In introducing the session, Wippman recognized the current situation as an “extraordinary moment in time … a sea-change moment not just for the college but for the country and the world. We appreciate your patience and support,” he said. “I wish more than anything that we were bringing you back after spring break.”
In addressing the seniors directly, Wippman said “I know this is a particularly tough time for you. We are going to do everything we can to find an opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments and bring you together as a class.” Later in the conversation, Martinez said that such a celebration would take place when state and federal restrictions related to the virus permitted, and that everyone would be given ample time to return to campus.
Watch President Wippman and Dean Martinez in the virtual campus forum.
Wippman said “The College remains focused on providing students with the best possible education delivered remotely, supporting students completely, and protecting employees. We want to make this as painless as possible in this extraordinary moment.”
Martinez reconfirmed the College’s commitment to supporting students in particular. “Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are looking for the resources to connect as a community, and we are looking to you to connect with each other.”
In opening the Q&A, Magnarelli said more than 100 questions were submitted by the students, and they fell into four main categories: academics, residence halls, finances, and Commencement. Academic questions ranged from pass/fail grading to whether class times would change in light of time zone considerations.
To the former, Wippman said a faculty committee was studying the issue and that the faculty would likely address it at the April 7 faculty meeting. In answer to scheduling, he said that for most classes, times would remain as currently scheduled, but that faculty were exploring options to assist students with time zone and other issues, including recording classes for later viewing or offering all or part of a class asynchronously.
Students also asked about the delivery of lab, studio art, theatre and dance classes. Wippman responded that faculty were exploring a range of creative options for offering such classes virtually. He said the College was still considering if and how summer research might be conducted. He noted how hard it is to predict now what the situation will look like two to three months from now, but the College will try to provide answers soon.
In all cases, the president emphasized that the goal is to balance the need to provide sufficient notice to enable people to make appropriate arrangements with the desire to make decisions with the best information available.
The College's coronavirus plan and latest updates can be found online.
With respect to student employment, each student’s situation is different and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. In some cases where programs need support and students can work remotely we will have them keep working. Students who have student employment as an expectation in their financial aid award will have their scholarship increased to cover 50 percent of their student employment expectation for the spring semester.
There are still students on third-party study abroad programs who are trying to return home. Whether or not they are reimbursed for unused room and board expenses is a question to be addressed first to the program in which they are enrolled. For those students enrolled on campus for the spring semester, Hamilton will credit their accounts for the unused portion of their room and board charges, prorated for financial aid; seniors will receive a refund if their overall balance is positive after the credit is applied. Details will be provided soon.
According to Martinez, the College will poll students to determine those who may be able to return to campus to retrieve their belongings and those who are unable and would want the College to pack and store their belongings. As soon as the government’s social-distancing recommendations permit it, the process of reuniting students with their belongings will be initiated. Martinez reminded students that they can reach out to the Counseling Center 24/7, that counselors will still be able to meet with New York State clients via teletherapy, and that members of the counseling center staff are available to consult with any students virtually.
Students also had questions about employee support. Wippman said that faculty and staff were all being paid in full and affirmed that the College wants to protect its employees to the extent it can do so.
There were additional questions about changes in visas for students who would ultimately be returning from their home country, and whether or not students with campus employment should file for unemployment. Martinez said she would pursue answers to those and several other questions. “These things are changing every single day, and we are working pretty much around the clock to try and make the adjustments,” she said. “We are committed to getting the answers.”
With more than 500 individuals viewing the session, Wippman acknowledged that the College did not have answers for every question submitted, but indicated the College would try to provide answers as quickly as possible, and encouraged students to look for updates on the College’s COVID-19 webpage. “This is a national challenge that all our peer institutions are grappling with,” Wippman said.
“We know your life has been upended. We know you are operating in a world of uncertainty. We will do the best to answer your questions. Don’t hesitate to keep sending your questions to us,” he said.
“Take care of yourself, take care of your families … and reach out to each other. We appreciate your patience and support.”