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Campus Update

March 30, 2020

Refund Update:

To Western Carolina University students:

We understand that many of you have questions regarding refunds for payments for on-campus housing and dining services that you are unable to access because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We now are beginning to receive guidelines from the University of North Carolina System on how to deal with the very complicated issues surrounding partial refunds for your housing and dining payments.

We are glad that we will be able to issue refunds to you. That said, the devil will be in the details. We anticipate that it will take us a few weeks to figure out the logistics, because there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Different students have different meal plans, and different residence halls have different room rates. Some students have received exemptions and have been allowed to remain in on-campus housing, with fewer dining options.

We will figure this out, but it will require a bit more time for us to get it right. Also, please keep in mind that the amount of your refund may depend upon any outstanding balances in your accounts. We will provide additional details regarding refunds and related matters in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, we want you to know that we appreciate your patience and your understanding as we navigate these unprecedented times. Thank you for helping Western Carolina University do its collective part to slow the spread of the coronavirus. We wish you success in your continuing academic pursuits and good health for you and your loved ones.

Sincerely,

Dr. Sam Miller, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Mr. Mike Byers, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance

Read the UNC System Update


March 27, 2020

Grading Policy Update:

Dear students,

I hope that you all are finding stability amid the developing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We have heard from many students and families and understand that there is a broad spectrum of challenges to be met within the Catamount community.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Faculty Senate has passed a resolution expanding the S/U grading policy for Spring 2020. This change gives most students the option to request Satisfactory (S)/Unsatisfactory (U) grades to replace standard letter grades for any or all of their Spring 2020 courses at the completion of the semester. Instruction for all courses will continue, and faculty will provide letter grades as usual at the end of the semester. Students who wish to accept their letter grade for a course will still have that option.  The S/U accommodation will award a grade of “S” for any letter grade from A to C, and a grade of “U” for any letter grade from C- to F. 

For those students who wish to accept their letter grade, no further action will be required on their part. Students who wish to replace a letter grade with S/U will need to request this accommodation via completion of the S/U Grade Change Form, to be posted on the Registrar’s webpage (registrar.wcu.edu) on April 30, 2020.  Completed forms must be submitted no later than June 30, 2020.  

Undergraduate professional programs and graduate programs may not be able to provide this accommodation due to accreditation and licensure requirements. If you are an undergraduate student in a professional program or a graduate student, please consult with your advisor, program coordinator, department chair, or college dean regarding which, if any, courses are eligible for S/U grading accommodation.

 Please note:

  • S/U grades will not impact Grade Point Averages (GPAs).  Semester hours will be counted as usual.
  • You may withdraw from Spring 2020 courses through April 30, 2020—and thereafter if necessary—for extenuating circumstances. For this term only, withdrawals will not impact completion percentages or student withdrawal limits.  Contact Financial Aid at Finaid@wcu.edu or 828.227.7290 to discuss the potential impact of Withdrawing on your financial aid.
  • ALL student transcripts, regardless of S/U grading elections, will include a note regarding the extraordinary circumstances of this time period.
  • Deadlines for the completion of any Fall 2019 Incompletes (“I”) will be extended to December 14, 2020.
  • Given this grading change, Chancellor’s List and Dean's List will not be observed for the current semester.
  • WCU continues to prioritize student safety and success during this time.  It is our goal to support you in the continuation of your studies and, ultimately, through graduation.

Stay safe and healthy, Catamounts.

Sincerely,

Richard D. Starnes, PhD
Provost


March 20, 2020

Western Carolina University Chancellor Kelli R. Brown released a video on Friday, March 20, to address WCU’s ongoing response to the coronavirus situation.

 

Hello, Catamounts.

I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are doing well in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic.

First, allow me to thank the dedicated faculty and staff of this university for their incredible efforts on behalf of our students in this rapidly changing environment.

These are uncertain and trying times, but we must remain calm and follow common-sense practices.

With my public health background, I know the actions that Western Carolina University and the UNC System are taking are absolutely appropriate.

We MUST do what we can to limit the spread of this virus.

We are, however, fully aware that the steps we are taking may be disruptive to many members of our campus community.

We understand your frustration, as things are evolving on a daily…sometimes hourly…basis.

Across the UNC System, we are applying the principles of triage – which means we must tackle the most critical issues first.

Our top priority is the health and safety of all members of our community.

We must also continue to meet our academic mission, but without compromising the health of our students, faculty, and staff.

