Dear LMU Community:
I write to share further information about our plans for spring 2021 and conditions that inform them as we continue to weather challenging circumstances. While we are ready to provide limited, low-density, in-person campus experiences as soon as feasible, coronavirus spread has increased since Provost Poon’s message last month, setting new records and prompting additional restrictions from health authorities in California and LA County. These restrictions are likely to prevent us from returning to our campuses in January; however, I am optimistic that recent and developing news about vaccines may accelerate our reopening plans for the spring.
Your health and safety remain our top priorities. I share your frustration about the persistent uncertainty and challenges we face, but I remain buoyed by your resilience. On my toughest days, I look to how you render our shared mission into action and demonstrate that we will overcome the present circumstances. Each of us is ultimately navigating a path to recovery, and we must stay the course in the near term, in league with one another, to honor our sacrifices and vanquish this virus. Here is our current approach, on which university leadership will follow up during the week of November 30 with additional details:
- We will offer nearly all spring courses virtually. We plan to offer limited in-person instructional components for programs with special requirements in fields previously approved by L.A. County Department of Public Health (LACDPH), and we will explore additional options as permitted;
- We cannot expand student housing accommodations for spring at this time, per LACDPH mandates. We will continue to provide housing to current residents who meet extenuating circumstances as previously approved. We hope to expand spring housing options if county conditions improve and we receive appropriate clearances;
- We are currently reviewing scheduled holidays for the spring academic calendar and will inform you of any changes soon.
California and L.A. County Conditions
Effective today, Los Angeles County has tightened pandemic safeguards and restrictions as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase. The county has warned that a safer at home order and curfew (with an exemption for essential employees) will go into effect if the five-day countywide case average surpasses 4,500/day or if hospitalizations exceed 2,000/day. (The county currently reports 3,426 cases as the five-day average and 1,123 hospitalized patients.) Effective tomorrow night, for counties in the purple tier, including Los Angeles, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is implementing a one-month limited stay at home order for nonessential work or gatherings from 10 p.m. to 5.a.m. Additionally, CDPH issued an advisory for non-essential travel, recommending that individuals coming to California—visitors and returning residents—should quarantine for 14 days.
Path to the Bluff
We are advocating with elected officials and public health authorities with vigor because we want to return to an in-person LMU experience as soon as we can safely do so. Path to the Bluff, a new online information hub, features our preparations for our students’ eventual safe return. The website includes our COVID-19 recovery plan, a four-phased reopening roadmap that is governed by the California Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Protocol for Institutions of Higher Education, and the guidance issued by the city of Los Angeles Office of the Mayor.
Our four reopening phases are:
- Phase I: Essential operations only, online instruction, and limited housing. We are currently in this phase.
- Phase II: Minimal campus operations, mostly online with limited in-person instruction, and minimal housing capacity.
- Phase III: Expanded campus operations, mixed online and in-person instruction, and expanded housing capacity.
- Phase IV: Normal campus operations resume; in-person instruction, co-curricular programs, support services fully restored; housing at full capacity.
We believe we can be together safely, and we are working tirelessly to make it so:
- I wrote to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to urge our elected representatives to allow colleges and universities to reopen in a manner that protects our students and surrounding communities, ultimately improving public health throughout the county;
- I joined 22 leaders of Los Angeles County colleges and universities in expressing our readiness to reopen in-person higher education responsibly;
- We are petitioning LACDPH to allow us to expand the limited in-person experiences we seek to provide in spring to support further our students and faculty;
- With a goal of maximizing transparency, we launched a COVID Dashboard, which contains data on those who live, work, or participate in approved on-campus activities or who are otherwise approved for campus access. The dashboard shares updated metrics of positive cases, outbreaks, and quarantines among those with campus access. For the latest updates, please visit LMU Together.
Throughout this pandemic I have encountered occasions of kindness and charity for our students. Thank you for your unity and sense of purpose. Our community’s generosity surpassed expectations:
- LMU has raised more than $2.1 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic impacts to support students and families most in need. This includes approximately $1.5 million in budget-relieving scholarship support since March.
- This year’s record-breaking Day of Giving raised roughly $2.4 million from over 4,400 gifts in 24 hours. Lions from 48 states and 11 countries came together and achieved a 169 percent increase in dollars raised from our previous year. LMU Loyola Law School also raised an additional $800,000 from over 800 gifts on its Centennial Day.
Please join me in thanking the many members of our community, including many of us who work at LMU, for this generous support.
As we envision LMU’s future impacts on the world and the steps that will best position us to pursue them, the new LMU strategic plan will be our blueprint. I am grateful that so many of our faculty, staff, and students participated actively in our strategic planning process in the discernment focus groups last month. The thoughtful and diverse feedback will help us ink a plan that inspires our entire community as we set priorities for the next five years. I invite you to view the consolidated feedback here.
Intercultural Affairs and campus partners have been working since summer to create positive change through the LMU Anti-Racism Project. As we work toward becoming a proactively anti-racist institution, Jennifer Abe, vice president for Intercultural Affairs, will continue to provide regular updates. Over the next few weeks, the Accountability webpage will be updated with data on the unit-level issues, action steps, and outcomes identified by campus units as part of their systemic analysis process. I thank all who have attended our anti-racism virtual forums and our #BlackatLMU and BFSA listening sessions. I am enthused by this conversation and appreciate you sharing your concerns and priorities, which are propelling LMU forward.
Community and Connections
Seemingly all of 2020 has given us much to process. Each of us has had our moments during this time—a time that can seem endless. Amidst this, keeping our community mentally healthy and fulfilled must remain a priority. Lion Wellness offers resources to support students on their life journeys. Student Affairs continues to provide nourishing virtual co-curricular experiences for our Lions. Our commitment to cura personalis is intentional and focused on students’ sense of purpose, from hosting student spotlights and guest speakers to involvement fairs, social programs, service opportunities, and voter education. Students may also visit Campus Ministry's Virtual Cave for fellowship with peers and professional staff. Inspired by Ignatius's time in a cave in Manresa, this virtual common area is a place where students, campus ministers, and our greater LMU community can convene. Meanwhile, for faculty and staff, HR offers an array of mental health resources and wellness programs. And Fathers Wayne Negrete and Randy Roche, in the Center for Ignatian Spirituality, continue to be available to faculty and staff for pastoral counseling by Zoom, phone, or email.
We have been through a lot together this year and I am proud that our community remains a lodestar of academic excellence and global imagination, united in our desire to make the world a better place, and with each of us striving to be persons for and with others. Thank you for your continued resilience and determination as we persist in navigating these times together. And thanks to each of you for carrying one another, and me, when things have gone awobble; please know that I am here for and with you, as well.
Please remain safe; we have much work ahead—and increasing clarity about our blessings.
Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.