RIT encourages students to not return to campus; courses resume March 23 through alternative modes

Dear members of the RIT community,

Given how rapidly the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is developing, it has become imperative that RIT update and clarify actions the university is taking that will affect the remainder of the spring semester.

Please know that all measures being put into place, no matter how disappointing they may be or drastic they may seem, are designed to protect our students, faculty, staff, and the greater community. Medical experts across the globe have made it abundantly clear that social distancing — not congregating in groups, staying at least six feet away from others — is imperative to containing the spread of the virus, protecting the most vulnerable and preventing the medical system from being overwhelmed. As this situation has evolved, we are finding it necessary to revisit decisions that seemed proactive just days ago.

In this update, we will provide the latest news on:

  • Campus operations, including coursework and university housing
  • Events, including Imagine RIT and Commencement
  • Guidance from Human Resources for employees
  • Activation of a call center for those seeking additional information
  • Remaining issues for which information is forthcoming
Campus operations

Yesterday, Monroe and several surrounding counties established states of emergency, in alignment with such a declaration made earlier this week by the state of New York. This governmental action allows officials to take important steps to stem the spread of coronavirus, such as closing public K-12 schools and distributing emergency funding. While it does not signal rampant disease in the community, it does call upon all of us to take this seriously and do everything we can to keep the community as safe as possible.

Given that, let us make this abundantly clear: There will be NO in-person, face-to-face classes for the remainder of the semester. All coursework is moving to alternative delivery methods, including online, beginning March 23. It is critical that all students be able to fulfill their academic requirements.

Students are strongly discouraged from returning to campus. If you are home, stay home.

While we will be open, many services such as dining and transportation will be operating on reduced and modified schedules. We will be closing spaces that invite large groups of people, including the Student Life Center, Red Barn, Global Village retail areas, effective immediately. 

Students living in university housing

We have made the decision to close university housing. Students residing in university housing must vacate their assigned space NO LATER THAN APRIL 5. Any students now on campus and residing in university housing will be asked to ensure their Spring Residential Plan is updated on the mylife portal. Those with extenuating circumstances, who cannot leave and have no safe place to go, should indicate that in their Spring Residential Plan in order to make arrangements. Students who need to retrieve items in order to successfully complete the semester away from campus must schedule an appointment via the Spring Residential Plan on the mylife portal. If you are worried about your belongings, and live in RIT Housing, we will provide information on how get them safely stored until you can return.

Events

Effective immediately, and until further notice, all in-person, RIT sponsored or hosted events, activities and meetings with 50 or more attendees, in venues both on and off campus, must be postponed, canceled or offered virtually using teleconferencing or other distance technologies.

Unfortunately, this decision requires us to cancel Imagine RIT, which had been set for April 25th. While this is indeed disappointing, it is clearly in the community’s best interest, as this festival requires hours of student collaboration to create exhibits and draws tens of thousands of visitors to campus, something we simply cannot risk undertaking.

Commencement is among the most important days in the life of the university and we understand how important this celebration is to graduates and their guests. We will have an answer by April 3 as to whether it will be safe to hold commencement ceremonies on campus.

We realize all this news is distressing, especially to those students who were finishing their final years here at RIT. What should have been a warm, celebratory time has become a time of anxiety and uncertainty. Please know we share your disappointment, and RIT leadership is working on ways we can bring you back together to celebrate your significant accomplishments once the coronavirus issues are well behind us. At this time, we cannot promise it will be the scheduled weekend in May, but we will let you know as soon as we can.

Guidance for employees from HR and new travel policy

We recognize that RIT employees — including our student employees — have many questions. At this time, we do not have all the answers, but our HR department and leadership are working to provide guidance very soon. However, the vision is to be as supportive as possible to our employees during this difficult time, and do our absolute best to ensure we are functioning for the long-term health of RIT. In the meantime, please visit the RIT Coronavirus website to better understand your options. Also, we have created an employee procedure manual to get through this period.

Travel: All university international and nonessential domestic travel is prohibited. Domestic travel that is considered essential must be approved by the appropriate divisional vice president.

Call Center to be activated

A Call Center will open beginning Monday, March 16 at 9 a.m. EST. The Call Center number is 585-475-3500. It will be open from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST. We will do our best to answer all questions related to this evolving situation. Additionally, a dedicated email address is available at  coronavirusresponse@rit.edu.

Outstanding issues

We are hearing a lot of questions regarding such things as refunds for unused room and board, options for storing items and other unresolved issues. Please know that while we are currently focused on major matters of immediate health and safety, and academic continuity, we are working on policies and resolutions to these other matters and will communicate as soon as we can.

In Closing

We will continue to communicate frequently with you in the coming days and weeks ahead. I remind you that the dedicated Coronavirus Website remains our hub for news, guidance and frequently asked questions.

As we work through this most challenging time together, please know that we greatly appreciate your understanding and patience. I ask that you continue to take care of yourselves, by washing your hands, refraining from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and practicing social distancing. Let’s slow down the virus.  And, in these trying times, let’s show Tiger kindness and respect for all. We will continue to keep you up to date as conditions and situations evolve.

Sincerely,

David Munson
President
RIT

(A sign language interpreted version of this message is available on YouTube.)

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