That is why we have moved away from face-to-face classes to online learning and other alternative methods whenever possible for the remainder of the spring semester. 

That is why we are urging residential students to stay at or return to their permanent homes until this crisis passes.

We also know that some students have special circumstances, with no choice but to remain on campus.

We will take care of these students, and be sure they have housing and food.

I know many of you have questions, such as:

Will I get housing or dining refunds? The answer is, we are awaiting guidance from the UNC System on this issue, and we hope to have clarity soon.

What about graduation? Let me reassure you that all students scheduled to graduate in May who meet academic requirements will receive their degrees. Commencement ceremonies in May, however, are suspended. We plan to have more information about rescheduling to you by April the third.

Another question is, will I be able to do my internship or other coursework in the summer? The answer here is that some summer activities, such as study-abroad programs, have been canceled, while others remain in limbo. We are working hard to resolve these questions.

Please know that we will be getting to all of your questions as soon as we can, and we will provide answers as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, be safe and be well.

Do your part to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus – don’t congregate in groups of more than 10 people, practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and self-isolate if you are sick or have symptoms.

If we do these things, I believe that, in true Catamount spirit, we will overcome the challenges.

So, hang in there, we will get through this…together.

Thank you.

 

March 20, 2020

In response to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, Western Carolina University is postponing all spring commencement ceremonies originally scheduled for May 8 and 9, and will announce by April 3 plans for rescheduling the events.

The decision to postpone commencement ceremonies was made after consultation with faculty and student leaders, WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown said.

Students who complete all academic requirements for graduation at the end of the spring semester will be awarded their degrees and will be able to request official transcripts after all degrees have been certified by the WCU registrar.

In addition, university leaders do not expect face-to-face classes to resume before the end of the spring semester, and students should plan to continue online or alternative instruction as directed by their professors through May 8.

Decisions about summer courses and activities beyond study-abroad programs, which already have been canceled, will be announced by April 3.

“I completely understand that commencement is a deeply meaningful event for our students and their families. I realize that postponing these ceremonies will disappoint our students who have worked toward this goal for so many years and their family members who have supported them,” Brown said. “But the health and safety of all members of our campus community must be our top priority. We must do all that we can to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, and postponing large-scale events such as commencement is one of the things that we can do.”

 

March 17, 2020

From Residential Living: 

Dear Residential Student:

Today the University of North Carolina System announced additional measures expected to be implemented to continue fighting the spread of the COVID-19 illness.  All UNC campuses, including Western Carolina University, have been instructed to substantially reduce housing and dining operations. In addition, activities across campus are continuing to be canceled and significantly curtailed to encourage social distancing including face-to-face residence hall programming efforts, services at the Campus Recreation Center, and dining services, which will offer only a limited number of options with hours subject to change providing take-out service only. 

Per the instructions from the UNC System, WCU is implementing the following measures:

  • Students are strongly encouraged to retrieve essential items from their dorm rooms by Saturday, March 21.
  • Residence halls will be secured after that time to safeguard items that students cannot or choose not to retrieve.
  • Card access remains active for students to retrieve belongings at any time prior to 11:59 pm on Saturday, March 21.
  • Beginning March 22, only students who have special circumstances and who complete an Exception Request that is approved through the process outlined below will be allowed to remain in WCU residence halls.

Students with special circumstances who are requesting an exception to stay in the residence halls, must complete an Exception Request here before noon on Thursday, March 19.  Information provided on the Exception Request will be verified before approval is provided.  Special circumstances include:

  • International student status
  • Homelessness
  • Academic course meeting face-to-face
  • Other extraordinary circumstance (these will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis)

Students with an approved exception to remain on-campus may be required to move somewhere else on-campus in the event procedures are implemented to quarantine student(s) suspected to have COVID-19.

Pending further instructions, ALL students should be aware that housing for the semester will still end on May 8 at 5:00 pm and the residence halls will close for all students at that time.

Regarding the question of refunds, Western Carolina University is a part of the UNC system and System leadership has a strong desire to have a system level approach to any discussion of refunds. Guidance from the UNC System on this issue will come at a later date

Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a very difficult situation and must make decisions that are designed to ensure safety for students, faculty, and staff.  We will continue to update residential students as the COVID-19 situation unfolds.  Please continue referring to the WCU website for COVID-19.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Residential Living at 828.227.7303 or email housingquestions@email.wcu.edu.

Thank You,
Residential Living

  

From Chancellor Brown

To the Western Carolina University community: 

I write to share the latest guidance from the University of North Carolina System as cases of coronavirus illness (or COVID-19) continue to increase across our nation and our state. Please review these carefully. The following directions are based on new information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they are made following System leadership’s consultation with Governor Roy Cooper.

Campus Housing

Effective Wednesday, March 18, and until further notice, students who live on campus must either remain at their permanent homes or return to those homes unless an exception is granted by the university. A separate email will be sent to all residential students with details on the exceptions process and instructions for students who need to return to campus to pick up belongings.

Course Delivery

Faculty members will move from in-person classes to delivery of their course materials online or via other distance methods beginning Monday, March 23. Provost Richard Starnes has directed faculty to communicate with students in their classes no later than Thursday of this week with instructions on course delivery.

Gatherings and Meetings

Effective March 18 and continuing through April 30, any gathering or meeting of more than 50 people must be canceled. Any meeting of more than 10 people requires supervisor approval. A decision regarding commencement ceremonies will be forthcoming.

Faculty and Staff

Effective March 18 through March 31, all faculty and staff, including temporary and student workers (work study and non-work study), will be subject to the following special emergency provisions. These measures can be modified or discontinued at any time by UNC System President Bill Roper.

All units must designate those mandatory employees whose physical presence on campus is critical to the operational needs of the university during this situation (these may differ from personnel designated mandatory for other emergency scenarios; consult your supervisor regarding your specific mandatory designation).

Non-mandatory employees must move to teleworking, wherever feasible and with approval of their supervisor, based on the nature of their respective position duties. Those employees whose position duties cannot be performed remotely should not report to their physical on-campus work space and will be allowed paid administrative leave.

Those employees unable to work because of an interruption in childcare or eldercare needs related to the coronavirus situation will be allowed paid administrative leave.

Any employee who exhibits respiratory virus symptoms, including cold, flu or COVID-19, should not report to work and will be allowed paid administrative leave.

Detailed information about these work and leave provisions can be found here with additional resources available the employee resource page

Please be sure to continue to monitor the WCU coronavirus website for the most up-to-date information. An updated FAQ series will be available by noon Wednesday, March 18.

To be sure, these are trying times for our university community and, in fact, for our state and nation. The steps we are taking are necessary to ensure the health of all members of Catamount Nation, as well as the health of our friends, family members, and neighbors. I encourage you to remain patient and to watch out for one another as this situation continues. We will provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.

Sincerely,

Kelli R. Brown
Chancellor

  

March 15, 2020

To the Western Carolina University community:

I write to you today to share additional information and provide context following Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order from Saturday, March 14, as cases of coronavirus illness continue to increase in the state of North Carolina.

As announced last week, Western Carolina University and the other University of North Carolina System institutions remain open.  The extension of our traditional spring break by an additional week remains in effect, and we will transition to online and alternative course delivery effective Monday, March 23, and continuing until further notice for all courses where that is viable.

We are continuing to encourage students to refrain from returning to campus until further notice. Similarly, we urge those students who opted to remain on campus to consider returning to their permanent homes if possible. We do so in an attempt to help limit and mitigate potential exposure to or spread of the coronavirus.

That said, the campus is not closed, and we are continuing to provide residential living, dining, health care, counseling and a broad array of our services to students. In order to minimize the risk of spreading infectious illnesses, all visits to Health Services or Counseling and Psychological Services at the Bird Building will be by scheduled appointment only.  By asking students, faculty, and staff to call first, the providers in the Bird Building can ask screening questions before an appointment is confirmed. 

Staff in Residential Living and WCU Dining Services are reviewing and updating normal cleaning routines. WCU’s Cat Tran service is continuing to run, and the shuttles are wiped down regularly with appropriate cleaning supplies, consistent with what is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the new executive order, the university is restricted from holding any university event or gathering that will assemble 100 or more people in a space, such as a single room, meeting hall, conference room, auditorium, stadium, arena, theater, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.

In light of increased travel restrictions, Interim UNC System President Bill Roper has directed that all UNC System institutions recall all students who are studying abroad and suspend any study-abroad programs scheduled to begin between now and July 1.

With Governor Cooper’s order that the public schools will be closed for two weeks beginning Monday, March 16, we are working to develop additional guidelines for those faculty and staff members who have children in the public school system, and we expect to provide those guidelines tomorrow.

