Dear TC community:
As yet another unprecedented day winds to a close, I am writing to you with a few updates and words of support.
First, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger announced this afternoon that the University will not hold a full commencement ceremony in May. Therefore, we also are cancelling our May graduation ceremonies. This is a great disappointment: Graduation festivities are amongst my favorite parts of this job, and I know that all of our May graduates and their families were looking forward to that day. But I cannot imagine that we will be in any position to safely gather thousands of our loved ones together in just eight weeks. I do want to give our graduating students these important assurances:
One: Degrees will be conferred in May on all of our students who have fulfilled their program requirements. You have worked so hard to earn your degrees, and should not and will not have to wait a day longer than scheduled to receive them.
Two: Teachers College will find a way to celebrate our spring 2020 graduates. I will have more to share as we work together with our colleagues at Columbia toward putting plans into place.
Spring Term Grading
For all students, graduating and not, our current circumstances call for some flexibility and understanding as you do your best to complete your coursework, which your faculty are working creatively and diligently to transition to virtual modalities when classes resume on Monday. While I know you will all continue to give your courses your best effort, we will, like Columbia, grade you on a pass/fail basis (where possible). In no way should anyone interpret this change as an indication that course work will become less demanding or rigorous, thereby requiring less effort from students OR faculty. Moreover, we will work closely with the registrar, faculty advisors and program directors to ensure that grades will continue to be awarded for any classes that require grades for certification or for other reasons. But make no mistake: TC will maintain its high standards for all of its courses, without exception.
Housing & Other Updates
I also want to take this opportunity to report on the latest developments on campus. While TC is open and functioning, we are increasing our efforts to minimize each individual’s risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus by reducing density to the greatest possible degree. In addition to mandating that all staff who can perform their tasks remotely work from home and refrain from coming onto campus, we are strongly encouraging all student residents who can safely relocate off campus to do so. As of now, we are focusing our efforts on vacating all of the single rooms in Whittier Hall (these rooms share common bathrooms) no later than March 25 and preferably earlier. For those students who have no place to go, we are providing assistance to safely resettle them in other buildings. For more information, please see last night’s student housing update.
I know that each of you recognizes both the gravity of this global health crisis and the need for all of us to exercise an overabundance of caution for the time being. These are stressful times. Yet, not a waking hour goes by when I fail to feel enormous admiration, pride, and gratitude for the way in which you have rallied to keep Teachers College true to our mission during these unprecedented times of peril and uncertainty. To the extent that it has been possible, I hope that our students and faculty are having a restful and restorative spring recess. I know that our academic continuity team is looking forward to working with all of you when online classes resume on Monday. And I look forward with great anticipation to the time when we can all gather together safely on our campus to pursue all of our goals and dreams.
President Thomas Bailey