Dear Members of the University of Bridgeport Community,
The first day of spring comes with new guidance from state and federal agencies, as well as ongoing discussions with our higher education partners across Connecticut. Developments are coming fast. A prediction from J.P. Morgan Chase this morning anticipates that the U.S. GDP could drop 14 percent in the next quarter—steeper than the worst quarter of the Great Recession in 2008. All of us are facing unprecedented challenges. We are learning more about the actions and protocol that have been implemented by colleges and universities in response to the coronavirus, as well.
As I noted in yesterday’s message, the course catalog is now available for students to review in their Student Planner and includes both summer and fall classes. These courses will be offered on-line if necessary or on site assuming that is possible at that time. Summer courses are an important way for students to maintain momentum and progress towards completion. Please contact Student Financial Services at email@example.com to see if you are eligible for federal grants or loans to help fund your summer tuition. Despite the campus closure, The Heckman Center for The Bridgeport Plan will continue to provide tutoring services for students through e-tutoring and other technologies. Students may schedule tutoring sessions through the center’s website.
In keeping with the letter sent to me earlier this week by Student Government President Diter Bitri, I encourage students who are experiencing anxiety and stress to contact our Student Affairs staff, as well as Counseling Services. UB Counseling Services can be reached at 203-576-4454 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Yesterday, a large number of students returned to campus to clear out their residence hall rooms, having further reduced the number of students living on campus. All remaining students have been in steady contact with Dean of Students Craig Lennon, and for those few remaining who cannot leave, UB is managing their accommodation to secure their health and wellness. Food service is continuing through our vendor, Sodexo, and it is operating a daily brunch and dinner as a grab and go service with additional features that students can bring back to their residences during off-times. We surveyed the dietary restrictions of the remaining students on campus and are tailoring the menu accordingly.
After much significant deliberation, and pursuant to the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, UB has very reluctantly decided to cancel its Commencement Ceremonies scheduled for May 16 and 17, 2020. Please know that this was an awful decision to make. As a mother who has waited 23 years for my child’s graduation, which I expect will also be cancelled, I understand how disappointing this must be. As soon as we are able to open campus again, we will work with students to determine how best to (re)create their commencement ceremony. We are enormously proud of all of our graduating students. We understand that commencement represents the culmination of our students’ academic achievements and the many sacrifices that they made along the way. It also allows us to honor parents, partners, relatives, and friends who supported their student’s academic journey. Our concern for the welfare of students and families was the primary consideration. Our decision also follows similar actions taken by the Connecticut State College & University system and UCONN. I assure you that all spring 2020 graduates will have the opportunity to participate in a commencement ceremony in the future.
In recent days, I received requests for comment regarding UB’s response plan as well as the institution’s financial health. I was pleased to see our some of our efforts reflected in an article from today’s CT Post. I have been and will continue to be transparent about the state of the institution. In response to an inquiry today, UB provided the following statement, “Furloughs will be taking place. All buildings will be locked at 3 p.m. on Friday, 3/20/2020, excluding Campus Safety, Marina Dining Hall, and residence halls. We understand that on a global scale we are a very small piece of a much larger puzzle that is being forcibly and radically deconstructed; yet knowing that will not deter us from continuing to the best of our ability, in the midst of chaos, a path forward. To provide reliable information, promote transparency, and maintain safety, the president will continue to send email updates for the foreseeable future to all of the University’s constituencies.”
In concert with our state consortium of private colleges and universities, CCIC, I am sending letters to and speaking with our elected officials to advocate on behalf of our students and the destructive effect of COVID-19 on the higher education sector. For your reference, I have attached a letter that I sent to U.S. Senator Chris Murphy today. I will do everything in my power to advocate for UB and our students.
As I write this, campus operations continue to wind down—concluding with the institution’s full closure tomorrow at 3 p.m. Anyone needing access after that time must contact campus security. Please note that the UB Clinics dispensary will close at the end of the business day today.
I remain grateful for your understanding and patience during this challenging time.
Laura Skandera Trombley