Dear Merrill College Students,

I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones safe and well.

We’re in new territory in this difficult and evolving COVID-19 situation, but we have an incredibly talented community that has been working very hard to move our college to an online environment. Although this global emergency will keep us from working together in Knight Hall and demands much from all of us, our college is up to the challenge.

We have asked your teachers to be in touch with you by Friday, March 27, 2020. They will let you know how and when your classes will be taught. We expect most of your classes will be taught asynchronously, but if the class is conducted live, it will occur during your regular time slots.

Those of you who are teaching assistants, research assistants and graduate assistants will also hear from your professors by Friday, if you’ve not already heard from them.

Your teachers have been told to be very flexible, and to be mindful that you and your families are going through a very stressful time.

Please know that this has also been a stressful time for your teachers. Most of them have been working very hard for the past two weeks to learn new teaching skills. This is a time to be kind, caring and empathetic. We’re all in this together.

Many of you have asked whether grading will be done on a P/F basis, or whether letter grades will be given. We are expecting a campus-wide directive to come down on this issue shortly. Please keep an eye on your email for that information.

The rest of the spring semester will be different, but you will still learn from our amazing faculty members and will be ready to enter the world of journalism when you graduate.

We’re here for you.

Sincerely,

Lucy A. Dalglish
Dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism

Below are the COVID-19 guidelines for Merrill College students, faculty and staff as of April 1, 2020. The situation is evolving rapidly, so this information will be frequently updated. For campus-wide guidelines, please visit umd.edu/virusinfo.

>> Online instruction will continue through the end of the 2019-20 academic year. There will be no further in-person classes this semester.

>> We want you to stay away from campus. We want you to stay home, telework and practice social distancing until further notice, at least through April 10, 2020. Thank you for every effort that you make to prevent the spread of illness. University President Wallace Loh said we will follow the guidance of federal, state and local agencies, and from the USM, regarding any changes in how we do our work. University Human Resources will communicate any important updates to all employees.

>> In light of recent guidance from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and information from public health experts, we are postponing in-person move-outs from campus residence halls until further notice. For more information, click here. The Division of Student Affairs under VP Patty Perillo and her staff will continue to work closely with students who have no alternatives and need housing. The university will do everything in its power to take care of our students during this fraught time. The university is working on a fair adjustment of costs related to room and board.

>> Unfortunately, there will not be an in-person spring 2020 commencement. President Loh invites you to share your thoughts on alternative and innovative ways to recognize this occasion, vibrantly and safely. You may email him at president@umd.edu.

>> Buildings on campus will be secured as they are on weekends and holidays. But please stay away from Knight Hall and Tawes Hall, and campus in general.

>> There remains a need for a limited number of staff to maintain and operate campus facilities, technology and administrative infrastructures. We do not expect students to participate in those critical functions. There will be a need to maintain health and counseling services, some residence halls and limited dining services to support students who have no other option but to remain on campus.

>> We understand that critical research activities may require access to campus facilities; laboratories and a technology infrastructure will need to be supported and maintained. This guideline applies to an extremely limited number, if any, of Merrill College’s students. We are not aware of any research being conducted by our students and faculty members that can be deemed critical.

Merrill College alum Ellie Silverman ’17 of the Philadelphia Inquirer at the city’s coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park on Friday, March 20, 2020. Former Merrill College master’s student Justine McDaniel ’14 is working with Silverman on the story. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer, by photographer Tim Tai.

>> Graduate students and hourly student workers have been told to check with their supervisors on what is expected of them while we are in telework mode. They will not work from campus.

>> No staff member who is immuno-compromised or otherwise considered by CDC guidance to be high-risk regarding COVID-19 will be required to work on campus. Faculty and staff over the age of 60, or those with CDC-recognized underlying conditions, who are unable to telework, can contact their human resources office on a confidential basis to use accrued sick or other leave, or receive an excused absence.

>> The following guidance applies to non-telework eligible employees with no on-site work responsibilities. This guidance applies to the time period of March 15 through April 10, 2020:
— Regular Status Faculty/Staff and Contingent II. On your timesheet, use the pull-down menu to record Admin Lv- COVID19, and enter your normal scheduled work hours.
— Contingent I (non-exempt and exempt) and Hourly Faculty. The university will pay you for the number of hours per week that would have been expected to be performed if the university remained in normal operations after spring break. On your timesheet, record scheduled work hours. Also write in the Notes box, “COVID-19.”

>> For individuals who must report on-site to work for limited duties that still must be fulfilled, we are making sure that health and safety comes first. In addition, many of the staff members still reporting to work on very limited schedules will be eligible to earn additional compensation or compensatory time.

>> Teachers have been told not to assign anything that requires students to leave their homes. We expect students to contact sources and gather records only via telephone and digital means. Any information needed to work on stories and projects should be done using these methods and not in-person. We have asked the students to let us know if their teachers have not made this clear. This means no face-to-face interviews or face-to-face research for dissertations or master’s theses. This also means no face-to-face dissertation defenses or search committee interviews until further notice. That includes Capital News Service and Howard Center reporting and research.

>> We have asked faculty, staff and students whether they need loaner laptops or other equipment. We have received a limited response. Please let Director of Computer Services Clint Bucco (cbucco@umd.edu) know if you require assistance. All cameras have been returned to the checkout room, so video and photo assignments must be something that can be done using a phone camera.

>> For mental health support for students, please call the Counseling Center at 301-314-7651. Counselors are available to provide remote services Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and After Hours Crisis Support is available outside those hours and on weekends. Faculty and staff can contact the Faculty Staff Assistance Program.

>> If faculty members need assistance with teaching online, contact Sarah Oates (team leader – soates@umd.edu), Sean Mussenden (smussend@umd.edu), Adam Marton (amarton@umd.edu), Deb Nelson (dnelson4@umd.edu) or Susan Moeller (smoeller@umd.edu).    

>> The university will be following all state and federal health protocols regarding the safety of persons on campus, including cleaning and sanitizing of campus facilities as well as practicing safe community mitigation practices such as limited gatherings and social distancing.

>> If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 AND there is a chance you might have exposed your classmates or colleagues to the virus during the incubation period, please inform Dean Lucy Dalglish so we can take appropriate steps to notify our community.

>> Here are some key contacts while staff and faculty are teleworking: