Now more than ever, we want to be sure that Longwood is a caring, welcoming second home for students where respect and equity of treatment are ensured for everyone.
President Reveley—describing recent weeks as a “national moment of reckoning regarding systemic racial inequality and discrimination” that requires action, not just words—announced yesterday the appointment of a campus Equity Action Task Force.
With a membership of students, faculty, alumni, staff and three members of the president’s cabinet, the task force will operate under a broad charge, including the development of three specific actionable steps to be implemented for fall 2020.
I hope you will read the full text of the president’s message, which provides a detailed and thoughtful look at what Longwood is currently doing to ensure equity and diversity, acknowledges that more needs to be done and lays out details for how the university will move forward with urgency in this critical area.
Here is a brief summary of the three specific steps that create a focus for the work of the task force:
1) A Commitment Against Incidents of Bias or Discrimination. “Any incident of discrimination goes against Longwood’s deepest values, and also its rules,” said Reveley. “But I believe we need a stronger, and more straightforward, process in place on campus to ensure any such reports are addressed seriously and fairly.” This would include creating an office focused on adherence to Title VI, the portion of the federal civil rights law that concerns racial discrimination.
2) Engagement By Every Student with the Moton Museum and Farmville’s Civil Rights History. In 2015, Longwood entered into a formal partnership with the Moton Museum (shown in the photo above), which honors Prince Edward County’s consequential civil rights history and the role of students at its Moton High School in the civil rights movement. A growing number of Longwood students have been visiting the museum each year as part of their classes or extracurricular activities. “For some time, I’ve felt every Longwood student should have that experience,” Reveley said. “Now is the time to make that so. The museum has something to teach all of us.”
3) Conversations on Campus. President Reveley has asked the task force to determine how best to structure conversations among members of the Longwood community—particularly students—who will return to campus this fall “profoundly affected by recent national events … [and] seeking space to converse, listen, process, heal and develop plans for action. These conversations may be difficult. But as a training ground of citizen leaders, Longwood has a particular obligation to guide and facilitate them,” Reveley said.
In concluding his message, Reveley states: “Again, the steps I am announcing today are by no means our only efforts in this regard. But I hope they will give some urgency and purpose to that work, focusing us on tangible goals where we can make progress, looking ahead to when we are back together again soon.”
—Fall classes will begin as planned on Monday, Aug. 24, with New Lancer Days for incoming students starting Thursday, Aug. 20.
—The last day of in-person undergraduate classes will be Tuesday, Nov. 24, the last day before Thanksgiving break.
—In order to ensure a full measure of instructional time, classes will be held on Labor Day, Sept. 7, and there will be no fall break.
—After Thanksgiving, there will be a two-week review and final exam period, with the expectation that most final exams will be given online. —All students will receive information soon about the timeline and precautions in place around the move-in schedule.
Classrooms and Class Structure
—Longwood is in a good position to follow guidelines for social distancing in its classes. Only 15 classes on campus have more than 40 students, and only six have more than 50. Longwood has ample classroom space, including an additional 42,000-square-foot academic building opening this summer, and other large spaces may be repurposed as classrooms.
—Analysis of classroom space is ongoing, and spaces will begin to be reorganized soon to allow for social distancing.
—Following CDC guidance, we are upgrading and increasing the regular cleaning of all academic spaces and evaluating ventilation systems.
flexibility of instruction
—Web cameras in each classroom will enable instructors to make course content available more readily and encourage innovative teaching. This technology will also allow students to access material remotely and maintain academic progress if they must miss class due to health concerns or quarantine related to Covid-19.
—This fall all shared bathrooms in suite-style accommodations will be limited to a maximum of 4 students. There are no community-style bathrooms in Longwood residence halls.
—Longwood is making additional single rooms, including single bedrooms within suites, available to students through the housing assignment process at a discounted rate.
—All on-campus residence halls have advanced ventilation systems that provide each individual room with its own direct to-and-from circulation of outside air, so air is not circulated among rooms.
—We don’t know yet what guidance may be in place across Virginia regarding gatherings and events, including possible limits on the number of people present. Any restrictions in place will apply to Longwood’s extracurricular activities and campus life.
Longwood’s intercollegiate athletics program has its own set of comprehensive plans to protect the well-being of student-athletes, in close consultation with the NCAA.
The university continues to work on additional adjustments for the fall to ensure that university facilities, services and activities follow state guidelines designed to protect your student’s health. These will be communicated via email to students as they are determined—so tell your student to keep an eye out for updates. And I will work to keep the latest information flowing to parents via Parent Pipeline.
It’s another day of sunshine and blue skies in Farmville. Like many other employees, I am currently working from home, but I often take my daily walk on Brock Commons—and I can tell you the campus has never looked better, as you can see in the photo above.
We know that Longwood’s beautiful campus is meaningful to you and your student, so we’re “keeping up appearances” in preparation for the return of in-person learning this fall.
Speaking of the fall, I wanted to share some updates with you today just in case you haven’t seen them.
First, Matt McGregor, leader of the Covid-19 Incident Command Team, talks about the planning underway to ensure campus safety when students return in the fall.
I’m also including an introduction to Dr. Chris Kukk , the new dean of Longwood’s Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars, who is bubbling with ideas for the college.
Q&A with Matt McGregor, Leader of the Covid-19 Incident Command Team
What is your role on campus as vice president for wellness and auxiliary services? I oversee health and wellness at Longwood, working closely with the three departments in student affairs that make up the wellness unit: campus recreation, counseling and psychological services, and the University Health Center. I came to Longwood in 2005 as the director of campus recreation, and I have been working with the entire wellness unit since 2009.
