Simmons University will be online for the fall 2020 semester, according to a statement released today by the University.
“With every decision, we spent eight weeks as a team doing deep scenario analysis, and putting our students’ and community’s well-being first,” newly-appointed President Lynn Perry Wooten told the Voice.
A small number of students, such as those in clinical and field placements, practicums, or who rely on Simmons for housing, will be receiving an email in the next 48 hours inviting them back to campus, according to the community email.
Each student returning to campus will have their own room with access to a private bathroom, and while it won’t be a “traditional Bartol experience,” these students will be provided with meals, according to Catherine Paden, Associate Provost and Dean of the Undergraduate Program.
When considering who to allow back on campus, Paden cited the concern for the Simmons community and its impact on Boston.
“Our primary guiding principle is the health and safety of our community, and abiding by public health guidelines,” Paden said. “We really looked to the deans to work with their faculty and programs to figure out who has to be in residences. How do we manage to stay within what we consider to be protecting the health and safety of Simmons, and the broader community, given that we’re in the Longwood Medical Area.”
In May, Simmons announced their partnership with online education company 2U in the case of a fall semester online, and faculty have been working with 2U throughout the summer course-building for the upcoming semester.
“That’s really unique to have the ability to offer such a robust program with a partner like 2U who has experience in online education,” Paden told the Voice. “Part of our thinking on this, and that is reflected in the tuition as well, is our commitment to excellence, whether virtual or on the ground, is maintained for the fall.”
Similar planning around strong co-curricular activities has been in the works as well, and Paden credited Wooten’s leadership to maintaining Simmons’ commitment to “to leadership, engagement, and social justice.”
Remote student employment opportunities, for both students who receive work-study and those who don’t, are going to be available this fall, such as teaching assistantships, office work, research assistantships, service learning, lots of volunteer internships, and even assistantships in President Wooten’s office.
“My goal is for these opportunities to really capture the moment that we’re living in, because this is an unprecedented time to be in college,” Wooten said. “How do we give our students experiences inside and outside of the classroom through vehicles like work-study so that they will remember the moment, and that they will learn and grow from.”
More information regarding student employment opportunities will be sent to the community in the coming weeks.
Simmons has also partnered with the Broad Institute in Cambridge, which will provide twice weekly nasal swab COVID testing for students who return to campus, which will be collected at the Student Health Center. Contact tracing will also be conducted in partnership with CoVerified.
Undergraduate tuition rates have been frozen, and will remain the same as the 2019-2020 academic year. The student activities fee has been reduced to $115, and will help to host virtual events such as Welcome Week, the Connections Carnival and Shark Week.
As financial aid decisions are made looking at each student’s individual needs, financial aid packages and scholarships will still be available to students.
International students impacted by ICE’s new guidelines will be contacted by the Center for Global Education (CGE) to find ways to best support them. Simmons is opposed to the new guidelines, and is focusing on a customized and individualized approach to best support each international student, President Wooten told the Voice.
Dean Paden agreed.
“We are deeply opposed to these new guidelines,” Paden said. “We have a committed Center for Global Education who will be working one-on-one with each international student and will have an opportunity to work through planning with the center, alongside some additional support we have given the center for international students.”
All athletics have been cancelled until January 2021 The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) has not made a decision about postponing fall athletics or the conference.
“This is not the fall that any of us imagined, but it is a fall that is going to be memorable, and we are so committed to developing, growing, living, and learning as a community,” Wooten said. “2020 is going to be a year for the history books. The reason why students chose Simmons, we’re still going to have that same experience; our signature strengths, such as our high-impact learning, opportunities for social justice activities.
Wooten, who started as president on July 1, touched on the difficulty of her first semester as president being remote.
“Similar to many of our first-year students, this was my first year too. I looked forward to welcoming the first-years and starting on this journey together,” she said. “This decision was very hard for me.”
Dean Paden echoed this, saying that sometimes she gets so caught up in the work of launching the fall semester that she sits back and remembers that it is difficult to not get to go back to campus in September.
“I wish the circumstances were entirely different. I feel very grateful that we have the opportunity to build what we can build for students in the fall, but at the same time, that’s not the preference,” she said.
As this is an “unprecedented time to be in college,” President Wooten wants to challenge the Simmons community to seize the moment and leave their mark.
“As we are all reimagining and redoing our lives, what can I do different this semester?” President Wooten asked. “Think about the communities that you live and serve in, and how you can make them better places. This is not the fall that any of us imagined, but it is a fall that is going to be memorable, and we are so committed to developing, growing, living, and learning as a community.”
Update 7/14/20: This article originally said that the GNAC had postponed fall athletics and the conference. The article has been updated to reflect that no decision had been made about fall athletics or the conference according to GNAC.
Update 7/14/20: The federal government has announced that it is rescinding the new ICE guidelines that would keep international students from staying in the United States if their semester was fully online.