March 24, 2020 Community Update from President Hanno

Dear Wheaton Faculty, Staff and Students,

While it was only a few days ago when I last emailed you, life for all of us continues to evolve and change. Yesterday marked the beginning of our first remote classes, as Wheaton joined literally thousands of institutions across the country and the world in shifting to this delivery method for the near future. Many more parts of the country are asking or requiring people to stay at home, and we are no exception.

Here in Massachusetts, the Governor has shut down all non-essential businesses starting today, Tuesday, March 24 at noon. Only those businesses deemed essential – such as grocery stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, and gas stations – will be open from now until April 7. Even with these changes, we have essential personnel still on campus supporting our students who are living in our residence halls over the next couple months.

While there are still no reported positive cases here at Wheaton, Norton has now reported its first cases of COVID-19. Since my last email, cases in Massachusetts alone have more than doubled to 777 and Massachusetts has unfortunately experienced its first deaths over these last four days. The virus continues to take its toll locally, domestically and around the world, and my thoughts continue to be with you and your family at this difficult time.

We are doing everything we can to help our local hospital, including recently providing them with unused lab protective gear we had on campus. We have been in daily contact with them and are ready to work with them in any way we can. We have already made empty residence hall space available to their staff who need a place nearby to rest or who are unable to go home. We are all in this together and need to support each other and our communities to the best of our abilities in these times of social distancing.

With the Massachusetts stay-at-home advisory now in effect, we have to place a hold on students and/or proxies planning to retrieve any belongings on campus, until April 7, 2020. As the state and federal advisories evolve, we will communicate the process for coming to campus after April 7 closer to that date. If you have already scheduled a time with Residence Life to retrieve your belongings, those appointments will be postponed until after April 7, 2020. And even those students who did not return to campus should use the Residence Life Check-out Form (Your browser must be logged into your Wheaton Gmail to access) to indicate if you have left items in your room.

No decision has been made yet in regards to end-of-semester activities such as Senior Week, Reunion and Commencement, but we will make a decision in early April. No matter the decision, I continue to pledge my commitment to the seniors that we will celebrate you back on campus later this year.

In consultation with federal and state authorities, we have been developing a process related to the unused portion of room and board for this semester. Students will receive an email about that process from the relevant offices within the next day or two.

Even though it is spring on the calendar, Wheaton was beautifully covered with a coating of snow yesterday. It has already melted and I already miss it, as I do all of you. Wherever you are, I hope you keep warm thoughts of this special place and this amazing community in your mind and in your heart. Even with everyone scattered far and wide, those thoughts are what keep me focused on the challenging work at hand.

I wish you and your loved ones much safety and health,

Dennis Hanno
Wheaton College