Message to the Mercer Community from President Underwood

March 15, 2020

Members of the Mercer University Community,

In my last message, I committed to communicate information to the University community as new developments arise and if circumstances change in a material way. I added that there were questions for which we did not have answers at the moment. I appealed to our community to be patient as we worked our way through the myriad issues that our present circumstances have created.

Most of our students who were presented the option to continue with in-person classes or transition to online classes are choosing to complete their courses in a virtual format. We have also determined, based on advice issued by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP), that steps are now available to protect the immigration status of our international students while moving their courses to virtual formats. Given the relatively small number of students who are electing to attend classes in person, our ability to protect the immigration status of international students, and our belief that we can address any remaining obstacles to our students on a case-by-case basis, we are now implementing the following changes:

  • Effective immediately, all classes are suspended until March 23 to provide an opportunity for our faculty to complete the process of transitioning to virtual formats.
  • Beginning March 23, all instruction will be delivered online until April 3.
  • On or before April 3 we will make a decision about extending virtual formats until the end of the spring term.
  • To the extent that moving to virtual formats creates challenges for individual students, I am requesting that those students contact Dr. Kelly Reffit in the Provost’s Office at (478) 301-2110 as we work to resolve these remaining challenges.
  • Students in our Academic Health Sciences Center — including the School of Medicine, College of Pharmacy, College of Nursing and College of Health Professions — will receive communications from their respective deans about any changes to their clinical rotations, experiential education and testing. 

Many students in our residential community in Macon do not have the option of leaving. Some have nowhere to go. Some don’t currently have a home to which they can return. For some, their home is not accessible with current travel restrictions. For others, their home is not situated to allow virtual classwork. We have others whose parents have told us their son or daughter is safer here than they would be at home. We have others receiving needed student services that are not available at their homes. A number of our students have articulated how important it is for them to complete research and design projects they have been working on for months and even years. I will not exclude students from campus in these circumstances, something that other institutions have been reasonably criticized for doing.

Consequently,

  • Students who choose to remain on campus are welcome to do so, and all student services will remain available.
  • Students who return home during this period are requested to inform the Office of the Dean of Students of their plans at (478) 301-2685.

A few other reminders:

  • We continue intensifying a number of sanitation-related precautions, and we urge our students to do the same.
  • We have provided our students a hotline to call our School of Medicine physician practice group seven days a week, 24 hours a day. As a reminder to all, that number is (478) 301-7425. Any student who calls will receive a prompt response from a member of the Mercer Medicine team.
  • Health care consultations remain available to all students, regardless of where they are located.
  • Absent prior approval by a supervisor, all faculty and staff should observe regular work hours tomorrow.

I am grateful to the many of you who have exercised grace, patience, and understanding as we have worked through the myriad problems associated with reducing the unintended adverse consequences of moving forward with measures designed to address the spread of this new strain of coronavirus. I know there will nonetheless be other unintended consequences.  But by pulling together as a community, I am confident that Mercer Bears will emerge from these difficult circumstances stronger than ever.