”. Gandhi tells us that “[a] small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history” and this campus community is continuing our mission even as we stay at home and save lives.
From students and faculty who are together navigating remote learning, including our IT and library staff members who have worked diligently to make sure that everyone can access platforms and resources, and others like the LRC who continues to tutor students regularly, and so many more, we are demonstrating an unquenchable faith in Bluffton University. Thank you all for your patience, your grace and your caring for and about one another.
As much as all of us would like to come back physically to campus yet this spring, in light of the Governor’s new order to “stay at home” and the increasing number of coronavirus cases nationally and the climbing number in Ohio, and our desire to keep the Bluffton Village community safe as well as abiding by guidelines to protect our most vulnerable citizens, it does not seem possible at this time. As we work together to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus:
- Bluffton University will remain open and operational to support our students who are learning remotely as well as the few students who remain on campus. Almost all of our faculty and staff are working from home, but there are a few essential employees who will be on campus practicing social distancing and the other guidelines recommended by the CDC and Governor DeWine’s office and in accordance with the “stay at home” order.
- Bluffton University will continue with remote learning for the rest of the semester. We are doing our best to support our students and families during this time, so please see below for additional information about financial adjustments.
- The Student Life Office will be in touch with you after April 13 to coordinate times for you to pick up anything left in your dorm room. Your rooms will remain locked and all of your things are perfectly safe for as long as you would like to leave them there for the spring semester.
- The Heartland Athletic Collegiate Conference (HCAC) officially cancelled spring contests. For our senior student athletes, I am so sorry that you are not able to compete. However, the NCAA has granted an additional year of eligibility for any senior student who would like to return for additional learning and compete with your team. Interested students should talk with Mr. Phill Talavinia or Ms. Kim Schimmoeller about possibilities to add an additional major or begin a graduate degree.
- We will need to postpone in-person Commencement until we can safely gather together. Seniors, although we are postponing graduation, delaying our celebration will not delay your degree. Please send me any feedback that you may have as to the best potential times for rescheduling at email@example.com
A few important additional updates/clarifications are below.
Bluffton University will take the following actions to reflect the shortened period most students will use University housing and meal plans during the spring 2020 semester:
- Prorated housing credits will be placed on student accounts for the period of time students are unable to return to their campus housing. These credits will roll over to the next academic year for returning students. If the student will not be living in University housing during fall 2020, the credit will be applied to tuition charges for the next academic year.
- Balances of both General Meal Plans and Beaver Bucks will roll over to the next academic year. The University is waiving all current limitations on the amount that may be rolled over.
- Those students who were granted approval to remain on campus during this time and continue to live in University housing will not be eligible for the credit and/or roll over.
- Seniors graduating in May will receive a prorated housing and meal plan credit on their student account. The credits will first apply to any outstanding balance owed to the University. If the account balance is paid in full at graduation, the University will issue a refund to the student in the weeks following.
- There will be no financial credit provided for tuition since faculty instruction continues on a remote basis.
- The housing credit and meal plan rollover is null and void if the student does not return in fall 2020; this excludes graduating seniors.
- As explained above, all financial credits will be applied in the June 2020 billing cycle.
Should the State or Federal Government make any new decisions regarding reimbursement to college and university students, we reserve the right to modify these adjustments.
If you have questions, please call or contact Art Woodruff at 419-358-3320 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would also ask for your patience and support as we work through this process together; it is the first time in the history of the University that we have attempted this type of financial adjusting on such a large scale.
Last Thursday evening, Dr. Paul Neufeld Weaver, director of global education, met with students registered to participate in May cross-cultural experiences to update them on our evolving plans. At this point, we are planning that the experiences in Germany, Arizona and Kentucky will be moved to later in the summer. The Greece experience is being cancelled. The August Guatemala experience is still scheduled as planned. Students will be working with Paul and Elaine Suderman to determine how the adjusted dates work for them or to make alternative plans. Any questions should be directed to Paul Neufeld Weaver.
MAY DAY 2020 EVENTS ON MAY 1-2 ARE CANCELLED:
We have made the decision to cancel all May Day events scheduled for Friday, May 1, and Saturday, May 2. The alumni office plans to explore possibilities for some Virtual May Day activities to honor this venerable Bluffton tradition.
Bluffton University remains open and operational, while observing the stay at home guidelines for virtual working and learning environments, and we will continue to be in contact with one another throughout the rest of the semester, as together we learn and cultivate that which we know to be honest, good and true.
