Please see the following message from Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., sent to first-year students this morning.

July 20, 2020

Dear First-Year Students,

For the past two and a half weeks, I have taken great joy in hearing from you and your parents. Your excitement about beginning your Spelman College journey here on campus has buoyed all of us. We were eagerly preparing to stand outside of the Spelman gates, as we do every year, to welcome you personally to this special place.

It pains me deeply now to deliver the news that in the past two weeks, the health crisis has worsened considerably in the state of Georgia, the city of Atlanta, and in Fulton County, in which Spelman and the Atlanta University Center are located. Because of the worsening health crisis, we have reluctantly come to the realization that we can no longer safely sustain a residential campus and in-person instruction. With a sense of great disappointment, I now share with you our decision that all instruction for the fall of 2020 at Spelman will be virtual.

You may ask why? Why did Spelman change its decision less than three weeks after making the announcement? It was just 19 days ago, on July 1, when we published our plan, fully anticipating that, as summer progressed, the virus would subside. Quite the opposite has been the case. An honest appraisal of the evolving facts compelled us to change course.

Every day, Spelman, along with our partners in the Atlanta University Center — Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse School of Medicine — has monitored data that tracks the progress of the coronavirus.

After a review of the recent data by the
Task Force on Spelman College Academic Year 2020-2021, our senior leadership team, and the AUC Council of Presidents, the College presented a summary to the Spelman College Board of Trustees. What the data tells us is that, although the AUC, with the guidance of Morehouse School of Medicine, has put into place a formidable set of protocols and practices, conditions in the environment in which we reside have rapidly deteriorated, with no indication of a timely recovery expected.

Listed below is some of the data that drove our decision:

1.   The safe rate of infection (< .9) vs. the current rate of infection in Georgia (1.15) and Fulton County (1.19) indicates that it is rapidly increasing and is designated by COVID Act Now as high.
2.    The safe hospital intensive care beds rate (< 50%) vs. the current rate in Georgia (87%) and Fulton County (77%) signals considerable risk of hospital overload and is designated by COVID Act Now as critical.
3.    There is conflicting state and local public policy about COVID-19.
4.    There is a lack of sufficient contact tracing in Georgia: Per best available data, Georgia has 1,300 contact tracers. With an average of 3,507 new daily cases, COVID Act Now estimates that Georgia needs 17,535 contact tracing staff to trace all new cases in 48 hours before too many other people are infected. Georgia is likely able to trace only 7% of new COVID-19 infections in 48 hours.

*All data is as of July 17, 2020.
*Infection Rate: Average number of people one COVID-19 positive person infected.
*Links to the data we considered can be accessed here for Georgia and Fulton County.

These are sobering facts. I hope that you agree that we have no other choice than the one we have made to pivot to virtual learning for everyone for the fall semester. I can imagine how disappointing this must be for some of you. For others, the change may bring a sense of relief, because, as much as our hearts want to be together, our heads must guide us in these uncertain times. Let me share with you what we are doing to ensure that your community engagement and virtual learning experience will be as enriching as it can possibly be.

1.    We intend to conduct a celebratory set of events virtually as part of New Student Orientation to extend a warm welcome to you.
2.    As we draw closer to the opening of the school year, you will receive a special gift from Spelman to help you participate in the virtual opening ceremonies.
3.    You can expect a series of virtual alumnae events in your area.
4.    During the weeks between now and the start of classes, we will offer guidance that will help you make the most out of virtual learning.
5.    We will also assign you to a student success study group, along with an adviser in your major.
6.    All new students will receive an academic adviser. If you have not declared a major, you will be assigned to a special academic adviser who will help you make choices about your academic program.
7.    As president, I intend to continue the President’s Reading Circle and will announce the book and extend an invitation, as is the custom, after the semester starts.

Many of you are entering Spelman as members of a cohort. Some of you are in the honors program, others are Wi-STEM Scholars, Health Science majors or Bonner Scholars. These affiliations have already been engaged virtually and will continue in the fall semester. One of the exciting aspects about coming to Spelman is the realization that there is something for everyone at Spelman. One of the most lasting ways to experience the Spelman Sisterhood is to identify student organizations to join that enable you to realize your passion and purpose, even as you are engaged in your academic work. Our Division of Student Affairs will make sure that you and your parents are aware of the rich menu of choices that await you.  

Many of you have already taken steps to come to campus and I want to assure you that we've considered the ways in which the move to virtual instruction may impact you and your families. We have prepared below a series of FAQs that are designed to answer many of those questions beginning with the financial consequences of this decision. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you need additional information.

