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November video message from President Belton

Posted by:
November 11, 2020

To: PLU Students and families
From: Office of the President

Dear Lutes and families,

As we’ve worked together these past months to ensure our community’s well-being, I’ve been inspired by the fortitude, empathy, and resolute spirit of our students, faculty, staff, and families.

I remain committed to keeping our community up to date with news and our current thinking. In the following short video message, I address the questions, “why don’t we have more in-person classes now? Will we have more in-person learning in the spring?” The short answer: we have more than twice as many spring courses listed as blended—both online and in-person learning opportunities—compared to the fall. Play the video for the longer answer on what it takes to safely deliver in-person instruction.

Thank you again for extending your care during this time. Through these challenges, Lutes remain steadfast in our commitment to caring for each other. In this season of thanks, I am grateful for that and for you.

Allan Belton

Full transcript of Allan’s message to the community

Throughout this fall semester, our students, staff, and faculty members have dedicated themselves to the cause of living and learning safely, demonstrating tremendous resiliency in service of the greater good. What that resiliency has looked like day-to-day is a very quiet, sleepy campus—a campus waiting to reawaken.

I’ve been hearing from some students, in particular those living on or near campus, that they’re eager to return to our campus classrooms. I’ve heard from others, especially those who are waiting out the pandemic in multigenerational households, that they are thankful that the majority of our courses have remained remote.

That’s why I wanted to share with you our current thinking about spring semester. The long and the short of it is this: Pierce County is currently in the midst of its third surge of the pandemic. The case rate per 100,000 people (one of our ten dial metrics) is currently above 130. For context, that’s up nearly 300 percent from mid-September. At that point, we were approaching a case rate of 50, which is where we would want that metric to be to support moving to Stage Four of our Campus Status Dial. In short, the disappointing reality is that things are not getting better in Pierce County right now.

That said, one thing that has greatly improved in the last few months is our understanding of the virus. That understanding is helping us better meet the needs of students, keep our campus safe, and prepare our varsity athletic teams to safely return to competition in the spring.

The spring class schedule is already out, with the instructional methods listed for each course. Classes listed as Online will remain online for the duration of the semester. Classes listed as Blended will have both online and in-person learning opportunities—provided, of course, that we can safely deliver in-person instruction. We have more than twice as many spring courses listed as blended compared to the fall.

We are also committed to creating additional opportunities for in-person interactions within the academic division, which might take the form of casual, small group interactions with students and faculty from a related set of courses, or small group gatherings with deans, students, and even alumni from particular majors, minors, or fields of study. We’ll share more details as plans develop.

Currently, our campus safety dial remains at Stage Three. The dial reflects data from campus, county, and state health reporting, along with directives from public-health officials.

If things are able to improve in the county and in Western Washington, and we are able to remain safe on campus, I am hopeful that we will be able to move the campus safety dial to Stage Four or even Stage Five sometime during the spring semester, providing students with new opportunities to safely experience the in-person elements of blended courses.

I imagine we are all in agreement that we cannot responsibly move that dial forward while our county is experiencing a surge in cases. In the meantime, what we’re doing behind the scenes is preparing as many courses as we can to provide blended learning opportunities so that when that dial does move, as many students as possible will experience a substantial change in the learning and will be able to gradually reconnect with our campus.

We just have to stay committed and stay together, Lutes. And I know we will.

Join us for Veterans Day!

Today, we honor and celebrate those who served as members of our armed forces. Join us for an online statewide celebration, hosted by Pacific Lutheran University, the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, Vet Corps, and university partners across the state. With heartfelt gratitude, thank you for your service.

Thanksgiving travel guidance

Thanksgiving is almost upon us—and for many of you, that may mean travel, visiting family or friends, and gatherings to celebrate the holiday. As you make plans to leave campus, please remember to be conscientious about practicing COVID-19 etiquette. Check in with your family or host to see if they have any special requests that will help them and you remain safe while you’re visiting or staying home for the remainder of the semester.

We join the CDC in strongly encouraging Lutes to:

  • Get a COVID-19 test prior to your travels or visit
  • Plan on wearing a mask for all indoor activities other than meals
  • Add more spacing than usual around others during meals

Even returning to your own home should be undertaken with care. Remember, even if it’s only been a few weeks since you’ve been there, during that time your family has likely been taking all the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy, and it’s important to respect that.

Gathering in groups—even with people we know—can easily spread the virus. The more people we interact with at a gathering, and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher our risk of becoming infected. The safest action, therefore—especially if you’re in a high-risk category—is to avoid gatherings and find different ways to celebrate with those you love. This site includes ideas for how to gather virtually, for example; and if that’s not an option, here is a checklist to help you plan a safer gathering.