Blessings to you and your family as we continue to stay in touch while we stay at home.
President Jane Wood
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
Based on the increasing recommendations by Governor DeWine and today’s recommendation by The President of the United States to reduce group gatherings to 10 people or less, Bluffton University is taking the following actions:
- All classes will continue to be held via online/remote learning methods through April 12. We are suspending all other athletic-related activities, including practice and intra-squad games of traditional and non-traditional teams, until further notice. We will continue to evaluate whether it will be possible for everyone to return to campus following Easter break to finish out the semester, including a modified plan for Commencement.
- The university requests that all students return to their primary residence. We are closing our traditional residence halls, with move-out to be complete by no later than 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 18. You do not have to take everything home at this time, but you can if you choose to do so. Once you leave campus, you may not return until residence halls reopen.
We understand that for some students the university is their primary home. We will work with students who have extenuating circumstances to provide continuity of housing and services. If you believe you must stay on campus, please contact Tyson Goings, director of residence life.
- While the university will continue its business operations, more university faculty and staff will begin to work remotely from home as roles and timing permit. More information will come from your vice president this evening. Understanding this affects student workers as well, student employment will end today as of 5 p.m., unless you are contacted by your supervisor at a later date. Some students may be able to work remotely.
- As of Wednesday at 5 p.m., the majority of buildings on campus will limit public access and visitors.
While I know that this is disappointing news for all of us, we want to comply with the State and Federal recommendations to keep students, faculty, staff, and community safe.
We are a people of hope and we continue to lift each other up in prayer as we stay connected in the journey ahead.
President Jane Wood
To the Bluffton University Campus Community:
As I mentioned in my note to you yesterday afternoon, Governor DeWine held a press conference where he strongly recommended that all higher education institutions in Ohio move to remote learning for classes as soon as possible for a period of time. The full list of recommendations can be found at Coronavirus.ohio.gov. In addition, he asked that all large events, such as indoor sports and other performance events, be canceled.
Bluffton University, in alignment with Governor DeWine’s recommendations, has established the following plan to protect its students, employees, visitors and the Bluffton community.
As a residential campus, Bluffton University recognizes that some students do not have the ability to return home and therefore the university will remain open, including student support services, the Learning Resource Center, academic resources, residence and dining facilities, athletic and recreation facilities. Beginning today, the university is implementing a plan for remote learning options.
The following measures will be implemented immediately and will extend through Easter Break (Monday, April 13). We will continue to evaluate new information as it develops and share updates as they become available.
- Face-to-face classes will be in session on Thursday, March 12, to help with the transition to remote learning. However, we urge students to make choices that are best for their own personal health situations. Students are responsible for notifying professors if a student decides it is not in their best interest to be in class on Thursday. Students are responsible for making up the work that they miss.
- All classes are canceled for Friday, March 13, to allow faculty to prepare for remote teaching and learning.
- Beginning on Monday, March 16, through Monday, April 13, academic coursework will take place in an online format and/or remote options (for example, Moodle, Zoom, etc.)
- Clinical and off-campus learning placements will continue at this time and students should follow the protocols of the facility where they are working. Classroom experiences such as labs, studio art and performance classes are still being evaluated and additional information will come from your professors.
- Students will receive additional information on how to transition to remote learning in the days ahead, including what this means for Arts and Lecture credits.
- We continue to evaluate the May Cross-Cultural experiences and we will communicate with those students and faculty as additional information becomes available.
- Students and faculty who have questions about these measures should contact Dr. Lamar Nisly, vice president and dean of academic affairs.
Guidance for students:
To-go food boxes: On Monday, March 16, Bluffton Dining Services will have to-go food boxes available for your convenience and safety. The Commons remains open for dining in, however, please use social distancing and practice preventative hygiene.
Zoom on-line learning platform: Professors may decide to host live-streamed video class meetings using our Zoom platform. While there are many ways to connect to a Zoom meeting, the most reliable way is via Zoom’s software, available for all major computer and mobile platforms, as well as browser plug-ins for Chrome and Firefox. We’d recommend that you install the software while you are still on campus using this link. While we expect the installation to be smooth and simple, installing while on campus means we can help you should you run into challenges. If you have any questions, feel free to stop by the Tech Center or e-mail Chris Gott at email@example.com
Class schedule: During this transitional time of remote learning, the intent is to preserve the current structure of class times. For example, if your class usually met from 9-9:50 a.m. MWF, you need to plan to attend class on-line at that time unless told differently by your professor. You should not schedule work or other activities during the times when you normally have class. If you have questions contact Dr. Lamar Nisly, vice president and dean and academic affairs.
