Dear MICA Community Members,
A number of MICA communications regarding the COVID-19 global health threat, in addition to website postings, have reached you during the past few weeks. The situation continues to evolve. This memo gathers in one place MICA’s latest set of campus actions, policies, and advice in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19. The MICA COVID-19 website continues to be our comprehensive repository for you to review updated information. I thank the many dedicated colleagues at MICA who have been working extraordinarily on our behalf. I appreciate the understanding and mutual support of MICA community members as we navigate together through these difficult times. Let us be the light for and with each other in a time of high anxiety and stress.
MICA’S CURRENT STATE AND NAVIGATIONAL PRINCIPLES
To date, MICA remains a low-risk environment. While there are now several confirmed cases in the state of Maryland, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus or in Baltimore City.
To ensure the continued health and safety of our campus community, MICA follows local and national health guidelines and educational best practices to put in place campuswide measures as described in this memo.
The formulation of these measures reflects a careful balancing of three foundational principles:
1. MICA’s tenet of “A Community of Care”: We consider the health, safety, and wellness of our community members above all else.
2. An “Educational Continuity and Completion” mandate: We will use all the tools, talent, and resources at our disposal to ensure the continuity and integrity of our students’ educational experience. In this regard, we pay attention to two factors:
- As a college specialized in art and design, our teaching and learning involves making in a way that distinguishes us from most other colleges and universities. Hence, we need to consider lab-based and studio-based solutions instead of the traditional classroom-based and seminar-based solutions.
- There is a necessary focus on the graduating students on both undergraduate and graduate levels to ensure their on-time degree completion.
3. A “Plan for Escalation” readiness: We will make decisions based on the most current data we can gather while thinking through multiple future scenarios, in order to adapt agilely and act responsibly when immediate actions are called for.
Underpinning MICA’s campus responses to COVID-19 is a commitment to share information with campus members and parents as soon as new decisions and information are available
Two clarifying points regarding this memo:
1. The information herein only covers the Spring 2020 semester; no decisions regarding Summer and beyond have yet been made.
2. The primary audiences for this memo are students, parents, and faculty. While the information herein is relevant for general MICA staff, the staff community will receive in the near future another communication with them as the key audience.
SPRING 2020 CLASSES & CAMPUS FACILITIES: SPRING BREAK & BEYOND
While our campus environment remains safe, MICA plans to transition into an online and alternate educational delivery mode after an extended Spring Break that will also serve as an intensive making period to support Class of 2020 students’ studio work.
Pending unforeseen escalation of the pandemic, the planned steps are as follows:
Spring break is extended for all students for one week through Sunday, March 29th.
Starting Monday, March 30th and until further notice, classes will transition to an online and alternate educational delivery mode in undergraduate and graduate programs. Faculty will use the extended break period to prepare for this transition. Students can expect revised course syllabi from their faculty on or around March 30th. This alternate educational delivery will continue until at least April 12th, after which MICA will reassess periodically.
A “Pass/Fail” grading system will become an option for Spring 2020 undergraduate classes*. Undergraduate students can choose with their faculty to receive a letter grade or a Pass/Fail grade for this semester. Graduate programs will follow their current policies.
A limited, intense making period between March 16th and March 27th will be offered to degree graduating students (Class of 2020) who are not traveling during Spring Break. To support their degree-completion work, only Class of 2020 students will be given access to Fabrication Studios; please consult with individual Fabrication Studios for their schedules. Please check with your departments regarding access to other kinds of studios. Class of 2020 students who travel during Spring Break and plan to return to campus will need to observe self-quarantine if the quarantine conditions apply. Self-quarantine is the process of removing oneself from the broader community during the relevant incubation period, two weeks in this case. The College will work with students individually and as needed to manage this process.
