​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Coronavirus Update
ADVISORY: Our universities continue to develop fall plans that support their students' educational progress while mitigating health and safety risks during this pandemic.
Links to each university's information can be found on this page.

 Update 6/8/2020

​​What you can expect this ​fall


We have always been proud to be a part of public higher education. We believe in its enduring mission, its power to change lives, lift up communities, drive economic development, and strengthen our civil and political societies. And we are in awe of the faculty and staff of this State System who live as we do, to serve.

​But we have never been prouder than these last few months. Our universities have demonstrated tremendous agility and resilience in pursuing our mission in the most challenging contexts. In a matter of weeks – in some cases days – our universities fundamentally changed every aspect of their operating models so our students could continue progress towards their degrees in the midst of a global pandemic. Additionally, and in countless ways, our universities provided direct support to people in their communities who were suffering as a result of the pandemic.  These have included offering beds to the sick; contributing PPE and food and clothing to those who needed it; offering internet access to members of the public who found themselves teleworking in regions without reliable broad band access; devoting faculty expertise, labs, and science facilities to a variety of causes entailed in fighting the novel coronavirus.

That ingenuity, that resilience, that unbridled commitment to mission continues as we plan to re-engage in face-to-face instruction. In the days and weeks ahead, you will be hearing from the universities about their plans for doing this. With this post we want to give some insight into what to expect. Just as  importantly, we want to acknowledge the enormous – no, heroic – efforts made by countless staff and faculty across our system – across this industry – who, in pulling together their plans for fall, immersed themselves in a rapidly evolving global dialogue about how to mitigate health and safety risks with a novel and not fully understood virus. These heroes – our heroes, are applying what they've learned to their university's unique local circumstances and are developing plans for re-engaging face-to-face instruction that work best for their students, faculty, staff, and local communities.


What you can exp​​ect this fall

You can expect our universities to take a common approach to mitigating health and safety risks. In the most basic sense that approach entails impeding the spread of a virus that is believed to be transmitted primarily through the air, and, under certain circumstances through surface contact. Guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and by the Pennsylvania Department of Education speak in a variety of ways about how colleges and universities can achieve this objective. They recommend, among other things:

    • Ways to keep people at a safe distance from one another.
    • Ways to mitigate the risk of infection; for example, by wearing masks, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, using PPE and/or plexiglass barriers for people engaged in routine close contact (such as are now commonly seen at grocery store cashier windows).
    • Changing instructional and work schedules and relying on remote work more extensively to minimized the number of people on campus at any one time.
    • Protocols having to do with identifying and isolating people who have contracted the disease or have had close contact with someone who has, and to putting plans in place should community spread of the virus reach a point where face-to-face engagement is no longer viable and operations go entirely remote, as happened in March.

There is obviously a great deal more to it than that, but we go this far into the guidelines to make a simple, but important point. Universities and colleges are not designed to keep people apart. They are designed to bring people together, closely, in classrooms, labs, libraries, and study lounges; in dining and resident halls; on sports teams, in performances and in countless other student activities both on and off campus.

As a result, every one of our universities has redesigned its basic operating practices to integrate the guidelines referenced above.

Our universities' plans share another important aspect. They rely on a compact between the university and its students, employees, and visitors. Each party has a role to play in mitigating health risks of the entire community. During this pandemic, every one of us shares responsibility for securing the public's health. We are responsible to one another for mitigating risk of community spread. Accordingly, our students, faculty, staff, and visitors will expect our universities to take steps outlined in their plans including those referenced above.

Universities, in turn will expect students, faculty, staff and visitors to behave in ways that protect each other, such as maintaining social distancing wherever possible, wearing masks, washing hands and/or use hand sanitizer frequently, abiding by regulated traffic flow patterns, staying at home or in residences when sick, and isolating if tested positive for COVID-19.

Implementing this compact will require our universities to communicate effectively with their local constituencies about expectations, their rationale and importance, and to provide education and training where necessary. And it will require all of us to hold one another accountable for doing our respective parts – in the interest of the community and for the benefit of one another.

You can expect to find significant differences in how our universities are implementing this common approach. Universities in this System, like communities in this commonwealth, are very different. They serve students from different parts of the state and world; are located in areas experiencing the pandemic's impacts in different ways; have facilities of different design, size, and capacity; and have access to health care services with different capabilities.

These differences reveal themselves in how our universities are choosing to implement guidelines as they re-engage in face-to-face instruction this fall. Here are some examples. All universities are working to enable social distancing in the classroom. How they achieve that objective differs considerably: integrating remote and face-to-face instructional delivery models in different ways, inviting only selected groups back to campus, adjusting course and term scheduling to spread out student “traffic." Approaches to student room and board will also vary in ways that reflect the number of students who are expected to be on campus at any one time, the capacity and layout of available facilities, and a host of other factors.

Such variations are essential to re-engaging face-to-face instruction across the State System. It is a tremendous strength because it enables all to re-engage in ways that satisfy local needs and circumstances.

But it also means that the experience of students, faculty, and staff at any one university will differ from experience of their counterparts at others. Again, here are examples. Some universities are equipped with facilities that enable them to conduct large, in-person lecture courses while enabling social distancing. Others may need to move large lecture courses entirely online or adopt hybrid models. This means the experience that students and faculty have of large classes – including comparable lecture classes (think intro psychology) – will differ from one university to the next. The same will be true in non-instructional areas where universities will integrate the use of PPE, remote work, altered work schedules, and other tools in different combinations to achieve the same objectives – mitigating health and safety. Accordingly, we should expect that from one campus to the next, transactions involving the registrar's office or career services, or student life, to name a few examples, will look and feel different for students and employees involved in them.

The System's approach to Fall 2020


Encouraging local implementation of a common set of recommended practices is essential in an industry – higher education – that is critical to our nation's recovery and also incredibly diverse. It is actively supported by the state and federal guidelines and directly aligned with the diverse needs and interests of our System's universities.

For these reasons, later this week we will recommend that the Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education's Board of Governors adopt such an approach for the System's operations during this pandemic. We will recommend a framework within which universities will develop, publicize via their websites, and implement plans that support their students' educational progress while mitigating health and safety risks during this pandemic.

Plans will be developed by our universities' presidents in consultation with their councils of trustees and other local stakeholders. These plans will adhere to relevant federal and state guidelines and with all State System collective bargaining agreements as well as academic, operational, and other policies and standard procedures.

The State System may introduce additional guidelines, supplementing those provided by state and federal authorities in areas that are otherwise unaddressed and that require consistency across the System. These can include the expectations we set for our students, faculty, and staff.

We believe that this is the right approach for our State System – the best, most workable approach, to ensuring that the System's universities continue to pursue their historic role as an engine of economic development and social mobility at a time when that role is arguably more important than ever before.

Cindy Shapira
Chair, Board of Governors​​

Dan Greenstein                             
Chancellor   



 UPDATE 5/19/2020

​Dear Friends:

First to our recent graduates, and on behalf of the Board of Governors of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, allow me to say congratulations on obtaining your degree!  Even though in-person ceremonies could not occur this semester, I pictured seeing you as it might have been under normal circumstances—wearing your robes, tassels, and mortar boards, with your proud families there cheering you on. The Chancellor and I—along with other members of the Board—always relish commencement as a highlight of the year, and we can't express how sorry we are that this important life event could not take place as planned. Nevertheless, we know that you will continue to achieve greatness as you write the next chapters of your lives.  

To our other students, our faculty, and our staff, allow me to express our most sincere gratitude for the patience, perseverance, and determination that all of you embodied this past semester in the face of an extraordinary situation due to COVID-19. You have come together to stand against the odds and to demonstrate what it means to be part of the State System family. It means that even when the obstacles are high and the road is long, you find a way and move forward.  We are right here with you and always will be.
 
