Rockhurst University Completes Fall Semester, Sans Shutdown

Monday, December 14, 2020
Students wearing masks as a check in table

The beginning of December brings more than one milestone this year — it marks the end of the fall semester, but it also means Rockhurst University completed its fall semester with COVID-19 restrictions in place and without needing to shut down.

The work at every level that went into making that possible was recognized with a resolution passed by the University’s Board of Trustees during its December meeting, which thanked every member of the campus community for the sacrifices made to resume in-person classes:

“Rockhurst University has always been a special place filled with wonderfully committed faculty, staff, and students who embody Rockhurst’s mission of engaging with the complexities of the world, as compassionate, thoughtful leaders. The board is honored to recommend this day, by not only publicly acknowledging, but also by celebrating and affirming the passionate and dedicated mission-driven actions from RU faculty, staff, and students, in sustaining and giving life to Rockhurst University as a community through a year of hardship and challenge.  They truly were, and are, women and men for and with others as they cared for, and care for, not only the institution of Rockhurst (“cura apostolica”), but also one another (“cura personalis”) during these unprecedent times of the COVID 19 pandemic. During the spring and fall semesters of 2020, students, faculty, and staff, not just by their words, but also by their actions, lived the mission of Rockhurst University completely and with heartfelt integrity. And for this, the Board of Trustees of Rockhurst University publicly give you thanks with hearts filled with gratitude.”

When the Rockhurst University campus shut down in March alongside much of the country in the early stages of what would become a widespread and lasting global pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty about the immediate future, to say nothing of the long-term. Early in the summer, the University formed the Pathways Planning Task Force to develop a plan to safely bring students back to campus after a survey of students conducted at the end of the spring 2020 semester indicated an overwhelming desire to have a traditional, on-campus experience in the fall, if possible.

University leaders made adjustments to everything from food service to course delivery methods and asked everyone to abide by social distancing, handwashing and mask wearing guidelines and to monitor their health daily via a mobile app. But contingency plans were also made in the event that campus would need to shut down temporarily.

Across both the Troost and Westport campuses, the number of active cases remained at manageable levels week-to-week and there were no reports of transmission in academic settings. According to Doug Dunham, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, it wouldn’t have been possible if not for the students, faculty and staff who took adhering to the proactive policies seriously.

“First and foremost, that we were able to offer in-person instruction for the full semester that speaks volumes to the commitment of the vast majority of our faculty, our staff and our students to follow the necessary precautions — thank you and congratulations,” he said.

At the same time, Dunham added, it is important to also recognize what lies ahead — while a vaccine might be on the horizon, students, faculty and staff will be living under many of the same guidelines when they return in January.

“We hope to be able to provide that same experience for our spring semester — our graduating students especially want to finish out the year on campus,” he said. “So we need to remain committed to wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing in any situation, on or off campus, that is outside of our residential family.”