I leave you with this thought from Galatians 6:9, which reads:

"Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."

With hope,
Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College


A. Financial

How have tuition and fees been adjusted for virtual study?
The College is prepared to offer the same excellence in the quality of instruction and instructional support virtually, as is offered in our face-to-face academic experience. However, we acknowledge and understand that studying virtually may not be the desired experience and, unfortunately, the change in your mode of study is forced, not chosen.

Due to this inconvenience, the College will offer a 10 percent discount on tuition and an average of 40 percent on mandatory fees. The reduction in mandatory fees reflects the elimination of some fees most closely tied to on-campus activities (College Center, Student Activities, Cultural Activities and Sustainability Fee) and a reduction in the library fee.

The library fee continues to be assessed at a reduced rate to support access to the library's expansive materials, which are available remotely. The technology fee will not only support 100 percent of virtual instruction, but also a very active student life filled with virtual activities that foster the comradery and community our students expect and enjoy. Additionally, the health fee will support a robust tele-health option to include a virtual counseling platform, and even access to some virtual wellness activities. The details for fees charged are presented below:

If you are a first-year student who was planning to reside on-campus during the fall 2020 semester, the chart below details the savings (related to direct pay to Spelman) you will experience this semester by studying virtually:
Will refunds be issued for any portion of fees already paid?
Any overpayment of fees will be credited to your student account and applied to any existing balance first, after which any credit will be electronically refunded to the bank associated with your student account.

Will refunds be issued for students who have signed leases for off-campus housing?
Spelman is offering a one-time housing scholarship of $1,000 to assist those students who may be unable to be released from their lease in metro Atlanta, or who have been charged a penalty for breaking the lease. The scholarship is not designed to cover housing costs, but to provide some relief from a financial consequence beyond your control. All students should have received an email on July 13, 2020, which included a link to provide information regarding your housing plans for the fall 2020 semester. To be eligible for consideration, students must meet these criteria:

1) Entered into a lease agreement prior to July 1, 2020, in metro Atlanta
      i. The lease must be in the student's name or with the student’s name as one of the tenants

2) Must be able to demonstrate through written documentation that a request was made to break the lease and either:
      i. The lessor refused to release the student from the lease
      ii. The student was released from the lease, but incurred a financial penalty or forfeited a deposit based on the terms of the original lease

3) The address of the leased space must not match the student’s primary residence address

Please submit your form back to the College by today, July 20, 2020, to ensure consideration.

Upon approval, you will be notified via email. These funds are considered institutional aid dollars and will, therefore, be disbursed during our usual refund process. Approved students can expect to receive these funds between September 7-25, 2020. Students will receive the funds via direct deposit or check.

How will financial aid be impacted?
The Financial Aid Office will be adjusting students’ individual aid budgets as necessary. Updated award notifications will be available to view on Banner for continuing students and in the new student portal by July 24, 2020.

How will this change affect student workers?
Some opportunities may exist for students to work remotely during the fall 2020 semester. Additional information regarding these opportunities will be posted soon.

B. Health

Do I still have access to health services through Spelman?
On-campus health services will continue to provide support and services for all Spelman students through consultation via phone, as well as through tele-health platforms. All students insured under United Healthcare Student Resources, the Spelman sponsored insurance plan, will have continued coverage through the end of the academic year.

What counseling and wellness services are available?
The Counseling Center will continue to provide services through tele-mental health platforms. The Initiatives and programs through the Wellness Center will continue to be offered virtually.

C. Academic Continuity

Has the Academic Calendar changed?
The academic calendar for 2020-21 has been significantly modified.

What measures are being taken to ensure high-quality academic experiences?
Spelman has invested in technology, virtual collaboration tools and faculty training in best practices for online course development to ensure that each student continues to have a high-quality educational experience, in which they are engaged, challenged and nurtured by faculty.

Will this announcement impact course offerings?

All courses will be administered online. Course offering information can be found in Banner.  

How will courses with in-person labs or other physical components be adjusted for virtual learning?
Spelman has developed plans for courses or course elements that typically require an in-person experience, such as labs and performance-oriented courses. When possible, materials or kits for labs and other courses will be available through Spelman’s bookstore. Details will be available in each course syllabus.   

How has New Student Orientation been affected?
New Student Orientation will be offered virtually. We are committed to ensuring a meaningful experience for all new students. For the most current updates, new students, please log into mySpelman, and parents, check the New Student Orientation tab in the Parent Portal.

