Fall 2020 Reopening Updates for Faculty and Staff

July 14, 2020

Dear LMU Community, 

Thank you for your understanding, flexibility, and resilience as we make progress toward reopening. In our many recent updates, we shared expectations and guiding principles; today, I preview how the fall semester will operate in the current pandemic era, where a surge in COVID-19 cases is occurring in Los Angeles with record numbers in California and across the country. Our students, parents, and community members are finalizing impactful decisions amid uncertainty, and I recognize your need for more information. This fall will be unlike any other semester: Our undergraduate courses will be principally and primarily conducted remotely; for many students, courses will be offered exclusively online. While interest in on-campus student housing remains extremely high, we regret that we can only accommodate about one-third of our typical capacity to comply with forthcoming public health restrictions. 

Our decisions and timelines continue to depend on data and guidelines not fully available to us in a context where some factors remain unknown. Public health guidelines for higher education are slow in coming and anticipated safety protocols are changing rapidly: California and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) will restrict our on-campus activities. Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced statewide reclosures that roll back California’s reopening progress. Also, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second-largest school district with over 600,000 students, announced they were moving online this fall. Los Angeles is considering reimplementing stay-at-home orders based on increased virus spread risks. I am confident that, amidst these changes, we can provide our signature Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount education while substantially reducing in-person instruction and lowering on-campus housing density. The well-being of our students, faculty, and staff is our top priority.

Keeping You Informed and Engaged

As we continue adjusting to the ever-changing circumstances, our Reopening Website will be the hub for everything about LMU’s fall 2020 reopening. Also, I will host a series of town halls for faculty, staff, students, and parents starting on July 29, 2020 (schedule here). We will also keep you informed about schedules, advisories, and more as appropriate.

I highlight the following helpful resources that we will be updating frequently:

Delivering Our Signature Education

The teaching and educational experience that LMU delivers is exceptional, admitting no low-cost substitute, whether in person or remotely. An LMU education is unmatched: Our faculty, student development professionals, and campus ministers continue to keep our students as their highest priority. Our esteemed, internationally renowned faculty continue to provide personalized instruction, advising, and mentoring. Your scholarship, research, and creativity—and your tireless efforts to provide a rich, academically excellent, intellectually rigorous curriculum online and in person—are why an LMU education is in higher demand than ever. Despite the pandemic’s disruption, our students have not lost momentum, and they continue making progress in their degree programs. Student evaluations of our online courses have been on par with evaluations of face-to-face courses, and faculty report that student academic engagement and performance in their online courses have been outstanding. We will continue to provide student-centered support services, leadership opportunities, activities, spiritual guidance, and career and professional development mentorship and opportunities that reflect the transformative cura personalis for which LMU is known.

Financial Assistance for Our Students and Families

Over the past several months, students and parents have approached us asking for additional help amid challenging financial circumstances. We have read their letters, we have seen their social media posts, and we hear them. Recognizing the increased financial pressures on our students and their families during this COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking new and unprecedented steps to respond to their requests and lower their overall cost of attendance. This year, no undergraduate student will pay the university’s standard rates for tuition and fees.

  • 85 percent of our undergraduate students are receiving financial aid this year. LMU is providing $133 million in total student grants and scholarships this year, $90.6 million of which goes to undergraduates to lower out-of-pocket costs. This does not include funding from government or external sources.
  • In April, the university approved an additional $10 million in need-based financial aid to support our students and families for 2020-21 (summer, fall, and spring) tuition, providing supplementary relief in recognition of the challenges some students are facing during the pandemic.
  • As of this week, we are providing an additional $6 million in LMU COVID Tuition Relief Grants ($1000 for undergraduate students enrolled full time in the fall) to all undergraduate students enrolled full time in the fall. With the support of our trustees, the university approved this aid to further lower costs of an LMU education. Financial Aid will automatically award these grants to undergraduates, which we will apply to student accounts in the next week.
  • LMU will continue to credit/refund/adjust for fees (including housing, meal plans, recreation, parking, etc.) for students who are unable to use these on-campus services.

