Hiram College

March 21, 2020 - Novel Coronavirus Student Update

Dear students,

What a difference a single week or so has made. Last week, many of us (including myself) were bracing for an interruption and some inconvenience. Seven days later, I am seeing the coronavirus and the way we react to it as phenomena that may well shape the rest of our lives. 

As you face the challenges that this moment brings, please know that no matter where you are, we are thinking about you. Your faculty, staff, and administrators know how interested you are in completing the 12-week in strong form. We also know you are contemplating what lies ahead for the 3-week, whether you will be taking classes online or in person for the summer, whether you will be paid for work-study jobs, whether you will get a refund for room or board, and so many other things. Our seniors, I know, are wondering about graduation and the momentous ceremony they so deserve. While we don’t have answers to every one of those questions right now, we do have quite a long update for you today.

So please do me a favor (or at least humor me). Will you put down your device for a single minute? Close your eyes, and just take a couple of deep breaths. Then, after you read through this list of updates, will you think about something positive and healthy you can do for yourself and those you care about this weekend? And will you do it?

Over the last few days, the Senior Cabinet has come together to mull over very important issues, and we have made a host of decisions. Here are the latest changes and decisions we can share at this time. 

3-week Term

None of Hiram’s classes or examinations, including those scheduled for the 3-week, will be offered in a face-to-face format. Remote learning remains in place at least until mid-May. You will soon be getting more specific information about the 3-week course for which you have registered from the Academic Dean’s Office or your specific professor. Until then, just hold tight about the details on your 3-week class and concentrate your efforts on doing well in your current courses.

Student Housing Implications

The residence halls remain open for those of you who continue to deem Hiram to be the best place to live and learn. As of now, we hope to stay open for the remainder of the Spring 12-week and 3-week terms. Dean Okuma, Mr. Frato-Sweeney, and staff have put together a detailed note that delineates the issues related to housing and campus dining. Information is available online regarding your options for staying put at Hiram, moving out, storing belongings, retrieving possessions you had left over break, and signing up for next year’s housing.

We know times are tight right now and that some of you have asked about pro-rated refunds for housing plans. We are studying this issue very carefully. Since all of our student housing costs are fixed, there are no real savings to be recouped or passed on. Nonetheless, we are carefully reviewing the situation and will get back to you.

Dining Services

Students on the meal plan are able to pick up meals at the Dining Hall at times that are delineated on our website. For those of you who are wondering about any meal plan refunds, we are studying this situation, too. Again, we will get back to you after we analyze the situation further.

College Work-Study

For those of you who are on the federal government’s work-study program, we are looking into what options we might exercise to continue your allotted award. Your work-study supervisor will get in touch with you in the coming week or so with more information about your position. For now, please do not feel like you need to remain on campus to fulfill your work hours. It is our hope that we will be able to create remote work in as many cases as possible.

Spring 2020 Degree Conferral and Commencement Ceremonies

Bachelor’s and master’s degrees will be conferred, as scheduled, to all students who meet the requirements of those degrees. In other words, if you have passed all necessary courses and completed all degree requirements, you will indeed receive your degree in May. It saddens me deeply to add, however, that the occasion’s hallmark ceremony—Commencement—will be postponed. Until all mass gathering restrictions are lifted and the College is able to plan for an appropriate event, commencement activities will be on hold. I know this is sorely disappointing news to our seniors. You deserve to be recognized for all your hard work and accomplishments, and we pledge to do our very best to give you that recognition.

For today, please know this: we are anticipating hosting a face-to-face graduation ceremony event during the Fall 2020 semester. We are also exploring the option to celebrate your accomplishments via a virtual event in May. We need a little more time to map out when and what type(s) of celebrations we will hold. Rest assured, there will be one or more celebrations in your honor!

Alumni Weekend, June 19-21

We are in the midst of canceling this year’s annual alumni celebration. All or most of the events will be moved back to the June 2021 festivities. The Alumni Relations Office will be disseminating more information regarding this change in the near future.

The Bistro

Effective Monday, the Bistro will be closed. 

The Bookstore

The store is closed until further notice.

This is a long list of changes, and I know most of them are not what you wanted to hear. I am sorry that COVID-19 has been so much more than an inconvenience. It is truly the most urgent challenge you have likely faced. The mission of Hiram College is to foster intellectual excellence and social responsibility, enabling our students to thrive in their chosen careers, flourish in life, and face the urgent challenges of the times.

I hope and pray that the reactions you exude and the actions you take are aligned with the spirit and ethos of this small but mighty college on the hill at Hiram. I have every reason to think they will be.

Lori Varlotta