'Berg remains proactive in COVID-19 responses
The COVID-19 pandemic has tossed all of us into turbulent times we could not have foreseen. Vulnerability has been exposed in so many segments of the population; colleges and universities are no exception.
Heidelberg went from a fully operational campus to sending students home to complete the semester online in a matter of a week. From the first communication from President Rob Huntington on March 6, 2020, advising the campus community about travel guidelines in light of the growing pandemic, we have tried in earnest to keep the campus community and all of our constituents up to date on decisions and news as it relates to the university and the pandemic. Members of the Senior Leadership Team have met most days by Zoom and the COVID-19 Planning and Response Team keeps in regular touch to address campus issues such as student health services, residence life, food service, security, human resources, maintenance and construction, and communication.
Some of the decisions during this pandemic have been heart-wrenching and difficult. No one wanted to close the campus or cancel all of the activities through the month of June. But we all understood that those moves were necessary to keep our entire campus family safe and healthy, which is always our priority.
On the flip side, some of the news has been really welcome. For example, we were pleased to be able to announce to graduating and returning students refunds for the unused portion of their room and board.
We launched a webpage that has been updated regularly as the go-to source of information for everyone. All along, Human Resources has been proactive in providing information and resources we need about Working From Home, which has been new to most of us, and in keeping ourselves and each other safe and healthy.
Here’s a snapshot of the key decisions that have positioned Heidelberg to return strong – hopefully this fall but definitely as soon as we government protocols are ready to permit it.
3/16/20 – After announcing a delay to the return of classes from spring break, on this day, we informed everyone that the Heidelberg University campus would be closing as of March 22 and that all classes would be moving to an online format as of March 23. The Owen Center for Teaching and Learning actively supported faculty and students in making this about-face transition.
3/23/20 – On this day we announced to students that we would unfortunately have to cancel our in-person Commencement Ceremony on May 17. The decision was understandably met with a great deal of disappointment from students. We are in the process of developing plans to appropriately recognize our graduating students in some form at a later date when it is safe to do so. They deserve as much for their hard work and achievements!
3/23/20 -- Class of 2020 undergraduates and graduate students were informed that the university would be refunding a portion of their graduation fee. Of a more widespread impact, one week earlier we announced that we would be providing a pro-rated refund and meal plans (board) from the time the campus closed through the rest of the spring semester. It was not mandated that Heidelberg issue these refunds, but it was the university’s intent to provide some financial relief to our families. The refunds were posted to the students’ accounts within one week.
4/15/20 – The CARES Act and Heidelberg: In early April, the federal stimulus package allocated $14 billion to colleges and universities across the country to provide direct emergency grants to students whose lives had been disrupted by the COVID-19 health and financial crisis. We learned that Heidelberg will be receiving $1.2 million in funding from the CARES Act. Based on guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education, we are currently working on a protocol for distributing these funds to our students. We have one year to complete the process.
4/23/20 – As a small business facing unprecedented economic hardship/disruption because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Heidelberg received approval for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of approximately $2.6 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA forgives these loans if employee and compensation levels are maintained and the money is used strictly for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utility costs over the 8-week period after the loan is made.
The PPP loan and the CARES Act stimulus money have allowed Heidelberg to receive short-term assistance in overcoming some of the short-term challenges created by the crisis. But the hard work continues for all of us to ensure Heidelberg’s long-term mission-critical success.
Because we do not know for certain what will unfold around us in the fall, we continue to think strategically and plan creatively around the different campus scenarios with as much resiliency and agility as possible.