The $16 million of additional undergraduate financial assistance outlined above represents a nearly 20 percent increase in aid to undergraduates this fall, over and above the $90.6 million we provide in LMU-funded undergraduate scholarships and grants. The increased assistance we are providing is only possible because of the extraordinary measures we are taking to remain cost effective: The funding comes from budget reductions, employee furloughs, executive pay cuts, and other sacrifices made by faculty, staff, and administrators working around-the-clock to support our students through this pandemic. 

We understand and honor the difficult choices and burdens associated with affording an LMU education. LMU, as a private, nonprofit university, relies on tuition to fund salaries and contractual obligations that support our students. We have made these additional commitments because we prioritize our students and our families. The steps we are taking are not common at many colleges and universities, but we are not a common university. We are devoted to our mission; we are unified in our commitment to educating our students; and we are #LMUTogether.

Academics and Technology

LMU’s immediate academic response in the spring to the Stay-at-Home order required faculty to shift urgently to fully-online instruction. Since then, our faculty have been working tirelessly to design meaningful online courses and experiences that challenge our students and support students’ academic ambitions through rich learning environments. We are committed to delivering exemplary, engaging, and student-centered experiences regardless of instructional mode—face-to-face, online, or in hybrid combinations. This summer, LMU faculty and staff have participated in training for a variety of tools and skills for excellent online course development offered via a partnership between the Center for Teaching Excellence and Information Technology Services. Faculty members across all schools and colleges are collaborating and sharing resources with each other to ensure our students’ intellectual fulfilment and academic success.

Students

  • Instruction will be primarily, and for most students exclusively, delivered remotely. 
  • We will focus our in-person and hybrid experiences in the following types of courses: studios and performance-based courses; seminars; research and labs; graduate film production courses; and selected independent studies courses.  
  • Students can view their schedules via PROWL. Registration will reopen for students with course schedule conflicts on July 20 and all students on July 21. Students are encouraged to work with their academic advisers for further guidance.
  • We recommend a minimum technology standard for PCs and Macs to ensure an optimal online learning experience. To reference these standards or to seek support for any technology issues or questions, please access our Keep Learning webpage
  • Students will continue to benefit by LMU’s phenomenal curricular and co-curricular support and development offerings, including the William H. Hannon Library, the Academic Resource Center, Student Affairs, and Career and Professional Development, among many others.

Faculty

  • Most faculty members have already opted for remote instruction. As we prepare to further reduce in-person classes, we are investing additional new resources into the remote instruction experience to assist faculty with the transition, including two new instructional designers.
  • Health and safety are paramount: We strongly recommend faculty to move as many courses as possible to remote formats. I have asked our academic leaders and deans to work closely with our faculty. 
  • The Educational Technology team will consult individually with faculty to ensure that their teaching environments are enabled with adequate technology.

Technology

  • The eFaculty Certification program, offered through a partnership from the CTE and the Instructional Technology team, guides LMU faculty through the process of reimagining their courses for hybrid or online delivery. Since March, more than 550 faculty members have either completed or signed up for the eFaculty Certification program. Participating faculty learn about best practices for online education, including strategies around instructor presence, student engagement, building online learning communities, and assessment. This training also provides faculty with the opportunity to develop proficiency using LMU-supported educational technologies including Brightspace, Zoom, FlipGrid, Voicethread, and a host of other tools aimed at addressing discipline-specific learning and content creation. For classes that require specialized software, LMU has made its best effort to provide that software via the LMU Virtual Lab or through free at-home licensing via the software vendor. 
  • ITS is working diligently with departments to ensure all bi-modal and online courses are delivered optimally. 

Student Housing

Our options for fall on-campus housing are limited because of public health restrictions that require that we reduce on-campus housing capacity from what we anticipated. Traditional residence halls will be closed, and we will only assign one student per bedroom in our remaining suite-style and apartment residences. We strongly recommend students to reconsider housing plans and to remain home this fall.   

