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Thanksgiving and Other Updates

DEPARTMENT(S): 
October 8, 2020

This message was sent to the WPI community.

It’s hard to believe, but A-Term ends next week! I am so proud of your efforts to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. I know it hasn’t been easy, but it’s only through sustained vigilance and adherence to our health, safety, and testing protocols that we can continue to keep COVID-19 at bay and the campus running. Our best paths forward are still the protocols for face-coverings and distancing, routine testing, taking advantage of outdoor spaces for learning and socializing, and, just as important, providing support and care to one another. 

There are some significant updates for our community regarding B-Term and the remainder of the academic year. We continue to keep the health and safety of this community as our top priority, while also supporting student educational and career goals, continuing important research, and creating innovations. To help with this critical work, the Coronavirus Emergency Response Team (CERT) continues to meet weekly to identify and discuss pandemic-related issues and/or needs from every angle; it is only after careful consideration that recommendations come forward and decisions are made. Here are the latest:

Upcoming Term Break: Please Don’t Go Away  

As you know, there is a four-day break coming up between A- and B-Terms. This is the first real breather of this academic year, but it is also a moment to remember that travel raises the risk of contracting and/or spreading the virus. Given the success we’ve been having as a community to staying safe and healthy, we’re encouraging students who are part of our testing program (living on campus or nearby) to spend the upcoming break resting and recharging here. To make a stay more enticing, we’re planning many fun activities , and routine activities will continue, too. Those who do travel will be required to follow all Massachusetts travel restrictions, including the rigorous, but critical, quarantining requirements and testing options. (This can translate to 14 days of quarantining upon return.) It is understandable that parents, friends, and family members miss seeing their student and want to plan a visit; please remember that the university is observing a strict Visitor and Vendor policy as we continue our efforts to help mitigate the spread of this virus. I ask anyone planning to come to Worcester—to share a meal or take a walk with their student—to continue to support and encourage their adherence to our #WPITogether Community Pledge —even off campus. We cannot let our guard down, even for a long weekend, which is also why our routine COVID-19 testing will continue as scheduled throughout this break period.

Thanksgiving Options

We encourage everyone to begin discussing their Thanksgiving plans now. The holiday is traditionally spent with family and friends, and knowing that travel and larger gatherings bring a greater risk for spreading the virus, we are giving students the choice to remain on campus (or in their Worcester housing) for the holiday or to return home. Here are the options:

  • Those who stay will continue as part of our testing program and will have building and dining access throughout the end of the term; they will also be provided with a Thanksgiving meal. 
  • Those who choose to leave cannot return to campus for the remainder of B-Term and will complete their classes remotely for the remainder of the term. All B-Term courses will be designed so that coursework can be completed remotely over the span of those last two weeks after Thanksgiving.

Students will receive instructions for how to make their choices known in the near future, and those who have questions or concerns will be guided to the right sources. We are asking students to think about and develop a plan for the remainder of the term to ensure their academic success.

As a reminder to the entire community, any Thanksgiving travelers heading to states not on the commonwealth’s list of lower risk states would also have to follow all Massachusetts travel restrictions, including the same testing and quarantining requirements as noted above. 

The Academic Calendar for C- and D-Terms  

Now that we have a better idea of how the fall calendar has worked, we have made some modifications to the spring Academic Calendar:

  • C-Term begins January 21 and ends March 10.
  • DTerm begins March 15 and ends May 4. 

This schedule was designed to keep Project Presentation Day a class-free day, Patriots Day an observed holiday, and our Commencement ceremonies on track: our plans are to honor the entire Class of 2020 (undergraduate and graduate students) on May 8, 2021, and celebrate the Class of 2021 on May 13 (graduate students) and May 15 (undergraduates). 

It must also be noted that, while this is our plan, the spring schedule is still subject to change based on local conditions, and we will confirm this schedule later in B-Term.

Spring Off-Campus Programs

Based upon global trends and the guidance of experts, we have decided to extend our suspension of all off-campus project travel throughout C- and D-Terms. We will continue to actively monitor the effects of COVID-19 on global travel, and we have a plan for reopening our programs for our students and faculty when it is safe to do so.

We remain steadfast in our commitment to global and multicultural learning, and students will receive these opportunities in a safe and meaningful way. Our creative and innovative faculty, students, and partners from around the world are working to develop meaningful and fulfilling project experiences for all students who were expecting to do off-campus projects during C- and D-Terms. 

We know it’s disappointing to not have this chance to physically explore a different part of the world right now, but we also know that these alternative experiences are real-world–based and do have a personal and professional impact. It’s worth noting that technology innovations—and budget considerations—are changing the way companies and organizations will do much of their global work going forward. Students who engage in these projects will leave WPI with the experience and insights into how all corners of our world can connect and make important changes without even boarding a plane. 

Also Important to Note

Learning and living through this pandemic is difficult and sometimes feels relentless; the upcoming elections mark a time of uncertainty and stress, too. Since spring, depression and anxiety and loneliness are increasing nationally, and it would not be surprising to see an increase on our own campus. As we head further into the fall, and as temperatures drop, we’re more likely to head indoors where it’s easier to feel isolated. But we aren’t alone. Please be careful and continue to follow the guidelines, but also stay connected to the people and the resources that are here for you.  

Your support of each other and of the university has made all the difference as we’ve navigated difficult decisions together. And I hope you also feel cared for and supported. 

Remember to get your flu shots. Find ways to get some fresh air. And take care of yourselves and each other. We can only be successful if we keep working together.

Sincerely,

Laurie