This afternoon Governor DeWine did close all K-12 public and private schools starting next Tuesday, April 3. This does not impact our plan at Bluffton University. Campus remains open and remote classes will begin Monday. Please continue to watch your e-mail for additional updates.
- While completing classes remotely, students may choose to return to their permanent place of residence or stay in their on-campus housing.
- Students who choose to move home during this time need to check out with their hall director before Friday at 5 p.m. Students who leave campus should not return to campus residence halls prior to April 14.
- For students who remain on campus, the university encourages taking enhanced preventative public health and hygiene measures and encourages social distancing as described by the World Health Organization.
- If students are staying on campus and become ill with flu-like symptoms contact the Student Life Office at 419-358-3247.
- Students workers should speak with their supervisor about their campus job.
- Students who have questions about housing and campus life should contact Phill Talavinia, interim vice president for student life, director of athletics.
Guidance For Faculty:
- Faculty should immediately begin preparation to deliver courses remotely beginning Monday, March 16 (Moodle, Zoom and other online platforms).
- Training sessions and workshops will be offered on Friday, March 13, for faculty; more information will come from the Academic Affairs Office.
- Faculty may continue to use their offices and campus facilities while delivering courses remotely and may continue to meet with students individually during this period.
Guidance For Staff:
As we continue to serve our students, we do need all employees to be present to continue campus services. However, this afternoon Governor Mike DeWine announced that all K-12 schools will be closed for three weeks starting no later than end of the day on Monday; some districts will close earlier. We understand that some employees will have a demonstrated need for flexibility. Those employees should talk with their vice president to create a work flow plan as indicated in President Wood’s message on March 11. During this mandated three week period with K-12, the university is flexing current policies to allow for alternative work hours and the use of sick, vacation or personal hours. All impacted employees will need to develop a written work plan with their vice president.
- The university is open during this time period. Staff are expected to report to campus for work. Sick time should continue to be used per the Employee Handbook.
- Bluffton will provide work-at-home flexibility to employees who are at high-risk (i.e. chronically ill or immuno-compromised prior to this outbreak, or have a need to work remotely due to personal matters related to the COVID-19). Employees should talk with their vice president to establish a work plan.
- Vice presidents will communicate with each division for additional work-flow plans by Friday, March 13.
Campus Events and Meetings:
- Effective today, Wednesday, March 11, the university is canceling all large indoor gatherings (any group of 20 or more) and public events until April 13; this includes student organization events and use of university facilities by off-campus groups (for example, conference rentals).
- We are asking all university groups and employees to suspend meetings that include 20 or more participants, or these groups should meet in a virtual capacity when possible, including student organizations.
- Outdoor sports (baseball, softball, track and field, golf) will continue at this time. Indoor team practice will not be permitted, including non-traditional (off-season) practices that happen indoors. Small group/individual practices may continue indoors under the supervision and guidance of coaches and in direct consultation with the athletic director. We remain in communication with the Commissioner of the Heartland Conference who is continuing to monitor the situation across the NCAA and we will evaluate developments as they occur.
- Effective immediately and until April 13, all university-sponsored international travel is suspended. This includes new travel as well as any currently planned trips.
- University-sponsored domestic travel must be approved by the appropriate vice president. This includes new travel as well as any currently planned trips between now and April 13.
- Travelers returning from Level 3 warning countries are required to report their exposure to the Allen County Health Department and to observe a 14-day period of self-quarantine and monitoring.
Bluffton University’s Cabinet and Campus Emergency Response Task Force continue to evaluate risk and develop contingency plans, working directly with the Allen County Health Department and following the guidelines of the CDC and local, state, and federal authorities.
As a reminder, below are recommendations from the Campus Emergency Response Task Force:
- If you are running a temperature it is recommended that you see a doctor or physician assistant. Please take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are ill or exhibit symptoms of infection
I recognize that this is a deeply disruptive time in our world. Bluffton is a caring community, and I invite us to come together and support our efforts to follow the Governor’s recommendations and continue to live out Bluffton’s educational mission in all that we do. We will continue to provide official updates via email and the webpage.
Let’s hold our campus community in prayer as we journey through this time together.
President Jane Wood