A Message from the President: COVID-19 Decisions (3-17-20)

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Members of the APU Community,

Since I shared with you last Thursday our ongoing decisions regarding the status of APU teaching, research, and service activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, much has changed in the global and local landscape. To date, no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Azusa or on the APU Azusa or Regional Campuses. However, as we diligently work with our governmental and public health partners to minimize the risks from COVID-19, the President’s Cabinet, in consultation with the APU Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), is now proposing additional actions for the APU Community.

It is important to emphasize that Azusa Pacific University remains operational and dedicated to ensuring the academic mission continues through this challenging time. The only exception is our Murrieta Regional Campus, which is now closed. Academic progression continues in a Canvas-based teaching environment. This follows the Riverside County Department of Public Health directive that all schools, including private colleges and universities, must close from March 16-April 3.

New Actions

Activation of Emergency Operations Center: To manage COVID-19 actions, in alignment with the federal and state agency guidelines, I directed, with the Board of Trustees’ approval, the CIRT COVID-19 Task Force to activate the Emergency Operations Center at Low Level 3, following National Incident Management System (NIMS) protocol. APU’s CIRT representatives are in close contact with our city, state, and federal agency representatives to keep current on all relevant mandates and advisories and to advise university leadership's preparation, response, and decision-making.

University Housing: APU will close all student housing. Students will need to move out of University residence halls by Sunday, March 22, and University apartments by Friday, March 27. There will be an exception process for cases of hardship, which will likely involve moving to a different residence. Vice President Shino Simons and the Student Affairs team will provide students with more details. All students in campus housing will receive a prorated housing credit for the 5 weeks remaining in this Spring 2020 semester, applicable toward housing fees for Fall 2020. Students graduating in May will be eligible for a refund of this prorated amount. Student Financial Services will provide additional information to students and parents prior to May 1, 2020.

University Dining Services: Dining service on the Azusa campuses will end on Wednesday, March 25. To comply with state and county guidelines, dining service will be available at select eateries on East and West Campuses by pick up and/or mobile order only between now and March 25. Students on a University dining plan will receive a dining credit for unspent funds toward the Fall 2020. Graduating students will be eligible for a refund of unspent funds. Vice President Alanna Godoy and the Finance team will support this process.

Academic Programs for Traditional Undergraduate Students: Given the anticipated disruption for a large number of undergraduate students moving out of University housing, faculty are asked to take a pause from course activities during the March 17-22. We would like students to use this time to immerse themselves in their new learning environments and work out any changes or challenges in their living/learning circumstances. Students should stay connected with their faculty. Faculty and students can address questions to their Department Chair and Dean.

May 2020 Commencement: We sincerely regret the need to cancel the Commencement Ceremonies, scheduled for Saturday, May 2, 2020, and all related activities. In keeping with many other colleges and universities, the prospect of significant restrictions to travel and gathering of people means we cannot guarantee our ability to deliver in-person Commencement activities during this period. In the upcoming weeks, Interim Provost Rukshan Fernando and the Office of the Provost team will engage Student Government Association leadership and develop a creative strategy to honor our graduates, including gathering input from students on meaningful alternatives. That said, there will not be an in-person ceremony before the next scheduled Commencement on December 19, 2020.

Summer Actions Teams and Study Away Programs: In light of restrictions on movement across international borders, and the reality that these will not ease significantly in the near future, the decision has been made to cancel all summer action teams and summer study away programs for 2020. Center for Student Action and Center for Global Learning and Engagement staff will be in communication with students, staff, and faculty regarding the details.

Thanks and Appreciation

I want to especially express my thanks and deep appreciation to each and every one of you for the resilience and teamwork you have demonstrated during these past two weeks under extraordinary time constraints. As we move forward, I am grateful for your understanding and patience as we make decisions for the good of all of the APU Community commensurate with the global challenge of this health crisis. I know that some of these decisions, particularly related to Commencement and housing, may cause disappointment and frustration. As we move through this difficult time, we hope to find some new ways to maintain our sense of community and connection.

In his Epistle, James offers us real guidance for wise living as Christians during trials and times of trouble, including anything that interferes with the daily rhythm of life that usually brings satisfaction, peace, and joy. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic is such an example!

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have a perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.” James 1:2-5

May we be faithful each day to joyfully seek God’s wisdom and trust His faithfulness for endurance during this time.

With gratitude and affection,

Paul W. Ferguson, Ph.D., DABT