For our newly entering first-year and transfer students, we regret that we cannot provide them with the residential experience that we normally offer. We recommend that they attend their fall courses remotely so that they are on track in their degree programs. While studying remotely this fall, they will have the opportunity to participate in the rich online co-curricular activities we are planning for them. We are optimistic that circumstances will improve so that we can resume in-person instruction and on-campus housing in the spring semester—with delight! 

Our new reduced, low-density occupancy plan will prioritize the following students who acknowledged the updated license agreement by July 6, 2020: 

  • Undergraduate students who are unable to effectively study from an off-campus location;
  • Undergraduate students requiring on-campus disability accommodations;
  • Students who are housing-insecure;
  • International students who are currently in the U.S. without off-campus housing options;
  • Undergraduate students enrolled in in-person and hybrid experiences without off-campus options.

If students believe they meet one or more of the aforementioned criteria or are experiencing extenuating circumstances that warrant special consideration for limited on-campus housing, they must log into the Student Housing portal and complete a supplemental application by 5 p.m. on July 22. The supplemental application will open tomorrow, July 15 at 9 a.m. We will review and approve these requests on a case-by-case basis. More information about student housing for fall 2020 can be found on the Student Housing website; students can expect an update from Student Housing soon. 

In the meantime, all housing and meal plan charges that were applied to students’ accounts for fall 2020 will be reversed. Only those students who receive an assignment through the supplemental application process will be billed for student housing and meal plans once fall assignments are finalized. If a student does not receive an assignment through the supplemental application process, they will be placed on a waitlist for student housing and assigned when space becomes available. This waitlist will carry over through spring 2021.

If a student does not wish to remain on the waitlist, they should log into the Student Housing portal to cancel their housing application and License Agreement by 5 p.m. on August 7, 2020, to receive a refund of their deposit. Off Campus Student Life is available to provide recommendations and resources for students seeking to live off-campus.

We are working as quickly as possible to adjust to these new limitations and reassign housing accordingly. We will confirm all housing assignments by July 31, 2020.  

International Students

Our international students are essential members of our LMU family. We are thrilled to report that, earlier this afternoon, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that they would rescind their divisive policy. We benefit from the diversity of perspectives that drive our creativity and ambitions, and our international students are a rich source of the LMU experience. The Office for International Students and Scholars will share further information as appropriate. We will continue working with our Congressional delegation, colleague institutions, and our advocacy organizations, including AJCU and ACE, to ensure that our international students’ education is not interrupted.  

Athletics

We are currently reviewing the status of fall and winter sports with public health authorities, the West Coast Conference, and the NCAA. Some conferences have announced their plans to cancel practices and schedules; we anticipate an update in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, a few of our teams are engaging in permissible strength and conditioning activities that observe strict LACDPH safety measures.

Excellent Infection Behavior Control

Whether on campus or off, we will live by the motto: Excellent Infectious Behavior Control (EIBC). 

  • Each of us plays an instrumental role to ensure that our entire community remains healthy. We will protect ourselves and we will protect each other. We will hold each other accountable for EIBC.
  • We will adapt to new ways of teaching, learning, studying, working, and living because the LMU experience is worth the effort.  
  • Effective immediately, all students, faculty, staff, contractors, and visitors who are approved for campus access must submit their Lion Health Check daily before arriving to campus or departing from their on-campus residence. You can access the Lion Health Check via the LMU Rave Guardian mobile app (download instructions here) or online. Please use the app ONLY if you are already identified as essential and coming to campus. Please refrain from testing out the app as all screening inquiries need to be manually reviewed and addressed. 

Our students are at the heart of everything we do and we support their success and intellectual, creative, and spiritual growth, be we on campus or online. I am indebted to each of you for your patience, creativity, and engagement as we continue to adapt to these changes and overcome these once-in-a-lifetime challenges while remaining dedicated to the distinctive LMU educational experience that fosters our Lion pride.  

We will keep you informed with further updates. 

With gratitude,

Thomas Poon, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Provost