March 20, 2020

Dear Members of the UMBC Community,

Many are calling this period a defining moment for humankind, and history will judge us by how we respond. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, we want you to know how proud we are of the ways that our community of inquiring minds has already been adapting. Thank you for all that you are doing to support one another, your families, and fellow citizens during these challenging times.

Campus leaders are meeting daily to navigate this rapidly changing reality, and we are working closely with USM Chancellor Jay Perman, other System campuses, and shared governance groups to plan necessary transitions in teaching, learning, research, and the daily life of our campus community. 

We have had difficult decisions to make, and we have made them with the understanding that the health and safety of our community must be our top priority. In partnership with the University System of Maryland, we have determined that this means extending distance learning for the remainder of the spring semester. During this time, UMBC will remain open for student support services and business operations. In accordance with guidance provided by the Governor, employees will continue to work remotely whenever possible.

To our undergraduate and graduate students: We know you have been concerned with what happens next, and we are all feeling for you and with you. There is so much you hoped to do this semester, and it is such a disappointment to have these plans interrupted. Online instruction begins on Monday, March 23, and will continue throughout the semester. Faculty have been working with the Division of Information Technology and each other to ensure the highest quality of instruction. 

To the Class of 2020, in particular, please know we recognize how hard you have worked to achieve your goals. We are very sorry that we will not be holding in-person Commencement ceremonies this spring. We know how difficult this is for you, your families, and your friends. Just know this is not the end. We may not be having the in-person ceremony, but we will find ways of recognizing you and celebrating your achievements.

A special thank you to our faculty and staff who have been doing everything they can to provide emotional, academic, and other types of support to our students.Over the coming weeks, patience and understanding will be essential as all of us adjust to these changes. We know that many students, faculty, and staff have questions, and we are committed to providing information and support. Pressing concerns we have heard include the following.

  • We know that the shift to distance learning may have financial implications for students and families. We are working closely with USM to establish a system for refunds. We will announce more details in the days to come. Students with immediate resource concerns are encouraged to contact covid19@umbc.edu.
  • Students who normally live on campus will soon receive information about the process for safely retrieving their belongings. Until this is established, students who have left campus for spring break will continue to be unable to access their residence halls. Students with an urgent need to retrieve items from their residence halls prior to this announcement may contact Residential Life.

We appreciate your patience and partnership as we move forward together in this new reality. Most important, we hope all of you and your families remain safe and healthy.

We will continue to communicate regularly, and we encourage you to visit UMBC’s COVID-19 website at covid19.umbc.edu for prevention steps, updates, and resources. Urgent questions can be sent to covid19@umbc.edu.

We leave you with these words from Jeanne Rikkers: 

May we who are merely inconvenienced,
Remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors,
Remember the most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home,
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have flexibility to care for our children when their schools close,
Remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips,
Remember those that have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market,
Remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home,
Remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country,
Let us choose LOVE.

She concludes by noting that this is a time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, and yet we certainly can find ways of providing a ‘loving embrace’ to our neighbors.

President Freeman Hrabowski and Provost Philip Rous

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