This message was sent to the WPI community.
We’ve had our first snow here in Worcester, just enough to make the campus look beautiful—and it was wonderful to see students having some fun with it this weekend. Finding joy in the moment, and doing so responsibly, is critically important to our health and well-being. 2020 and our academic year have been like no other, but it is my hope—and our plan—that we continue to work through this together. So, I’m writing today with some quick, critical updates and requests relative to:
- Rising cases in Massachusetts; vigilance is critical, off campus and on
- Our plans for C- and D-Terms and the spring semester
- NEWMAC winter sports decision and our own planning
- Election Day
Vigilance is critical
I’m sure you are all aware that Massachusetts has seen an increase in the number of people infected with COVID-19 over the past several weeks. While higher education is not the source of the increase, it’s important to be aware and vigilant. Our campus still has a very low number of COVID positive individuals, but with the surge in cases beyond our campus, we have seen an uptick in WPI cases as well. Our COVID-19 dashboard is updated weekdays at 4 p.m., and today you will see three new positive cases since Friday. We are managing those cases well, in accordance with our detailed plans and protocols.
WPI continues to do very well overall, and I’m proud and grateful for the diligence and discipline with which our community is adhering to safety protocols, including regular testing—our essential early detection system. I know that “pandemic fatigue” is real. But rather than give in and back off, the increase in cases in Massachusetts tells us we must actually increase our vigilance—both on campus and off—so we will get to the other side together. Specifically we ask that everyone:
- Be extra careful off campus, especially employees and students who live off campus – minimize the amount of time spent in crowded indoor spaces like restaurants and shops. And please do not gather in groups, even at home. Remember that the risk of transmission is higher at indoor social gatherings where safety protocols are not followed, and with people—even family—who are not part of your regular circle.
- Be vigilant on campus -- keep wearing your mask, watching your distance, washing your hands, and keeping your work areas clean, especially high touch surfaces. For those working on campus, please remember to wear a mask at all times, even at your desk, unless you are in an office alone with the door closed.
We must consistently follow the health and safety protocols in every part of our lives in order to have our best chance at staying safe and healthy—and together.
Open for C- and D-Terms and the spring semester
Our intention is to open the WPI campus for the spring semester and C- and D-Terms. Before the January 21 start of classes, we will welcome students back in a safe and phased manner, as we did in August. Details will be shared as we get closer to the winter break so everyone, students and employees alike, will know the specific timing and the expectations of what to do.
Of course this plan assumes the current increase in COVID cases in Massachusetts, or other factors, do not lead to city or state restrictions that would change our campus operations status. If such restrictions emerge, our plan will have to change in response, and of course we will keep you apprised. This uncertainty, while difficult, is a fact of life in the age of COVID.
The NEWMAC winter sports decision and our planning
Today, the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) announced the cancellation of conference competition, including conference championships, for the winter season. You can find that statement here . And while this means that WPI will not be competing at the conference level, we are considering potential scenarios to enable some level of competition with a limited number of schools, all of which are following health and safety protocols similar to ours. We will be as inventive and creative as we can while adhering to our campus guidelines as well as NCAA COVID-19 protocols. More information to come before the winter break.
For many of our students, the 2020 election may be their first voting experience—or at least their first time voting in a presidential election. It’s a civic duty I’ve always taken very seriously, and I hope that all of you who are eligible have already voted or will do so tomorrow. We know that, unlike in past elections, we may not know the outcome tomorrow night or even Wednesday morning. Tensions are bound to be high. We must stand together as a community, respectful of one another and caring for each other regardless of any difference in views. I ask that you all be extra thoughtful in interactions with friends and colleagues in the coming days, and above all, look out for one another.
When I think about this unprecedented year, I see WPI as a community fully able to assess and manage risk, fully committed to being informed and prepared, and fully engaged in what may well be the challenge of our lifetimes. We have learned how to stop, pause, reflect, learn, and shift—and repeat. This journey is a momentous one, and I have every confidence we have what it takes to get to the other side together. Thank you for all you are doing.