Western Carolina University will continue to work closely with our UNC System colleagues to monitor developments related to COVID-19, with guidance from local and state health departments and the CDC. Please remember the tried-and-true practices that we all know will help protect our health and the health of our community, such as frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your face, staying home when sick, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

I recognize that these are challenging times. It is our civic duty to do everything that we can to help limit and mitigate the transmission of and exposure to the coronavirus illness. Thank you for your role in helping safeguard the health of our campus community and for your patience as we deal with this global health crisis.

Sincerely,

Kelli R. Brown
Chancellor 

 

March 11, 2020

To the Western Carolina University community:

I write to share with you that we have today received guidelines from the University of North Carolina System regarding the response of our institution and others in the UNC System as the number of coronavirus cases in North Carolina has increased in recent days. We have been asked to take certain steps, which are consistent with public health and medical guidelines, designed to limit and mitigate the transmission of and exposure to the coronavirus illness (COVID-19). Foremost among those steps are limiting travel outside of North Carolina, minimizing large gatherings of people, and moving to online or alternative means of delivering instruction, wherever possible.

As a result, Western Carolina University will be extending its official spring break by an additional week. Spring break will now continue until Monday, March 23. This additional week will help enable faculty members to take the steps necessary to make the transition from in-person classes to delivery of their course materials online or via other distance methods that do not require face-to-face classes. These alternative forms of course delivery will begin March 23 and are to continue until we receive further word from the UNC System. We recognize that, in some cases, face-to-face instruction may be the only viable option, but we want to encourage every effort to reduce the need for students to gather in large groups.

Please note that this does not mean the university will be closed. Indeed, Western Carolina University must remain open and continue to provide services to those students who remain on campus and to fulfill its day-to-day business functions.

In addition, all UNC institutions are restricted from hosting gatherings of 100 or more people. As a result, the chancellor’s installation ceremony scheduled for Friday, March 27, and other installation week activities are postponed until further notice. The Open House hosted by the Office of Admission and scheduled for Saturday, March 21, is canceled. Decisions about other highly attended university activities, including sporting events, will be announced later.

All university-sponsored travel outside the state of North Carolina has been suspended, as has travel within the state to gatherings of 100 or more people. In addition to faculty and staff, this restriction also applies to university-sponsored travel by students and student organizations.

A complete list of guidelines from the UNC System can be found online, and I encourage you to bookmark the WCU coronavirus updates website where we will post additional information as it becomes available. Information specific to faculty and staff can be found here.

This is a serious situation and we are treating as such; however, I encourage all members of the Western Carolina University community to remain calm. We are fully aware that the steps we are taking may be disruptive to many of you. But we take these steps out of an abundance of caution, and ever mindful that the health and safety of all members of our university community are of paramount importance. Thank you for your understanding and your patience. Remember, we are all Catamounts.

Sincerely,

Kelli R. Brown
Chancellor

 

March 10, 2020

Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina today (March 10) as the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the state has increased.

This type of declaration is typically issued before an emergency occurs to ease the deployment of state resources, alter state regulations and change authorities within state government to allow for a quicker response. It does not mean there is imminent danger to the state of to the university community.

Western Carolina University is in close contact with local, state and University of North Carolina System officials. We will share more information as it becomes available. 

March 3, 2020

Dear Campus Community:

Western Carolina University continues to closely monitor the spread of respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. There are no known cases on the WCU campus or within our WCU community abroad. A campus response team continues to plan and prepare with our community partners to respond appropriately should the need arise.  

Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to follow the same precautions to protect against COVID-19 that we use to prevent the spread of flu and other viral illnesses. Wash your hands frequently, sneeze or cough into your elbow (not your hands), avoid touching your face, and do not share food, cups, or utensils with others. Also, avoid others who are sick and avoid contact if you feel sick yourself. 

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person – between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). The virus spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

If you have traveled within the past 14 days to country with a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 travel advisory, the CDC recommends that you self-isolate for a 14-day period of incubation. You do not need to seek medical care UNLESS you start experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness. Those symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

WCU has canceled student exchange and faculty-led travel to CDC Level 2 and Level 3 countries for the spring semester and those planned for summer. The university is closely monitoring CDC and Department of State advisories for other countries and will adjust accordingly.

Please use your best judgment about your travel plans. If you are planning to travel outside the country, monitor the CDC travel notices for information related to your destination. The U.S. State Department also posts travel advisories, protocols, and re-entry requirements that you should review before finalizing your travel plans.

Sincerely,

Kelli R. Brown
Chancellor

Richard Starnes
Interim Provost

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