We honor each and every one of our graduates along with the rest of the State System family that helped them achieve their goals. Congratulations and many thanks to everyone!  
 
Cynthia D. Shapira
Chairperson, Board of Governors
Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education​



 UPDATE 3/25/2020

Dear State System Family:
 
This week, about two-thirds of our universities are providing all of their classes through some form of remote instruction, and the rest will join them next Monday. In fact, the vast majority of colleges and universities across the country are doing the same. As a long-time educator and higher education policy wonk, the sheer magnitude of creativity, flexibility, and effort it has taken to accomplish this in a matter of just weeks is nothing short of Herculean. The faculty, staff, and university leaders all across our 14 State System universities have come together to make this happen so that we can help safeguard the health of our communities, our Commonwealth, our nation and the world in the fight against coronavirus/COVID-19. This is what it means to be a System. 

During this “new normal,” it is important that we have patience with each other, with our technology, and with those who help keep it running—all of whom are doing their best to make an impossible situation a little more tolerable. 

    • Students: Please work closely with your faculty members, and be patient as they navigate this process to help you achieve your learning objectives and finish the semester successfully.
    • Faculty and Staff: Remember that our students are under pressure any given semester, and this one has brought an all-time new level of intensity. Please be patient and flexible as they work through these remaining weeks.
    • Parents, Alumni, Donors, and Community leaders: Thank you in advance for providing an extra level of support during this time. Knowing that you are there to encourage and sustain our students, faculty, and staff is more meaningful than you’ll ever imagine. 

We are working with our 14 State System universities to ensure all students are able to complete the semester successfully. We thank you for your patience and engagement during these challenging times. Continue to be safe and follow the directions of the PA Department of Health​.

We are all in this together—for now from a distance.

All my best,
      
Dan Greenstein
Chancellor​



 UPDATE 3/19/2020

Dear State System Family:
   
As Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world respond to the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19, our universities are doing the same. We are focused on helping our students complete the semester successfully while keeping everyone safe. We have come together as never before and have rallied the will, the strength, and the collective intelligence from across the State System to tackle challenges—both big and small.  
   
As a result, all 14 universities remain operational. In a short span of time, they have moved (or are moving) instruction, advising, counselling, etc. to remote (non-face-to-face) modalities. And they are working to protect our communities by instituting measures to impede the transmission of coronavirus—issues related to the use of student housing, dining services, healthcare, athletics, travel, and group gatherings. 
   
These efforts, and so many more, demonstrate the skill, agility, and dedication of our people all across the State System—showing how we can unite behind a common cause. To our faculty and staff, we are so grateful to you for everything you are doing for our students during these challenging times. And to our leadership at the universities and at the System office, we deeply appreciate your tireless efforts to see us through to the other side of this challenge.  
    
To our students, we say thank you for your patience with all of these transitions. You didn’t plan to have your semester follow this path, but you are showing amazing resilience as you stay focused on finishing successfully. 
 
We encourage everyone to continue monitoring communications from their home university, which is the best source of up-to-date information about institutional operations. We still have more work to do and—no doubt—more hurdles to jump before this is over. But, we are resolved to do this together, as one State System family.  
 
Thank you, 
 
Cindy Shapira 
Chair, Board of Governors 

 

 UPDATE 3/16/2020

Dear State System Family:
 
Today we announced additional measures to further our commitment to the safety of everyone in the State System family. 
 
The measures include:
 
  • Effective immediately, undergraduate and graduate students in experiential learning sites, including professional placements, practica, internships, research internships, and clinical rotations should not report to on-site placements until face-to-face classes resume. This restriction applies until April 6 at the earliest. Students’ faculty, internship/clinical/practica supervisors will communicate guidance, as necessary, and provide alternate learning experiences for students in these types of classes.
  •  The Office of the Chancellor has converted to remote working for most employees. As such, the Dixon University Center and the Vartan Way location in Harrisburg are closed to the public; all conferences, classes, and other events scheduled for the next two weeks have been postponed.
  • The Board of Governors meeting scheduled for April 1-2 has been postponed. A new date will be announced at a later time.
     
