Since March, Randolph’s Coronavirus Task Force has met almost daily, each week grappling with the newest curveball thrown at us by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have spent countless hours this summer making plans and putting precautions into place on campus to ensure that our community members were safe for the return to school this fall.
And yet, in recent weeks, we’ve seen the trajectory of the virus go in the wrong direction as the number of cases here and across the state and country continues to rise. The simple truth is that we do not see the situation in our country improving before our campus opens to our full student body in a month’s time. Because of this, we are not confident the College would be able to remain in-person the entire semester without serious COVID-19-caused disruptions.
At the same time, we do not have access to the things that would help us control the prevalence of the pandemic on our campus, including quick, large-scale asymptomatic testing and contact tracing. These are the key reasons the College has decided to move its instruction online for the fall semester.
I realize this is not the decision most of you hoped to hear. It is certainly not the news I would prefer to share. All of us know that the in-person interaction that defines the Randolph College experience is vital to what we offer our students. However, it is not more important than the health and well-being of our campus community. We will be back together again soon behind the Red Brick Wall. The most important thing now is to protect each other’s health and well-being.
Because we do not have the availability of large-scale asymptomatic testing, we cannot guarantee that our students, who come from across the United States and world, will not unknowingly arrive on campus in August with COVID-19. Even a few cases have the capability of causing a large outbreak, endangering those among us who are vulnerable to complications. Our campus is small, and it is nearly impossible to prevent the spread of such a contagious virus in close, residence hall conditions.
By committing to online instruction for the fall now, we are not only able to give our faculty more time to prepare their courses, but we are able to hopefully alleviate some of the uncertainty that has existed for students and families this summer. We just do not believe the limited in-person experiences we would have been able to provide this semester, not to mention the extremely regimented residence hall policies, would meet the expectations of our students and families.
While we cannot control this pandemic or the coronavirus, I do have every confidence in our faculty, staff, and students and their ability to make the most of this situation. The lessons learned this spring are already helping us improve our technology and online offerings. Our faculty members are extremely dedicated to our students—and to teaching—and I know they will make sure our students receive the best possible experience. The hallmark of an education at Randolph is the close, personal attention given to every student. That will continue this fall, and it is also what will make our students’ experiences richer and more rewarding than those offered by larger online providers.
For now, we are hopeful we will be able to resume on-campus instruction for the spring semester. We will reevaluate conditions later this fall and make a final decision then. We will also be communicating frequently over the next few weeks as more details and resources become available. I encourage you also to visit our COVID-19 website, where we will be updating FAQ’s and posting other relevant information.
Living the life more abundant often requires us to adapt and change as the road curves and weaves in front of us. Our community is resilient and strong, and I know that when we are once again together behind our Red Brick Wall, we will be even more grateful for the family that is Randolph College.
Stay safe and well,
Bradley W. Bateman