Will the move to a virtual academic experience impact my academic progression?
Students will be able to meet requirements to complete each class with full academic credit. Students who successfully complete degree requirements will earn their degrees at the end of the semester as normal.

What is the guidance for students who have cross-registered, are in a dual-degree engineering program, or need assistance with career services?
Many courses typically available through cross-registration will be available in an online format subject to the capacity caps that are already in place. Students will be contacted directly by the faculty members or the Academic Affairs Division for class instruction. Virtual services will be provided to dual-degree students and for students who are utilizing career services.

Can I still receive tutoring services or other academic support, including advising?
Yes, there will be virtual tutoring. The details for tutoring will be on the resources page for Student Instructional Continuity, accessed from the mySpelman portal. Academic support services will be available as usual. Contact the Student Access Center or the Dean's Office if you have questions or concerns.

What impact will the decision have on students planning to study abroad in the Fall?
Since the safety and well-being of our students is our top priority, Spelman has decided against sending students abroad in the Fall of 2020 due to concerns on the spread of COVID-19. Our decision was based on the Department of State Travel Restrictions at "Level 4: Do Not Travel," for all destination countries. Also, the International Studies Program has suspended the study abroad requirement for 2020-2021 academic year.

Will students have a Pass/Fail option?
No Pass/Fail option has been offered for the Fall 2020 Semester.  

How will the AUC Woodruff Library support students?

The AUC Woodruff Library will provide remote services for students and faculty, including online access to resources and collections and virtual librarian support. Please visit their website for more information.

How will research continuity be maintained?
Scholarly activities, research, and creative pursuits are an integral part of the vibrant intellectual culture at Spelman. The Office of Research, Innovation, and Collaboration team members will still be available to support you remotely. Do not hesitate to reach out to Tasha Inniss, Ph.D., with any concerns. View responses to questions you may have.

D. Student Services

Will anyone be able to live in campus residence halls?
Given the rising rates of infection and hospitalizations in our area, the College has determined that congregate settings of any type are no longer safe. All residences will be closed and students will not be permitted to live on campus until Spelman determines that conditions have changed significantly to ensure the safety of the occupants.

What do I do if I need assistance with technology?
There are online, phone, and email resources available for students to get support on a wide range of topics from student accounts and financial aid to technology:
·      Resources for Remote Learners
·      Spelman One Stop Answers (SOS Answers) For Faculty, Staff and Students: Comprehensive FAQ and support via email or phone (during business hours)
·      Spelman Technology Services: Phone support is available for technical issues via (404) 270-5400.

E. Traditions, Experiences & Events

What social experiences are being planned?
The College is making every effort to ensure that our students are socially engaged. Please visit the Office of Student Life and Engagement, Sisters Chapel, the Wellness Center and other areas on for the various virtual activities that will be offered during the Fall 2020 Semester.

Is the campus still open for tours, visits and recruiting activities?
For the Fall, the College has suspended on-campus events, which include campus tours, visitation programs and information sessions. The Office of Admissions is offering a variety of online experiences to assist prospective students and families in learning more about our campus community and to provide opportunities to interact with current students, faculty and key administrative staff. Interested students should join the Admissions mailing list to receive updates and invitations.

Will Homecoming and the Christmas Carol Concert occur?
Due to COVID-19, we are in the process of redesigning our 2020-2021 events to be virtual experiences.

What is the plan for Commencement for the Class of 2020?
Commencement will be scheduled when the College determines that the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta are safe for large gatherings.

F. Human Resources for Employees

Will the number of furlough days required by faculty and staff be impacted by this change?
Spelman continues to be committed to maintaining the College’s fiscal responsibilities and obligations. Most immediately, there are no changes to the number of furlough days required from each faculty and staff member. The College has developed a revised operating budget, which includes additional reductions to operational costs (i.e. dining services, utilities, contracts, etc.), as well as anticipated additional revenue derived from robust fundraising efforts and implementation of growing on-line programming. We anticipate that these measures will allow us to forego the most detrimental actions against our workforce. However, while Spelman will make every effort to minimize the impact on current employees, we cannot guarantee that further budget and/or personnel reductions will not be necessary for the future.

G. Second Semester

When will announcements be made about the Spring 2021 semester?
The College is working through details about the spring 2021 semester, and while we hope to resume in-person instruction, that decision will be contingent upon improvements in health data and will be made later in the year.

Office of the President
Phone: 404-270-5001

Fax: 404-270-5010

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