Changes to campus procedures continue as COVID-19 spreads

By Cassy Sottile

News Editor

The spread of the novel coronavirus strain, COVID-19, continues to impact Washington College life. 

On March 25, the WC Response Team reported that the student who was hospitalized under suspicion of COVID-19 after exhibiting flu-like symptoms tested negative for the virus. 

“While the threat of COVID-19 to our community is real, this news comes as a relief to everyone who feared possible exposure on our College campus,” President Kurt Landgraf said in the email. “I am so proud of this young man and his friends who did the right thing by taking responsibility for the community’s health.” 

Later that day, the Emergency Operations Group was made aware that a WC student, who lives off-campus, tested positive for COVID-19. 

“The student returned to their off-campus private residence in Chestertown the weekend of March 13-15 and attended an off-campus outdoor gathering at another private student residence in Chestertown on the afternoon of March 13,” the March 25 email said. 

The student is under a doctor’s care in their home state, where they were tested on March 18 and received positive test results on March 22, according to the email.

The student’s off-campus roommates have all returned to their homes outside Chestertown.

The College is assisting the Kent County Health Department by helping to identify others who may have come into contact with this student on the weekend of March 13-15. 

“[The] Health Department officials have asked that any individual who attended an off-campus gathering hosted by WC students the afternoon of March 13 contact them and self-quarantine for the remainder of the 14-day quarantine period, ending this Sunday, March 29,” the WC Response team said in the March 25 email. 

Two days later on March 27, the WC Response Team reported a case of community transmission of COVID-19 in Kent County. 

“Even though WC has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus, we must all now operate on the assumption that with everyone we encounter, and everywhere we go, we put ourselves at risk of contracting this highly contagious respiratory disease,” the March 27 email said. “You need to consider that people are carrying the virus, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms.”

Infected persons with mild or no reported symptoms are still contagious and capable of spreading the virus, according to the email.

“This is exactly why WC has encouraged so many students to go home, why we have restricted access to campus, why we have adopted online learning and remote working environments, and why we remind you at every opportunity to follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: practice social distancing, avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, clean and disinfect household surfaces every day, and practice good hand washing hygiene,” the March 27 email said. 

Per the protocol put in place the Coronavirus Response Team at the College, WC will only report positive cases of COVID-19 among the campus community. 

To comply with CDC guidance, the College announced their official decision to postpone the 2020 Commencement ceremonies to a later date to remain “committed to bringing all of our graduating seniors together for a proper send-off in person,” according to a March 20 email from the WC Response Team. 

The new date for Commencement ceremonies was determined to be Saturday, Oct. 17, according to a March 28 email from Dean DiQuinzio. 

“We chose this date because it gives us time to get all of the details of commencement in place and give [seniors] and [their] families time to arrange to be here. Oct. 17 is also the Saturday of fall break, so there will be fewer other students on campus, which helps with issues like parking,” Dean DiQuinzio said. “Most importantly, based on what we know now, a date in the fall is much less likely to be overturned by COVID-19 than a date in the next few months.”

As seniors complete their coursework and final grades are submitted, transcripts will be updated to reflect earning their degrees. These updated transcripts will be available starting Monday, June 22. 

“Even though we will not have had commencement and you will not have your diploma in hand, you will be officially graduated from WC because you will have successfully completed all of the work for your degree and your transcript will show that,” Dean DiQuinzio said. 

Commencement activities are planned for the single day. The College is currently developing a plan to virtually give the awards that would have been announced at the senior luncheon and Sophie Kerr ceremony, according to the March 28 email. 

“We will set this up so all members of the senior class can celebrate their friends’ awards. We hope to do this sometime in May,” Dean DiQuinzio said. 

The Committee on Academic Standing and Advising, according to Dean DiQuinzio in an April 3 email, recommended a policy for Latin honors for the class of 2020 Commencement. 

If seniors qualified for Latin honors based on their cumulative GPA at the end of the fall semester, they will be awarded Latin honors. Letter grades for the spring semester will not affect Latin honors eligibility. 

“Your final letter grades for spring 2020 will not keep you from earning Latin honors if you were qualified in December. But if you did not qualify in December 2019, your spring 2020 letter grades may help you to qualify for Latin honors upon graduation,” Dean DiQuinzio said.

Other changes to campus offices were announced earlier that week. 

As of March 23, the Office of the Registrar has been operating remotely. Their phones are not being answered during the office closure, so all communication should be sent to registrar@washcoll.edu

According to the Registrar, any student who has forms that require advisor approval should be sent to the advisor, who will then forward them to the registrar. Students requiring enrollment verifications or requests for records for graduate school applications, forms from auto insurance companies requesting your GPA, etc. must send the form to the registrar email address. Transcripts can also be ordered at https://www.washcoll.edu/offices/registrar/transcripts.php

In a March 25 email, Provost and Dean of the College Dr. Patrice DiQuinzio announced that the WC Committee on Academic Standing and Advising recommended WC courses this semester be graded pass/fail. 

“This change will not only reduce students’ stress and anxiety about grades but it also recognizes that working from a remote location, students may be in very different positions with respect to internet access, time zone differences and other family or health concerns,” Dean DiQuinzio said in the email. 

Professors will still submit a final letter grade for each student in their courses. The registrar will then convert those grades to “P” or “F” and any grade other than “F” is a passing grade. This change will apply to all courses for which students would normally earn a letter grade, including Student Capstone Experiences in those departments that give them a letter grade. Those departments that award honors in the major based on the SCE will still be able to do so, according to the March 25 email.

Only pass or fail grades will appear in SelfService, but the registrar will keep official records of all spring 2020 final letter grades. 

If any student needs to report final letter grades from spring 2020, the registrar will produce an official letter verifying the grades and send it to the organizations that require them. 

Records of final letter grades will also be kept by the registrar to determine whether students are making the satisfactory academic progress needed to remain eligible for federal and state financial aid, to determine students’ academic standing and to calculate seniors’ cumulative and major grade point averages for degree completion and Latin honors, according to Dean DiQuinzio in the email. 

According to the email, it is the current policy of the College that passing grades will have no impact on a student’s semester or cumulative grade point average, but “F” grades will be calculated. 

Though many campus offices are closed and student events have been cancelled, some are adapting to online platforms. 

Tara Gladden, Kohl Gallery director and curator, said that the student exhibitions will proceed digitally. 

“As the semester progresses, we will be highlighting individual students and introducing you to them and their work by way of uplifting campus-wide emails and posts on our Facebook and Instagram pages,” Gladden said in a March 31 email. 

On April 3, the Kohl Gallery launched their first virtual exhibition of their annual juried student exhibition 100 Proof, which features 18 student artists. 

The juror for the exhibition is visiting artist, educator, and Kent County native Kyle Hackett, according to the March 31 email. 

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