Update from President Alger on Spring Semester

JMU News

Dear JMU students,

As we all know, in recent days we have witnessed a dizzying array of developments related to the spread of COVID-19, along with a significant amount of new guidance that has been issued from state and federal agencies. Taking these and many other factors into consideration, I write today with important updates regarding keeping classes online through the end of the semester, closing the residence halls (with very limited exceptions) and issuing refunds, and postponing Spring Commencement ceremonies.

These are incredibly difficult choices to make, but we are guided by principles of community well-being and ethical decision-making that are hallmarks of JMU. The JMU experience is, first and foremost, about our people and how we interact, so the concept of social distancing feels contrary to our very nature. And yet we live in a moment when extraordinary measures are required to protect people around us.

My heart aches for all of you who have poured yourselves completely into your own unique and special Madison experiences. It was impossible for any of you—or indeed any of us—to have imagined that the school year, and for some your academic time at Madison, would end in this way. I am deeply sorry for these incredible disruptions in your lives, yet I also know that Dukes are caring, resilient, and capable of working together to meet any challenge. With that can-do spirit in mind, let me share steps we are taking to promote public health and safety, while also ensuring that each of you can successfully continue and complete your academic journey.

Online and remote instruction has been extended through the remainder of spring semester.

The university most recently communicated that classes would be held online or remotely through at least April 5. In light of updated guidance from federal and state governments, we have decided to continue with online and remote learning through the end of spring semester, which will include final exams. I recognize that this is disappointing news for many students who had hopes of returning to campus and regaining a sense of normalcy in the coming weeks, and we will do everything we can to maintain our sense of community during this difficult period.

Please know that your instructors have been working around the clock to make it feasible for you to continue your courses remotely. I am extremely thankful to the JMU faculty and staff for their unwavering dedication and creativity in making this happen, and ask for your patience as we work through this together.

Given the scale of this transition, we expect that some challenges may arise. JMU Libraries has compiled resources for students to support your online learning success. We have asked all faculty members to design classes that can be as widely accessed as possible—for example, by limiting high-resolution video streaming that may strain home internet connections and the national grid.

For summer sessions, JMU will be offering primarily online courses except for required clinical and experiential activities, which are still under review. Registration for summer classes has been delayed two weeks to April 6 and additional information on this is forthcoming.

On-campus residents will need to move out by March 29 or apply to stay.

In light of the national and statewide emergency declarations, residence halls will be closing for the remainder of the spring semester. Only students who have applied for and received housing exceptions will be permitted to stay. If you cannot go home, you must submit the exception form by March 20 at 5 p.m. Decisions will be communicated starting Thursday, March 19.

For students not remaining in the residence halls, we have created a move-out schedule for the next two weekends. In an effort to comply with social distancing guidelines, we ask all families to adhere to this schedule if you plan to move out on the weekend. Residence halls are also available any time, day or night, during weekdays for students to move out. 

We recognize that many of you already traveled back to campus to collect some items, and we apologize for the inconvenience to you and your families to return again to fully move out. Please know that we are striving to make decisions in real time that are in the best interest of all members of our JMU community.

The university will offer refunds for housing and unused dining plans.

Students will receive a refund for housing and/or dining. Information on these refunds and/or credits is forthcoming, and we appreciate your patience as we evaluate financial obligations.

Spring commencement ceremonies have been postponed.

For all of you who are graduating, we recognize that these commencement ceremonies mark important milestones in your lives. Given the large scale of these events, we have made the difficult decision to postpone graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies (originally planned for May 7-9) to a later date. While we don’t have a new date yet, know that we are eager and excited to celebrate your accomplishments and years of hard work.

While these in-person ceremonies will be delayed, please be assured that your degrees will be conferred on time in May, once final grades are received. Diplomas will be mailed this summer, in accordance to the standard university process. We will be back in touch soon with further information on commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020.

Students are urged not to return to live in off-campus housing at this time.

For students considering returning to live in off-campus housing in Harrisonburg, please note that in-person access to university facilities and services is extremely limited. UREC and JMU Libraries are closed until further notice, and JMU Dining Services is operating on a limited schedule. Remember that in the unfortunate situation that you are asked to self-isolate or quarantine, you are, in most instances, likely better off doing so at home with family who can assist and support you.

All events on campus are cancelled, regardless of size, through May 15.

Based on guidance issued by the White House and the Governor of Virginia not to gather in groups of more than 10 people, all events on JMU’s campus, regardless of size, are cancelled through May 15. These restrictions include events at JMU that are not university-sponsored, including conferences and social gatherings.

JMU’s international programs have been suspended through Summer 2020.

We have made the decision to close all short-term summer study abroad programs, as well as our summer semester-long programs in London, Antwerp, Salamanca, Florence and Edinburgh. Global engagement continues to be at the heart of JMU’s mission to be a university engaged with the ideas of theworld. We will be working with students affected by these closures to identify alternative summer course options and future study abroad opportunities.

I believe in you and I am wishing you the best in the days and weeks ahead.

Please keep checking jmu.edu/covid19 for the most up-to-date information. For questions on any of the information shared in this message, please email covid19@jmu.edu so we can share your email with the appropriate person or office.

As Dukes, you have always inspired me with your ability to overcome obstacles and to find ways to make a positive mark on the world. This is our time to stand together, to support and lift up one another with courage and compassion, and to write an incredible new chapter in the history of JMU that will be remembered by all of us for the rest of our lives. I wish you all the very best as you begin your online classes. We are here for you, and we believe in you. Let’s take care of ourselves and one another, knowing that a JMU education develops both the head and the heart. I look forward to seeing all of you sometime soon, and will continue to be in touch.

I look forward to seeing all of you sometime soon, and will continue to be in touch.

With warmest regards,

Jonathan R. Alger

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Published: Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2024

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