Friday Campus Update

Dear Members of the University of Bridgeport Community,

Like everyone else at this moment, we are all experiencing feelings of anxiety, dislocation, and confusion. This week has felt like a tidal wave that has threatened to overwhelm us with new information and misinformation coming from various outlets without pause. First, I want to start with what is most important, and that is all of you. As you have been previously informed, the campus is now closed. We do not know when we will be able to reopen and return to some measure of normalcy. Residents of New York and California have been ordered to stay home, and in Connecticut, Governor Lamont has now done the same. This is uncharted territory, not just for the University of Bridgeport and higher education, but also for the world.

The closing of UB’s campus at 3 p.m. today in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic has meant that we have temporarily lost what makes us whole, and that is the onsite opportunity to enjoy, share, and educate. However, that does not mean that we cannot still have meaningful exchanges, learning spaces, and the ability to comfort each other. Thanks to the enormous efforts of faculty, staff, and students, we can maintain our connectedness and lines of communication. While we must maintain “social distancing,” we can still come together. Yesterday, I was part of a group of Connecticut presidents who all shared their challenges, concerns, and uncertainties. In this difficult terrain, we will find our way forward.

Currently, the number of students remaining on campus is under 100, primarily international: 42 undergraduates in halls and 51 graduate students in apartments and houses. To ensure safety and continuity of services, students will be moving into one building. The Office of Residence Life created an “express checkout” for students who are departing campus, though they can leave their belongings in this interim period. All residential students will be hearing from Dean of Students Craig Lennon today with additional instructions on the checkout process.

It has come to my attention that there was an unanticipated issue with the student email system and that many students did not receive my previous communications. All of my letters to the community have been archived on UB’s website and will be shared through social media. To ensure that everyone has access to all of the information that has been and will be shared, the best source is the UB website. I have also asked the administrative team to send all emails to Susan Andrews, vice president for marketing & communications, to add to our communications bulletin board regarding messages relating to the pandemic.

My office has received many emails and phone calls from students and parents regarding the cancellation of commencement. I certainly understand your disappointment. Commencement is my favorite day of the year, and last year’s ceremony on our beautiful campus was wonderfully joyous and celebratory with over 5,000 people in attendance. Over the past week, it has become clear that holding such an event would violate public safety. We will be meeting next week to discuss how we might hold an alternative event that will recognize our graduates. All graduates will be welcome to attend future commencements so they will take part in a wonderful public recognition of their achievements. Furthermore, all graduates can rest assured that they will receive their diplomas in the mail.

As a part of my ongoing discussions with college and university presidents across Connecticut, as well as state and federal officials, UB is working to determine the best way to address growing concerns regarding room and board expenses and refunds for students residing in the residence halls. With the unprecedented economic uncertainly facing so many across the United States, I recognize that this is a very difficult time financially for students and families. At this time, deliberations regarding the relief that UB is able to provide are still ongoing. Once a decision is reached, I will share it with you.

We have officially moved to remote operations. Though campus is closed for the foreseeable future, I want to assure our students that campus employees remain accessible both by email and phone. Several key departments will be staffed on a daily basis to serve our students, including Student Financial Services, HR/Payroll, and the Bookstore. The campus directory is an important resource to become familiar with in the weeks ahead and it can be found here. Should you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact president@bridgeport.edu and my office staff will direct you to the right place.

In a special shout-out to our student-athletes, I am sharing this footage of the UB women’s gymnastics team from a Division I competition that took place at the University of Arizona earlier this month. In the meet, UB came in third place behind the University of Arizona and The Ohio State University.

I will continue to be in touch with the UB community on a regular basis. Thank you to all for your support and all that you do for the institution. You have my very best wishes for a safe and restful weekend. Please stay inside!

Sincerely yours,

Laura Skandera Trombley