For our students and employees across the State System, their best source of information is their own university, which has the most up-to-date details about class and campus operations, housing, and all university activities. Information changes rapidly, so I encourage everyone to monitor their own university's announcements closely.​
 
Best regards,
      
Dan Greenstein
Chancellor​



 UPDATE 3/13/2020

​Dear State System Family:
 
The Governor has announced that all K-12 schools in PA will close starting Monday, March 16 through March 29, in order to limit social interactions to help control the spread of the coronavirus. In keeping with that strategy, and in the interest of the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians, I am directing that no in-person instruction occur at our 14 universities during that same two-week period.
 
We encourage students, faculty, and staff to be in contact with their home universities–their best source of direct information.
 
In the days and weeks ahead, it's important for us to come together, exercise patience, and collaborate with one another as we confront our collective challenges. This is going to take everybody doing their part for the sake of our students.​
 
Best regards,
      
Dan Greenstein
Chancellor​



 UPDATE 3/11/2020

​Dear State System Family:
     
As we all work to mitigate the potential impact of the Coronavirus, we have been coordinating with our universities to ensure a constant flow of communication. We are in daily contact with the university presidents and leaders as we focus on ensuring students can finish the semester successfully all while safeguarding everyone’s health, safety, and welfare.   
    • We are constantly monitoring guidance from the CDC and other federal sources, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education to ensure any actions we take comply with such guidance and take advantage of resources being made available. 
    • We have reviewed and are updating continuity of operations plans as needed; each university has a point-person for emergency preparedness who is engaged for circumstances such as these.
    • Universities are monitoring student, staff, and faculty activities and travel (including study abroad)—curtailing such activities and travel where it makes sense in the interest of the health and safety of our communities. 
    • Universities are taking actions that best serve their local circumstances, such as delaying the return of students from spring break to allow time for preparations to ensure our students can complete the semester regardless of what may evolve from the current circumstances.
    • We are converting system-level meetings to ZOOM/phone meetings so that our university leaders can stay on campus to attend to the needs of their students, faculty, and staff.
Our university presidents and their teams are doing amazing work with faculty and staff leaders to meet the needs of our students. I am impressed with everyone’s level of commitment to our mission—to our students’ success—as we work through this current public health challenge. 
        
Every university is unique, and our university leaders are making the decisions that are in the best interest of their students, which is exactly what I need them to do. At the same time, we are leveraging the collective intelligence of all 14 universities to help each other. I encourage everyone to have patience as we work through contingency plans, and I encourage you to stay in close contact with your home university, which is the best source of guidance and information. 
 
We’ve been here before (H1N1, SARS, etc.), and we will likely be here again, and we will get through this together. 
         
Best regards,
      
Dan Greenstein
Chancellor



 UPDATE 3/6/2020

​Dear State System Family:
 
While it is too early to know the full impact the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will have here in the United States, we are cognizant that our universities have a global reach. We have students, faculty, and staff who visit other countries as part of their studies, their research, and their work. Also, some are from and/or have family in countries that are being affected by the virus.
 
Please know that our universities are working closely with the Office of the Chancellor to ensure a flow of communication regarding the matter. We are monitoring advisories from the Centers for Disease Control, among other federal agencies, and are liaising with state government—including the PA Department of Health—to convey pertinent information to/from our universities as needed. 
 
Our university presidents meet weekly with the chancellor, and our universities are assessing study abroad programs, international travel, international student recruitment, campus housing/dining, health services, and other operational areas that may be impacted in the short- or long-term. 
 
The health, safety, and welfare of students, faculty, staff and everyone in the State System community is our top priority, and every decision is being made with that priority front-and-center. Because each university is unique, there is no single “one-size-fits-all” response to matters like this. As such, it is important that you heed the information provided by your university. 
 
Thank you.
 
Dan Greenstein
Chancellor
 
Cindy Shapira
Chair, Board of Governors