With no end to Covid in sight, college will finish semester remotely

The 120 students still on campus can stay through semester’s end; Virtual commencement ceremony will take place in May, with plans for in-person ceremony at a later date.

By JAMES FINN

BENJY RENTON
The college will hold two commencement ceremonies — one virtual celebration in May and an in-person one at a later date.

Following the lead of other colleges and universities, Middlebury will not bring students back to Vermont this semester and has ruled out the possibility of an in-person commencement in May, President Laurie Patton confirmed in an all-campus email Thursday afternoon. In a separate email, Treasurer David Provost detailed a plan to partially refund students’ room and board payments.

The approximately 120 students who remain on campus will be allowed to stay until the end of the semester provided federal and state governments do not change their policies, according to Dean of Students Baishakhi Taylor. “Students who are on campus can leave campus if they so choose, and we will help them with travel needs as appropriate,” she wrote in a text message to The Campus.

All classes will carry on remotely, “continuing the emergency approach to teaching and learning our faculty and students have already begun,” Patton wrote. She promised continued communication from the administration to help maximize students’ remote learning experiences. 

Students have waited anxiously for news about commencement as the response to Covid-19 escalated around the country in recent days. Thirty-eight U.S. states had enacted stay-at-home orders as of April 2, and many colleges and universities around the country had cancelled graduation ceremonies. In the NESCAC, Bowdoin postponed its graduation ceremony without considering a virtual alternative, while Tufts will take Middlebury’s route of both a virtual May ceremony and a later, in-person gathering. 

Patton acknowledged the disappointment members of the class of 2020 will feel at missing out on an in-person commencement in May, and said the college will still hold an in-person ceremony on an undecided date later this year or in 2021. The email did not describe possible formats for the virtual rendition of the ceremony, which will still be held the last weekend in May.

In his email, Provost wrote that the college will automatically place “prorated” credits for room and board fees on students’ accounts beginning next Monday. Students will be credited between $1,000 and $4,380 — up to 55% of semester room and board fees — depending on families’ contributions to tuition costs. 

Students have the choice of applying the credit to future charges or requesting a refund, Provost wrote. The credits, which will total close to $9 million, come as the college continues to pay all faculty and staff wages through the end of the semester. Families can also opt to make a tax-deductible donation to the college in their credit amount.

Middlebury’s annual June reunion ceremony has also been cancelled, according to Patton’s email. The school has not yet made a decision about the status of the summer language schools, but told those on a language schools email list two days ago that they are still accepting applications. However, the email also asked applicants not to make travel arrangements at the current time, and said that it is “looking at alternative options depending on language and level, should our programs be disrupted.”

This is a developing story. Check The Campus’ website for updates.