Dear Morehouse Community:
I am writing to inform you of the difficult decision I have made to remain virtual for the Fall 2020 semester.
When Morehouse College was evacuated last spring, I often remarked that one of the things that I missed most in the switch to virtual instruction was the daily interaction that I would have with our scholars as I walked to work or visited academic buildings. Listening to the men of Morehouse share their intellectual views about scientific research, politics, and the Black experience was the highlight of my day.
As much as I was looking forward to having new debates with students on Brown Street, the drastic spike in COVID-19 cases nationwide is concerning. It necessitates that we consider changing course to protect the health and safety of the Morehouse community. Currently, there are nearly 3.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and nearly 140,000 in Georgia. The county in which Morehouse is located is also tracking a rise in infections. There were only 20 cases of COVID-19 reported in Fulton County when Morehouse evacuated the campus after Spring Break in March 2020; now, there are more than 12,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in this county.
Many of our target enrollment areas are also facing outbreaks:
- Epidemiologists and public health officials have identified Miami, which is only 665 miles away from Morehouse, as the new epicenter for the virus. The city has COVID-19 infection rates comparable, and on some days higher, than were reported in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began.
- A list of more than 30 hotspots with virus outbreaks was released in late June. It includes many of the states from which we draw students, including Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 in these states has made it clear that keeping campus housing closed, is the best option at this time. We will move all of our proposed in-person classes online beginning Aug. 19. We will continue teaching and learning remotely through the end of finals on Nov. 20, 2020. If conditions permit, we will re-open the campus for in-person instruction and low-density residential opportunities during the Spring 2021 semester, which begins on Feb. 1, 2021.
This is a disappointing turn of events for all of us, but I believe it is the best and most prudent path forward. It is imperative that we get this right because there is too much to risk if we don’t. Morehouse educates 2,200 students and employs approximately 475
faculty and staff members. We must delay our exceptional on-campus experience for the well-being of everyone in our community.
Since 1867, Morehouse College has been educating and developing global leaders. That historic legacy will not be disrupted now, even with a virtual Fall 2020 semester. We are committed to maintaining the quality and continuity of our academic program, whether our students are on campus or learning remotely. Rest assured, our online curriculum will be rigorous, engaging, and relevant to future careers.
We have been preparing all summer for this moment. We will offer signature experiences and continue to build a sense of community online. Our small group meetings, House Notes check-ins, Crown Forum conversations, and weekly motivational talks will instill in the men of Morehouse a sense of brotherhood across the miles. Our faculty and staff will also maintain office hours and work to support student success as always.
As the men of Morehouse learn virtually, the Morehouse Emergency Management Team (EMT) will continue to work with state medical officials, public health experts, and scientists to create a viable plan to bring a limited number of students, faculty, and staff members back to campus in February 2021. The EMT will also meet with counterparts at the Atlanta University Center to develop universal safety protocols to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread on our campuses. I look forward to hearing the team’s Spring 2021 semester Safety Plan.
Please continue checking the College’s COVID-19 response website for general information, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, and other related updates. Do not hesitate to contact us with your concerns.
We are in this together.
David A. Thomas, Ph.D.