March 30, 2020
As we move forward as a purposeful and resilient community into the second week of full online course delivery, I am truly impressed by, and thankful for, our students, faculty, and staff, who have shown tremendous acts of generosity, care, and a spirit of cooperation in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
I know this is a difficult time, rife with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. We share profound concerns for our classmates, colleagues, families, neighbors, nation, and world. Our University community was deeply saddened to learn that one of our own, alumnus Ralph Marasco, BA’82, was reported to be the first person in Nebraska to die from the disease caused by the coronavirus. He died March 24 at his Omaha home.
As we internalize and adjust to these quickly evolving realities, reaching out to each other in new and virtual ways, I would like to provide an update on several University decisions and initiatives of importance, including the recently announced Pandemic Policy; approval of the new employee tuition remission policy; our provost search timeline; library building closings; an update on commencement ceremony planning; a temporary revision to the “pass/no pass” policy for undergraduate and graduate students; expanded Summer Sessions offerings; and our civic response to an urgent public health request from the state of Nebraska.
I will only touch briefly on the Pandemic Policy, as this information was shared by Provost Tom Murray, PhD, and Executive Vice President for Operations Jan Madsen in a message to campus this morning, and in an online FAQ. As was stated, this policy offers expanded time-off benefits to employees to assist with hardships as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
I am profoundly grateful for our dedicated faculty and staff, who have stepped forward in so many significant and meaningful ways during this crisis, and I appreciate the thoughtful efforts of University leadership and our Human Resources Department in developing this policy. Please consult with your supervisor and HR if you have questions.
The new employee tuition remission policy, which I announced at Convocation in February, has been approved. Under the new policy, tuition remission for full-time Creighton employees, their spouses, and their eligible dependents will be set at 100% after six months of employment. For more information and to register, visit the Tuition Remission webpage.
Our search for a new provost continues; however, with the COVID-19 disruptions, we will be flexible with dates and benchmarks. Our hope was to do an initial review of candidate résumés and biographies on May 7, with a deeper pass on June 1 to decide on interviews. Interviews are scheduled for June 17 and 18, with final interviews set for sometime in July. As a reminder, in keeping with candidates’ increasing requests for confidentiality and changing practices in higher education, this is a confidential search. Search committee chair Joan Eckerson, PhD, is just now reaching out to search committee members on the prospectus, which I hope to have completed in the next number of days.
In an effort to keep our campus safe and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, our three University libraries, law, health sciences, and our Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library, are closed until further notice. Creighton Library services, such as live chat, phone, email, and Zoom, will continue, and limited spaces for 24-hour access to computer workstations have been established outside the entrance of the Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library.
I am also announcing today the establishment of a presidential committee on commencement, which will be tasked with providing recommendations on how we can safely and appropriately honor our graduating seniors and celebrate their accomplishments. University Vice Provost Tricia Sharrar, JD, will be heading the committee, which will include representation from all of our schools and colleges. More information on committee members will be forthcoming.
As the coronavirus weighs heavily on hearts and minds, we also recognize that adjusting to online learning can be challenging. I am acutely aware of the additional stress these unpredictable times, and the transition to online learning, can place on our students.
Mindful of these concerns, I join with Provost Murray in announcing a temporary revision that expands Creighton’s “pass/no pass” policy for undergraduate and graduate students for the spring 2020 semester.
Under the temporary revision, the maximum limit of credits a student can take pass/no pass has been lifted, and the deadline to choose this option has been extended. In addition, undergraduate students may choose courses from their major, minor, core, or electives, and graduate students may choose courses within their program that are currently graded using a letter scale, both after conversations with their advisor and following necessary approvals.
A grade of “P” indicates the work equivalent of a letter grade of “C” or better, and credit is counted toward graduation with no effect on a student’s grade-point average. This option is subject to certain conditions, and the revised policy is only available for classes during the spring 2020 term. Deadlines, which vary by course terms, are late April and early May. For more information and to petition a switch to pass/no pass, students should visit the Registrar’s website.
In other academic news, I am delighted to announce that registration opened today (March 30) for our Summer Sessions terms, which begin in May with expanded online course offerings in a variety of disciplines. Summer Sessions, particularly in this time of sheltering in place, offers students a wonderful opportunity to get ahead in their major or core classes. Students are encouraged to contact their advisors to discuss their plans, and registration for current students is in the NEST.
Due to an urgent public health request from Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Creighton is preparing to provide housing for individuals recommended by the state for self-quarantine and isolation, either because they have been exposed to the virus or they have tested positive but display only mild symptoms not requiring hospital care. Creighton could be the home to health care workers who have exposure to the virus.
Space will be made available in Swanson Hall beginning Friday, April 3, and McGloin Hall, if necessary. Both residence halls are vacated, and Residential Life has been making appointments with students and families to move out their belongings or have them packed and stored by March 31. Creighton Dining Services will provide meals, delivered directly to each person under proper precautions, and Facilities Management will provide additional cleaning services.
This collaboration with the state during this unprecedented time of need aligns with Creighton’s Jesuit, Catholic mission and legacy of service to the community, and is designed to help lessen the current and future strain on the health care system caused by the spread of the coronavirus. Of course, the residence halls would be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use by students again. Questions regarding housing should be directed tocoronavirusresponse [at] creighton [dot] edu.
Please know I appreciate your continued support as we negotiate this “new normal,” compelled, as individuals and an institution, to act for the greater good and to focus in hope and love on a brighter tomorrow. Together, let us discover new and creative ways to stay connected and stay Creighton.
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD