0 Next Steps in our COVID-19 Journey

Next Steps in our COVID-19 Journey

March 17, 2020

Update From President Mullen, March 17, 2020

To:        Members of the Houghton Community

From:   President Mullen

Re:       Next Steps in our COVID-19 Journey

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to All!

I am writing to update you on the next steps in walking with COVID-19. In light of the most recent guidance from the White House Corona Virus Task Force to limit gatherings for the next 15 days to 10 people, and the fact that we now have four Houghton students being tested for the virus as testing is gradually becoming more easily available, it is critical that as many as possible make plans to leave campus, even before Thursday.  While the residences will remain open until noon on Thursday, the 19th, and while METZ will continue to provide meals through noon on March 19th, it is in your own best interest and the interests of the community to disperse.

Please note that, because of the new guidance from Governor Cuomo about eating establishments, there will be new policies in the Dining Hall from this morning on:

  • All meals will be “take-out”.
  • Students will need to eat somewhere else besides the Dining Hall.
  • Food Service Staff will be serving the meals; there will be no more “self-serve”.

We are grateful to METZ for walking with us through this challenging time.

The Emergency Management Team met yesterday to make decisions about a range of practical matters relating to how we will continue to be Houghton University for you even in the midst of the COVID-19 challenge.  Each decision is made in the light of what we know at the time—and is subject to change should realities change.

Academic Concerns:

Our primary concern is to enable you to complete the academic courses you started this semester in a way that also meets the need to limit the spread of COVID-19 within our community—or to make us a carrier to others in the area.

QuestionIf I live locally, may I come to campus to receive my instruction in person?   Or may I come on campus to access facilities related to my academic work?

Answer:  All instruction from now until the end of the semester will be online.  For the safety of the community, for the sake of fairness to all students—both those who are near and those who live far away–and for liability reasons, we must insist that all instruction be online—and that local students not come on campus to use the facilities.

Question:  What if I don’t have internet access during this time?

Answer:  Our goal is to ensure that all students are able to complete their coursework for the semester.

  • Students: If you do not have access to internet during this time, please inform Dr. Paul Young (young@houghton.edu) by Tuesday, March 17, at 5:00 p.m.
  • Faculty: We are counting on you to do what it takes to create assignments that allow students to complete the work of each class.  Dr. Young will continue to provide guidance about ways for you to access technical support for the challenge of making the material and skills of your particular course accessible in ways other than face-to-face instruction.
  • Students:  If you have concerns about any matters related to class instruction during this season, please contact Dr. Cathy Freytag (freytag@houghton.edu).

Housing Concerns:

Question:  Who is able to remain on campus in college housing?

Answer:  The College is prepared to continue to make housing available to students who fall into any one of the following three categories:

  1. They are international students who may not be able to travel to their home country.
  2. They pose a clear health risk for someone in their home who is considered high risk for the coronavirus. (In this case, the housing will be temporary.)
  3. They come from a situation that is, in some way or other, disruptive to their flourishing.


Those who have requested to stay on campus as a result of one of these conditions will hear from Dean Marc Smithers later on today about their request.

Please note that the College will provide food service beyond Thursday noon only for those students who are approved to live in college housing.  Based on the most recent guidance of the government, this will most likely be “take-out” food that must be eaten away from the dining hall.

Work Concerns:

Question:  What if I am a student worker?

Answer:  If you have a pre-existing position, that continues to need to be done in an online learning environment, and that can be accomplished remotely, you will continue to be employed by the college during the remainder of the semester.  In order to create the electronic time cards that will be needed, all supervisors (department chairs, or other supervisors) are asked to send a memo to Nancy Stanley by Thursday, March 19 at 5:00 p.m. indicating for each of your student workers:  name of the student, job title, department, and estimated number of hours per week.  Nancy will then contact the student directly to explain the process for submitting their hours.

Question:   If I live locally, may I continue to carry on my position in person?

Answer:  This will not be possible for many of the same reasons that local students will not have access to campus facilities or face-to-face instruction. (The only students who will be allowed to remain on site are four student workers in the Equestrian Center.)

Later this week, we will provide further guidance on such matters as:

  • How refunds for room and board will be calculated
  • Plans for end-of-semester events like Commencement, Athletic Banquet, etc.
  • Guidelines about working remotely for faculty and staff
  • Guidelines for the use of buildings between March 19thand April 10th.  (While we will have a clear strategy of hospitality—we also need to ensure that campus buildings are used only for essential functions—and only for faculty and staff of the college.)
  • Guidelines for travel—In the meantime, please think twice (or three times) about any travel that might create greater risk for our community.

 Closing Thoughts. . .

I happened to be reading in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah this past weekend. The book is the story of the exiles returning from Babylon to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem—only to encounter great resistance and unexpected sabotage. Their secret to success was sharing the work, and remembering God’s faithfulness in their story up to that point. It is in the context of this struggle that we encounter that well known verse that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”  May we find it to be so for us at Houghton University in this season.

Please address any questions to the President’s Office (585-567-9310) or President@houghton.edu. We thank you for your prayers for our students, faculty, and staff as they seek to continue to be the Houghton Community for each other in this challenging moment.

Read the announcement from March 16, 2020