Students who are away on Spring Break are strongly encouraged to return home or remain home if they are there already. Non-graduating students will be asked to move out of the residence halls by Saturday, March 21st. Class of 2020 students will be asked to move out of the dorms by Saturday, March 28th. Students with exceptional needs requiring campus housing beyond March 21st should contact the Office of Residence Life immediately; Graduate and international students who need on-campus housing will receive priority consideration. The continuity of dining and shuttle services will be ensured.
MICA is committed to work with students in finishing their expected coursework for the semester – and to support degree completion work for graduating students. Please see the relevant sections below for more details.
EVENTS, ACTIVITIES, AND GATHERINGS
Effective Saturday, March 14th and until further notice, all non-essential (i.e., unrelated to core academic or operational functions) events, activities, and gatherings of over 25 attendees will be cancelled, postponed, or transitioned to virtual formats.
Upcoming essential events, such as Commencement and related activities and festivities, are being considered on a case-by-case basis, and their status will be communicated as soon as a decision has been made. We expect such decisions before the end of March.
Since some of these events may require pre-planning and travel arrangements, we consider these factors wherever possible in our decision-making process to provide advanced notice.
This semester, MICA operates international residency programs in countries around the world. On February 27th, we announced the suspension of our program in Florence, Italy. Currently, we are monitoring all other international programs and will take appropriate action as necessary.
Starting Monday, March 16th, all College-funded, non-essential international travel along with domestic travel to the states of Washington and California is prohibited. Additionally, all non-essential College-related domestic travel is highly discouraged. In this context, non-essential travel is defined as travel unrelated to core academic or operational functions.
For non-College-related travel, MICA urges all faculty, staff, and students to consult the CDC’s current travel guidelines and use sound judgement. Until further notice, students who travel greater than 50 miles from the College will be expected to self-quarantine upon return.
COLLEGE OPERATIONS & FINANCIAL CONCERNS
MICA’s offices and services will remain operational until otherwise notified. The College, however, is actively validating its teleworking systems and processes at both central and departmental levels should the need for remote work arise. As shared at the outset of this memo, additional details regarding staff and College operations will be forthcoming.
The College leadership is mindful of faculty, staff, and student concern over the possibility of lost income and financial hardship in case of College closure that impacts their work for MICA. While we are not yet at a point to address such issues, MICA will strive to consider continuity of pay for our working community within the College’s capacity to minimize hardship, especially for our more financially vulnerable members.
In addition, we are aware of potential financial implications due to the disruption of housing and meal plan services. Once the final decision is made around the nature of academic instruction for the remainder of this semester, the College will make decisions regarding these matters.
For academic questions (undergraduate): Office of Undergraduate Studies - firstname.lastname@example.org
For academic questions (graduate): Office of Graduate Studies - email@example.com
For financial aid questions: Financial Aid - firstname.lastname@example.org
For health-related questions: Student Health Services - email@example.com
For housing-related questions: Residence Life - firstname.lastname@example.org
For international student questions: Office of International Education - internationaleducation@mica.
For meal-plan and miscellaneous questions re student life: Student Affairs -email@example.com
For Open Studies questions: Office of Open Studies - firstname.lastname@example.org
A ONE-MICA JOURNEY FORWARD
To our students and parents, I deeply empathize with the concern and uncertainty you feel, and appreciate your willingness to be flexible and accommodating as the College exercises policies and takes actions that may not meet your specific preferences. I hope that you understand and can embrace the principles I share at the outset of this memo.
To our faculty and staff, I fully acknowledge the efforts required of you to redesign course syllabi in mid-semester, adjust educational delivery, and extend special student services with very short notice. Please let your chairs, deans, and supervisors know what additional support you may need beyond the tools and resources being offered to accomplish such important work.
As ever, I am profoundly proud to be a member of the MICA community where there is such an abundance of creativity, compassion, and resilience. All these are our defining characteristics, as well as our essential elements, for a coordinated journey forward to safeguard our students’ education while protecting our community’s wellness.
With camaraderie and appreciation,