March 24, 2020 Student Update

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Special message from Dr. Briggs

Dear Berry students:

It has now been eleven (long) days since we made the decision to extend spring break by a week and begin remote instruction for all classes.  At that point (Friday, March 13th), we hoped there might be a possibility of reopening campus sometime later in April so that students and professors could meet together before the conclusion of the academic term.  Sadly, that almost certainly will not happen.

Therefore, I am formally announcing that the Berry campus will remain closed for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.  All courses for the term will be completed by way of remote instruction. 

As part of that decision, we want to provide information about a number of related matters.

Before that, however, I want you to know how much we regret having to make this decision.  For many of you, especially our graduating seniors, this is an occasion of real loss.  I know it is disappointing and difficult.  The warmth of our community is at the core of the Berry experience.  It is evident in the ways you connect with teachers and mentors in class and at work.  Our student community thrives because you care about each other and this remarkable place.  We recognize that it is disorienting to be learning remotely and disheartening to be separated physically from those you care about.  Who knew how much we would miss the “Berry bubble?” 

As we embrace the challenge of learning in new and unexpected ways, I encourage you to engage fully with your professors and classmates.  The coming weeks may seem formidable, but difficult challenges can truly bring out the best in us.  Martha Berry often said:  "The pursuit of easy things makes us weak.  It is the pursuit of difficult things that makes us strong."

I wish you every success as you work at home and as we participate in this national effort to keep our families, communities and selves safe and healthy. 

What does this mean about my courses this semester?

You will complete your courses at home.  Faculty have been preparing how students can fulfill all course requirements this semester using teaching methods and assignments appropriate to the learning outcomes of specific courses.  Questions about specific courses should be directed to the course professor. 

Questions about academic matters more generally should be directed to your advisor or to Dr. David Slade, Dean of Academic Services (dslade@berry.edu or 706-236-2229). 

A comprehensive list of student resources, including the Academic Success Center and Writing Center, is available at: student resources as well as on VikingWeb.

What about labs, clinical, and internship hours?

All lab and clinical courses will be completed this semester via remote teaching and learning. Students should contact their Academic Internship Advisor for specific information regarding their internships.

Will the academic calendar remain the same?

Because we extended spring break by a week, we will need to add five additional days to the class schedule.  Those days will be:   Tuesday, April 7, Friday, April 10, Wednesday, April 29, Thursday, April 30 and Friday, May 1.

Final exams will begin on Monday, May 4 and end on Friday, May 8. All final exam dates are pushed forward by 2 days. Exam times remain the same.

The revised Academic Calendar and Final Exam Schedule for Spring 2020 will be posted by Friday, March 27 at: https://vikingweb.berry.edu/ICS/Course_Registration/

Will Berry have a Commencement this year?

Yes, but the format is not yet determined.  Although it seems unlikely that the COVID-19 situation will improve markedly six weeks from now, we do want to leave open the possibility that our graduating seniors could gather on campus for a celebration and ceremony as scheduled for Saturday, May 9th, (or perhaps at a date later in May.)   We will make a decision in that regard several weeks in advance, by Friday, April 17th

Should we be unable to proceed with Commencement on campus on May 9th (or an alternate May date), we will recognize the accomplishments of our graduates and confer their degrees virtually on that date.  We will also invite all graduates to return to campus for a special time of celebration, perhaps hosting a festive ceremony on the weekend of Mountain Day 2020.

When will I be able to retrieve my belongings from my residence hall room?

We understand that most students will need to retrieve their belongings from campus.  We plan to use a process similar to the one used after spring break.  Students will schedule a time to return to campus, and we will manage the number of students returning to campus at any one time to ensure appropriate social distancing and an efficient process.

However, as of 5pm today, March 24th, the City of Rome is under an ordinance to shelter in your place of residence.  That ordinance continues until at least April 6th, which is the same time frame established yesterday by Governor Kemp, who asked colleges to have their employees work from home.  We expect Floyd County commissioners to pass a similar directive at its called meeting later today.

Thus, the process for retrieving belongings will not begin until after April 6th.  Once it is safe for students to return to campus, we will provide details about how to schedule a time.

In the meantime, please know that the Residence Life team has ensured all doors to rooms and halls are locked and your possessions are secure. Campus Police are walking residence halls daily to ensure security in the buildings.  If you have specific concerns, please call Residence Life at (706) 236-2209

What if I am unable to come back to get my belongings once campus reopens?

We understand that students are located across the nation, and we will work with students individually to retrieve their belongings once it is safe and healthy to reopen campus. For students unable to travel back to campus, we will work to store their items in a secure manner until they are able to return.

What if I’m currently on campus; do I need to leave immediately?

Students who have been permitted to remain on campus will be able to stay on campus.  They will shelter in this place of residence for the time being.  Currently, only international students and a limited number of other students reside on campus. 

Can I visit or return to campus?

No.  The Berry campus is currently closed to everyone except essential employees of the college, including a small number of students who are approved to work in special areas.  In addition, the college is complying with directives that local residents shelter in their place of residence until April 6th

At this time, most faculty and staff are working remotely, except for a limited number of exceptions who must be present to ensure the necessary operations of the college and to facilitate distance learning.  For these employees, we are asking them to conduct their work separated from others.  Having a diminished number of people on campus helps keep these employees healthy and allows the college to participate in the national effort to “flatten the curve.”  If you have an essential item that you need from your residence hall room, please complete this link for Residence Life to mail it to you.

Will there be a refund or credit for room and board for the weeks that campus is closed?

Yes.  We expect to reimburse unused room and board fees that were paid with student funds.  The reimbursement will be proportional based on approximately one-half of the spring semester’s room and board fees.  The exact amount of reimbursement each student receives will depend on a student’s room and board plan, their financial aid awards, and federal requirements.  We plan to provide options for reimbursement that may include a credit toward the fall semester, summer courses, or a refund check to the student.

Although the campus is closed for the remainder of the spring semester, the college nevertheless incurs costs related to dining services.  The cost of food will be negligible, but the college still has an obligation to a number of professionals who manage the college’s dining service operations.  In preparing its refund plan, the college has opted not to pass these expenses on to Berry students.

Because each student’s reimbursement will need to be calculated separately, refunds will likely be distributed sometime in early May. 

Can I still get my mail forwarded?

If you have already completed a form with April 3, 2020 as the end date, you do NOT need to complete another form. If you have not completed the form, please submit your mail forwarding request immediately so we may begin forwarding your mail and packages. Please use August 21, 2020 as the ending date. https://vikingweb.berry.edu/ICS/Students/Forms_and_Reports.jnz

Upon receipt of this form, we will forward Berry paychecks, mail, and all packages that are currently here.  Your mail and packages will then be forwarded each day as they are received. It would be helpful if packages you order during this time period be sent directly to your home address instead of Berry. Should you return to Berry for summer, you will be able to cancel the mail forwarding at that time.

What is the plan for summer school?

At this time, we expect to offer an extended set of courses using a remote/online option. Several new online classes have been added. Once the campus reopens for normal use, we also anticipate additional on-campus offerings, including experience-focused opportunities such as laboratories, clinicals and studios.  

Should we be unable to offer classes on-campus this summer, ANS 105 (lecture and lab) will move to an online format. BIO 111, CHM 108, CHM 109 and EVS 104 will move to a remote format for lecture, with in-person labs offered during the 2020-21 academic year. For rising seniors, NUR 410 and EDU 222 have been moved to remote teaching and learning for this summer.

Will there be opportunity for students to work on campus this summer?

When campus reopens for normal use, we anticipate resuming student work opportunities.

Gate of Opportunity Scholars who normally work during the summer months as part of their scholarship program should plan to resume their work when campus reopens.  We will keep Gate students informed in the months to come.

What is the plan for students interested in studying abroad in the fall semester?

We will continue to monitor study abroad locations and use recommendations from the CDC and State Department to inform whether students will be able to participate in study abroad.

Thank you again for your patience and flexibility, and for your willingness to put others first as we make the health and safety of our communities a priority.  What a vivid reminder of how connected we are to others around us. 

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