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COVID-19 Update: Remote Work and Virtual Learning Will Continue Through May

Residence halls will close March 28, and all on-campus or Bethel-sponsored events are canceled through May 31.

By The Office of Marketing and Communications

March 18, 2020 | 11 a.m.

Bethel community:

We are facing an unprecedented challenge. In the last week, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, daily life in many countries changed dramatically, the number of confirmed cases in the United States increased fivefold, and evidence of community transmission in Minnesota surfaced. It is in times like these that we truly learn what it means to lead and serve in our communities, our churches, and our world. 

We must continue to act not only for the safety and wellbeing of the Bethel community, but for the broader communities around us. 

We have made several difficult but necessary decisions about the remainder of the academic year. Students, faculty, staff, and especially our graduating seniors—I know this is not the way you expected to spend your final weeks on campus. It is not how Barb and I imagined it, either. We get so much of our joy and energy from seeing God at work in the lives of our students and colleagues. We will continue to find ways to stay connected as a community in the coming weeks. 

Still, a good education should prepare students for the unexpected. The critical thinking and teamwork skills that are at the core of a liberal arts education, coupled with the compassion that reflects the heart of the gospel, shine through in times of challenge and change. I have seen so many Bethel graduates demonstrate that followers of Jesus continue to show up in challenging places when the world needs skilled and caring people. I am confident that in the midst of experiencing a dramatically different semester from what you expected, you will continue to make a difference for God’s glory and our neighbors’ good.

Here is important information regarding the remainder of the spring semester:

  1. All face-to-face Bethel University classes will be delivered in a virtual instruction learning environment through the end of spring semester. Students and faculty who do not have access to the internet or other necessary technology should contact ITS at helpdesk@bethel.edu for support. 
  2. Remote work for employees will continue through May 31. A list of university office availability, including hours and contact information, is available online. We have also put together resources for remote work.  
  3. With their supervisor’s permission, student employees can continue their work onsite or remotely. Student employees who choose to not continue their work or whose positions are no longer available will not be paid. Those who qualify for federal work-study will receive further information at a later date. Supervisors should begin reaching out to their student workers regarding their positions. Human Resources will be connecting with supervisors later this week as well.
  4. All residence halls will close on Saturday, March 28. Students with extenuating circumstances (e.g., international students, students at risk of housing insecurity, others who cannot travel, etc.) who need to remain on campus can appeal. More information on the appeal process will be provided today. Please note we cannot approve appeals from students who wish to stay on campus solely to continue their student employment. Students will be able to retrieve items from their residence halls between March 21 and March 28. Important details regarding the move-out process will be sent this afternoon. Information regarding applicable refunds related to housing and meal plans will be communicated at a later date.
  5. All on-campus or Bethel-sponsored events are canceled through May 31. No new events will be scheduled during this time. At this time, we have not made a final decision regarding commencement ceremonies, but we will announce that decision by March 31. We are committed to honoring the hard work and accomplishments of those of you who are graduating this spring. 

We know the changes we are all experiencing at work and in our personal lives can lead to a lot of worry and anxiety. We’ll be providing resources for our community as we navigate this together. More information will be provided, but a good place to start is the resources offered by the Center for Wellbeing. 

I also want to add a note for our employees. While much of the focus in our communication has been about continuing the education of students, we cannot carry out our mission without you. The work you have been doing behind the scenes to keep us moving forward in uncharted territory is greatly appreciated. As we move completely to a virtual learning environment and empty our residence halls for the remainder of the semester, you must wonder what this means for you.

These changes affect the ways many of us do our jobs. What do resident directors do when the residence halls are empty? Who do coaches work with when the MIAC season is canceled? What is the role of our skilled facilities workers when campus requires less maintenance? To be honest, we don’t yet have all the answers. For some colleagues, work can be done as well remotely as in person. For others, work cannot be done at all if it is not done onsite. For many, it is a combination of the two extremes. 

Here is our commitment: We will continue our mission. We will work with each department to temporarily repurpose and restructure as many jobs as possible to meet the needs of an unpredictable future. Our goal is to continue paying full salaries to as many of our staff employees as possible, but it may mean that you will be asked to do something out of the ordinary. We will provide you with more information at a later date.

I hope you will join me for a virtual community gathering on Friday, March 20 at 10 a.m. CT., where we will continue to process today’s decisions together. Pastor Laurel will also share a brief devotional. It is my hope that this time will allow the Bethel family to continue to share support and encouragement even as we are spread out across the world.

If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to us at covid-19@bethel.edu. We will continue to update bethel.edu/covid-19 with the latest information, including FAQs for students, staff, and faculty.

Serving together,

-Jay

Jay Barnes
President 

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