I am writing with another update from your college. I hope this message finds you well and hopeful as together we endure the coronavirus pandemic.
We made the painful decision this week that students would not return to campus for their spring semester and that all of our teaching and learning would instead happen online. Our faculty are busy re-tooling their classes so that when we resume after spring break we will be prepared to offer the kind of high-quality educational experience our students both want and deserve. We haven't yet canceled commencement, but I think it is unlikely that it can occur over Memorial Day weekend. I have promised our seniors, though at the moment I don't know how or when, that we will find an occasion properly to celebrate them and their families.
We will also not be having reunion on campus this spring. I am as sad for our returning alumni, and especially our 50th Reunion Class, as I am for our seniors, that we can't celebrate with you on campus in late May. We are looking at alternative ways to properly celebrate reunion, and we will communicate with you soon about that.
As I explained in my last message to you, while we yearned to be able to resume classes on the Hill this spring, our first priority has to be the safety and well-being of our students, our faculty and staff, and our neighbors in Northfield. We can't allow community spread of the virus at St. Olaf. Since we don't have the ability to do social distancing when the campus is full, and since we can't quarantine more than a handful of students at a time, this isn't the time to resume life on campus. The advice of the CDC, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the urging of our governor all support this choice we have regretfully made.
In my 14 years as your president, I have been called upon again and again during challenging times to step back and remember that our College is strong and resilient. All of the limestone we have piled on top of the Hill over the years gives visual testimony to our strength and to our capacity to endure. We are going to adapt to this challenge and emerge stronger when it is over. We will be here for you as soon as we can welcome you back. I am eager for that day.