April 21 Community Update from President Hanno

Dear Wheaton Community,

It has now been six weeks since we made the decision to send students home and finish the semester with remote instruction and remote operations. In some ways, it seems like that was only yesterday and in other ways it seems like a lifetime ago. I’m sure that you share in that feeling.

While there is some positive news in places around the country around “flattening the curve,” it is also clear that we still have a ways to go before many of our current restrictions on gathering and travel can be lifted. For example, just today Governor Baker announced that Massachusetts schools will now be closed for the rest of the school year. We are clearly all in this together and we must continue to follow the public health guidelines that will help put this behind us sooner rather than later.

Even as we deal with the current reality, we must also look to the future. The spring semester, as different as it was, will be over soon. My internal and external conversations have shifted heavily toward what comes next. Summer courses are seeing strong enrollments and registration for fall courses also went well. Housing selections for next year are this week. Elections for the new officers of the Student Government Association are going on right now, and many other student clubs and organizations have held elections for next year or will be holding them soon. These are all wonderful signs that our community moves on and that we are all looking forward to the renewal and rejuvenation that always accompanies a new academic year.

Perhaps the question I am receiving most often right now is, “When will we be back on campus?” While I don’t have an answer just yet (I wish my crystal ball worked that well!), there are many conversations occurring now that I hope will enable us to provide some clarity and general insights into what the way forward might look like. All of these conversations are guided by our overarching goal of protecting the health and safety of every member of the community.

On Friday, I had a conversation with most of the other presidents of colleges in Massachusetts and we are all talking about our plans. I will provide relevant updates to you as soon as we have more information and we are able to have some clarity around some basic issues in this new environment. Believe me, I want to see everyone back here on campus as soon as possible – but not until it is safe.

While I cannot predict the future, I can assure you that we will stay focused on our mission and continue our work to maintain the rhythm of our community. We have successfully weathered the challenges that this pandemic has brought us thus far and I am certain that we’ll continue to move forward and be ready for what comes next. #LetsGoWheat!

Dennis Hanno
Wheaton College