March 24th, 2020
Garrett College cancels 2020 commencement
College will award degrees to this year's class members 'in absentia'
Garrett College announced on Monday that the College has cancelled its 2020 in-person commencement and will instead confer all degrees in absentia.
"This decision is in line with our primary goal of keeping students, employees and members of the community safe as we navigate through the novel coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic," said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College's president. "While I know this will be a huge disappointment to everyone involved, it doesn't diminish the accomplishments of this year's graduates or our joy over their achievements."
Midcap said the college annually awards degrees to graduating class members who cannot physically attend the commencement ceremony. The Garrett College Board of Trustees officially approves the awarding of degrees to all members of each graduating class, including those graduating in absentia (Latin for "in absence").
"The difference is that this year the College will be graduating its entire class in absentia," said Midcap, adding that college leadership is discussing strategies to honor this year's graduates now that the May 16th commencement ceremony has been cancelled.
Midcap said the College's faculty and support staff have been preparing for the shifting of nearly all of its spring 2020 credit courses to an online environment.
Faculty are currently receiving advanced training in delivering coursework electronically through Blackboard, the college's Learning Management System (LMS). Support staff, meanwhile, are expanding online tutoring, advising and retention-tracking capabilities to support student learning. The college, on extended spring break through Sunday, March 29th, will move to near-total online instruction on Monday, March 30th.
"This is definitely a challenge for everyone – students, faculty and staff – but we're committed to ensuring our students can complete their spring semester despite the need to limit person-to-person contact," said Dr. Qing Yuan, Garrett College's dean of academic affairs and chief academic officer.
College officials announced last Friday that GC was moving to a full tele-work environment, closing all physical campus locations as of that day through April 12th. GC officials cited Governor Larry Hogan's executive order limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people while directing higher education to convert to online instruction for the remainder of the spring semester.
Only those Garrett College employees deemed essential in ensuring the continuous operation of the College are permitted on campus through April 12th. As part of this process, and at the recommendation of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, GC is also closing its residence halls to all students except any who have no other place to stay.
"Our goal, based upon Governor Hogan's executive order and the Maryland Higher Education Commission's guidance, is to entirely empty the residence halls if possible," said JR Kerns, Garrett College's dean of student affairs. "In addition to limiting person-to-person contact, this will allow for a deep cleaning of the residence halls."
Given students were on spring break when the pandemic took hold, Kerns said the College is making arrangements to allow students to return to the residence halls to collect their belongings.
"We're trying to balance giving students access to their belongings as quickly as possible with the state's desire to limit travel and unnecessary person-to-person contact," said Kerns, who also added the college is preparing to refund residence hall occupants a pro-rated portion of their residence hall costs.
Midcap said the College has been in contact with Maryland and Garrett County officials to offer their facilities and all other resources to support state and local agencies in addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're a community institution," said Midcap. "We want to help our community in any way possible, and in conjunction with state and local authorities."
Midcap said the College has established a COVID-19 Team, comprised of the college's divisional deans, human resources director, compliance director, and the executive assistant to the president. He said the group has a daily 8 a.m. meeting to discuss and determine ways to implement strategies to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This group has been central to our ability to thoroughly analyze COVID-19 developments and try to stay ahead of the curve," said Midcap. "This is an ever-changing environment and the early morning meeting helps determine that day's priorities in addressing how COVID-19 is impacting our Garrett College community." The most up-to-date information on Garrett College's response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), can be found online at Garrett's COVID-19 information page.