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Reopening Morgan: Fall 2020 Semester Updates

Dear Morgan Community,

My Cabinet and I have been in a constant state of planning since we initially came to understand in late January the potentially perilous consequences that COVID-19 could have on our University-wide community, our state, our nation and our world. From the very beginning, I insisted that our planning be transparent, inclusive, rooted in science, in accordance with public health and CDC guidance, and, ultimately, with the recommendations from the Campus Reopening and Readiness/Preparedness Committee, yield the best choices possible to meet the vast array of needs within our community.

Within the last three months, I have held close to twenty (20) virtual town hall meetings with all of our shared governance groups, and the University-at-large. Collectively, these meetings have been attended by literally thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents. I have also expanded my weekly Cabinet meetings to include more than fifty (50) participants—vice presidents, deans, a few department chairs, associate and assistant vice presidents, the chair of the University Council, and numerous campus directors. In essence, our decisions are consistently being made on the merits of enlisting as many voices as possible.

Founded on the collective insights drawn from these vested individuals and the units that they represent, I initially announced on June 8, our plans to reopen the campus this fall. I invite you to revisit that announcement, as I think you will conclude that it is a thoughtful plan that places the health of our entire community as our highest priority. You can learn more about the University’s return to campus plans on the Reopening MSU page.

Since I announced those plans, the COVID-19 landscape has shifted a bit and we have found that, because of that shift, the anxieties of all members of our community have risen as well. After the latest round of virtual town halls, it was very clear to me that we could not embrace a one-model fits all approach at this point. Simply stated, many of our faculty don’t feel comfortable returning to face-to-face instruction, many students don’t feel comfortable being physically back on campus, and many of our staff have similar anxieties. On the other hand, we have critical masses within these same groups who do feel very comfortable returning to the campus—in light of everything we are doing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

With the above in mind, our fall plans are being updated to reflect the following:

Faculty Option

Faculty will have the option to deliver their courses either face-to-face or online/remotely. Regardless of preferred method of delivery (face-to-face or online/remote), all students will have the option to take their classes remotely because all of the classes at Morgan will be available remotely or online. A recent survey to faculty indicated that approximately twenty-five (25) percent of faculty are willing to deliver face-to-face instruction. But let me be clear, all of the face-to-face courses will also be delivered remotely via live-stream and accessible online to all students. During the summer, more than two-hundred (200) of our faculty members participated in robust training to enable them to perfect their teaching effectiveness in an online/remote modality.

Student Choice

After listening to thousands of our students, and particularly to the SGA leaders, it was clear that many students have difficulty with online/remote learning only, and many of our students want to return to campus to escape all of the stressors that have engulfed them since being away—including food insecurity, lack of adequate emotional support, lack of access to appropriate technology to enable them to excel in online/remote instruction, and housing insecurity, to name a few. Therefore, students will have the following choices:

A. One-hundred percent online or remote (whether on campus or away from campus);

B. Some face-to-face courses if they elect to stay on campus or to stay off-campus and come to campus when those courses meet. All face-to-face course instruction will also be live-streamed and accessible online.

On or around August 7, the course schedule in Websis will accurately reflect how each class will be offered. All MSU students will receive additional information via your Morgan email address. Please, if you do not do so already, routinely check your email for these critical updates and communications.

Reduction in University Fees

Recognizing that the pandemic is causing intense financial challenges to many of our students and families, not only will the University not increase tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year, essentially representing a two (2) percent savings in tuition expenses, we are committed to doing more.

We want our students to know that your voices have been heard. Adopting a low-density approach to campus life has a direct impact on many of the student services, resources and activities that encompass the full-bodied campus experience that our students cherish here at the National Treasure. It is at this intersection that we see a way forward in helping to bridge some of the financial shortfalls our students and their families face. To that end, Morgan State University will implement a fifteen (15) percent reduction in University fees this fall semester. The fifteen (15) percent reduction will be universally applied to what has been designated as a “Campus Life Fee.” The Campus Life Fee comprises a host of routine fees, including but not limited to, SAF (student activity fees), athletics, and parking; as well as vital university operations that we will continue to rely heavily upon, like library resources and student services. Additionally, the University has invested another $2 million in institutional aid for students.

Please understand that in a very fluid planning environment, we will continue to monitor the trajectory of COVID-19, as all universities in Maryland will continue to do. If we have to pivot to a completely virtual campus environment, we will not hesitate to do so. At this point, however, to my knowledge, Morgan is in alignment with all of the other public universities in our state. We feel we have heard the very strong views expressed on these options from a solid representation of our community and have made the decisions that we think are currently in the best interest of our entire learning community. [Update: on July 30, the University announced its intentions to institute mandatory testing for everyone before they can return to campus.]

In the interim, let’s please continue to: 1) wear our masks, 2) wash our hands, and 3) observe social distancing.

Stay healthy and safe!

President David K. Wilson

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