You’ve been leading Longwood’s Incident Command Team that has been responding to the Covid-19 crisis. Can you tell us about some of the work that’s already been done and what that group is continuing to do? We stood up the Incident Command Team in early March as the pandemic came to the U.S. The team includes representatives from the offices of Environmental Health and Safety, Emergency Management, Housing, Residential and Commuter Life, and Facilities as well as from the University Health Center. This summer we are focusing on preparations to open campus this fall, including developing protocols in the event we have Covid-19 cases, and establishing testing and contact-tracing guidelines for campus.
Longwood has said it’s committed to returning to in-person learning on campus this fall. What steps are being implemented so that students can return to campus safely to live and learn? All aspects of on-campus life are being assessed, from academics to housing and dining arrangements to enhanced cleaning methods to health practices and education. We’re also working closely with the other Virginia public universities and the state, in particular the Virginia Department of Health. Some of our plans are starting to take shape, and others will take place over the summer. But there are a few key principles guiding them. One is that we have to assume Covid-19 will be present across the country for some time. Another is that, in general, college-age students are at low statistical risk of serious health effects—but some with underlying health concerns, along with older people in our community, do have elevated risk. We can’t eliminate Covid. But we can develop prudent and manageable steps to mitigate spread and to protect those at higher risk. That’s our goal.
Can you describe some of the ways that residential life and campus life in general might be different when students return to campus? Can we expect that there will be social-distancing protocols in place? We are working on a number of ways to allow for more social distancing: —Arranging and assigning individual classrooms so they allow for more space between students —Offering more options for single rooms in our residential and off-campus managed housing facilities —Possibly limiting large events Other areas of focus will be on hygiene, scheduling and things like PPE that can help mitigate exposure in some circumstances. We also care a lot at Longwood about developing good citizens, so preparing students and asking them to act responsibly for the greater good are an important part of this. Even in such an unusual situation, we don’t want to lose sight of our mission. Our overall goal is to provide as normal a semester as possible, with some appropriate modifications to our activities. We will also be following the state guidelines as laid out by the phases of the Forward Virginia plan developed by Governor Northam’s office.
Will Covid-19 testing be available when students return in the fall? Both the federal and state recovery plans call for robust testing availability. The landscape of both testing technology and expert guidance is constantly changing. We believe wide availability of testing will be important, and we are working with health care providers and the state to explore a range of options and policies related to both students and faculty/staff. We will have testing capacity and practices in place, and we appreciate people’s patience as we work through exactly how that will work.
What is Longwood doing to be prepared if there are cases of Covid-19 on campus? The Centers for Disease Control has just issued some preliminary guidance about how to respond in such instances, and the commonwealth is working on that, too. But even as that guidance takes shape, we are planning to make sure students who need to isolate are taken care of and able to stay on track academically. We are fortunate that we have a good deal of flexibility and space in campus housing, which we will make use of.
When can we expect more details? We hope by mid-June to be able to communicate with faculty, staff, students and families in a way that gives a pretty good picture of what to expect next semester. We won’t have every answer then, and flexibility will be important, so over the summer those plans will take final shape.
What local health care resources are available? Longwood is very fortunate to work with Potomac Healthcare Solutions as our management partner at the University Health Center. The center is staffed with trained clinicians (doctors and nurse practitioners) and their support staff to meet the acute and urgent care needs of students, faculty and staff. They have been and will continue to be an active partner in our planning, management and response to this pandemic. We also work closely with Centra Health, the major regional health care provider, which has an outpatient clinic a block from the north end of campus and a hospital one block from the south end.
All colleges are wrestling with how students will return to campus in the fall. What makes you confident Longwood is well-positioned to do this? Our size and setting will be helpful in making in-person learning and campus life move forward this fall, while taking prudent steps to ensure public health. Through our response to Covid-19 on campus this spring, we have developed key relationships with the town of Farmville, Centra Southside Community Hospital, the Piedmont Health District and the Virginia Department of Health. All of these entities will be strong partners with us as we prepare to safely bring our students back for the fall semester. The safety of our students, faculty and staff will always be our first priority. There is no substitute for the on-campus learning experience, and we as a university are doing everything possible to safely return to college life this fall.
He talks about the Cormier Honors College as a hub for social entrepreneurship and its potential to be a nationally known center for the thinkers and citizens of tomorrow. These ideas and cross-disciplinary thinking aren’t just darts that get thrown at a board—they’re all connected in an intricate web of social science and responsibility that is fundamental, he says, to a thriving society.
These ideas are so important for the future of our world, says Kukk, there’s just no time to wait.
“When you put these really talented students from a lot of different backgrounds who have a lot of different interests in a situation that allows for experimentation, it drives the university forward,” he said. “As an education, that’s the best glass of chocolate milk you could drink every day. You just want to down it!”
During the selection process at Longwood, he outlined a vision of new kinds of careers—ones that take ideas from different disciplines and blend them together to come up with new questions to answer and new ways of addressing those questions. These are the jobs of the future, he said, and Longwood can be that undergraduate engine.
“Citizen leadership,” he said, “is social entrepreneurship. Let’s go after it.”
The Cormier Honors College for Citizen Scholars is a group of high-achieving Longwood students who live and learn together while completing honors courses that span multiple disciplines, maintaining rigorous academic standards and completing a study abroad experience before graduation. Named for Longwood’s 24th president, Patricia Cormier, the college received a record $2 million endowment gift in 2015 by Marc and Wilma ’66 Sharp and has become known as the home to academic innovation on campus.