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UPDATE: January 18, 2021
Thoughts on Peace and COVID Prevention

Dear Campus Community,

The holiday decorations have been packed away until next season. Along with the twisted strings of lights are the mélange of decorations, some perhaps bearing the words “peace on earth.” Ordinarily, the fading away of that familiar sentiment goes unnoticed in the optimism of a new year. But this is, to say the least, not an ordinary year.

The resumption of in-person classes next week occurs at a time of historical challenge. Disease and division threaten in ways we could never have imagined less than a year ago. The political tensions of this winter have been added to the racial unrest of last summer. America’s desperate need for genuine reconciliation remains hampered by extensive COVID prevention measures. It’s hard to come together when we’re compelled to stay apart. Amidst these heart-wrenching, breath-taking, and exhausting struggles, does the continued pursuit of the College’s idealistic mission offer any real hope and consolation? I believe it does.

First and foremost, our institution seeks to be Christ-centered, to be guided by the Prince of Peace. This transformative commitment brings access by grace to a renewed understanding of peace. Biblical peace not only condemns the violence of an angry mob, but it also demands loving, constructive and thoughtful engagement with people and ideas where significant disagreement exists. It speaks less and listens more; it respects. Grove City College prepares students to be peacemakers by enlightening hearts and minds with truth that transcends the most tumultuous circumstances. We build godly perspective.

Second, as Weir Ketler, president of Grove City College from 1916-1956, asserted, “The aim of our college should be to send out young men and women who not only have well-trained and efficient minds but who possess well-rounded personalities, who respond to high motives and who follow high ideals.” With such words he reaffirmed the vision of his father and College founder Isaac Ketler. The elder Ketler is described as a leader who desired to make citizens “likely to leave the American world a little better than they found it.” A century later, our College remains dedicated to producing graduates who will strengthen the rule of law, promote the necessity of personal virtue for a free society, and remain self-sacrificing in their care for others.

Each of us can and should condemn the recent violence on Capitol Hill, the unlawful use of force by those charged with protecting the public, and all other dangerous behavior that violates the law. More importantly, we have an extraordinary opportunity to take positive action by modeling civil discourse as an authentically peaceful community.

COVID Update
The last great pandemic began in 1918, early in Weir Ketler’s tenure. That challenge, along with the loss of students in the battlefield trenches of WWI, undoubtedly wore heavy on his heart. But the work of the College continued, and we stand today on the shoulders of such leaders. I hope history will judge us well for how we managed our way through another global pandemic.

As you probably know, we are required by health authorities to control the spread of COVID-19 on campus through testing, contact tracing, and quarantines. In the first semester, the number of cases remained mercifully low until about mid-October. Then, as dozens of students required testing and quarantining because of close contact with infected friends, our capacity to manage that challenge was stretched almost to the breaking point. In addition, quarantines were understandably hard on students physically and emotionally. Minimizing that ordeal is an important priority this semester.

A major concern is that the rate of infection is much higher now than it was in October. If we do not begin this new semester with a firm determination to start healthy and stay healthy, we could be in a very difficult spot in just a few weeks. There are nine weeks between the start of classes next week and the Easter break. In the best-case scenario, we will successfully hunker down, avoid places and circumstances where infection is more likely to occur (even if that means not going home), and keep COVID+ cases to a minimum. Meanwhile, in our imperfect bubble, we will pursue as much of campus life and community as we can responsibly accomplish.

Then, in late March, we will take a week-long break, celebrate the resurrection of Christ as the one true hope for genuine peace and restoration, and return for a final six weeks. With the benefit of ever-increasing vaccinations, we will be better positioned to determine the extent to which opportunities can safely expand. And we hope to enjoy an in-person commencement in mid-May.

For this best-case scenario to occur, we have established the following plan:

  • Every student must be tested for COVID-19 and submit a negative PCR test result before returning to campus before next Monday unless they have tested positive for COVID-19 since October 1 or elect to quarantine for 10 days after arrival at a location designated by the College. For more information, please refer to Vice President Hardesty’s email of January 5 or the revised Health and Safety Plan (HSP) that will be posted on the College’s website on Tuesday, January 19.
  • Students experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 should notify Student Life and Learning by emailing studentlife@gcc.edu and not return to campus until they are feeling well.
  • Continue to wear masks. The HSP explains this ongoing requirement in more detail. Our policy mirrors those in place and mandated throughout the country.
  • Continue physical distancing wherever it is possible. Students must be conscientious about keeping their contact lists to a minimum.
  • Daily health screenings by students and employees are extremely important based on our experience in the first semester. Please have a thermometer handy and avoid campus if you are not feeling well.
  • Traveling off campus must not compromise the health of our community. Bars, parties, or other high-risk gatherings are prohibited. Expect more accountability on this issue in the second semester.
  • Visits to campus should be limited to essential matters. Remember, it is only nine weeks until the Easter break.

I am deeply thankful for everyone’s cooperation with these plans. It is a privilege and joy to witness the fellowship of our students on this wonderful campus. Apart from the legal obligations we must daily navigate, fostering this distinctive academic, spiritual, and social life is the underlying purpose of our policies. Please pray that we will have a peaceful and successful spring semester.

In His peace,
P. McNulty

 

UPDATE: January 5, 2021
Spring Return and Testing Information

Spring Testing Q & A

 

UPDATE: January 4, 2021
Important Initial Information Concerning the Spring Semester

Dear Friends,

I hope this Christmas season has been a time of joy and peace for you and your family even as the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives. Please accept my apology for delivering important information to you on New Year’s weekend. Our planning efforts for your return in late January have been evolving day-by-day, and we have now settled on a process that includes a tight timetable.

Pennsylvania health and education officials are urging colleges and universities to require COVID testing for all returning students. In addition, students entering Pennsylvania from out of state must have tested negative for COVID within 72 hours before entering the state or be quarantined for 10 days after arriving. Pre-return testing requirements are being established by schools both inside and outside of Pennsylvania.

Given this landscape, and in the hope of limiting the spread of the virus within our campus community, all students attending face-to-face classes at Grove City College during the second semester, other than those excepted below, must submit to the College evidence of a negative COVID test result to be completed no earlier than January 14, 2021 and before your arrival on campus.

Exceptions to this requirement include: 1) those who tested positive for COVID after October 1, 2020; 2) members of the men’s and women’s varsity basketball and swimming and diving teams who will be arriving early and following NCAA testing protocols; and 3) any student excused from this requirement after submitting a request to the Office of Student Life and Learning (at this email address) and agreeing to a 10-day off-campus quarantine at the student’s own expense after arriving in Grove City. Students who have tested positive for COVID after October 1 can receive an exemption by submitting an electronic copy of their positive test results here.

In an effort to make this process easier, the College has identified and is partnering with a testing provider named Everlywell. This company offers home collection PCR testing and is prepared to send testing kits to interested GCC students before January 13 for self-administration. A completed test must then be returned to Everlywell 72 hours in advance of your planned return (envelope and postage will be included). Both the participating students and the College will receive the test results. Instructions will be included with the kits for this process. The discount cost we have received for this test is $90, which is significantly below the market average for a PCR test with a very high rate of accuracy. In fact, this is the first at-home test kit to receive “Emergency Use Authorization” from the FDA.

Please complete this form before midnight on January 6 if you would like to participate in this discounted testing program from the convenience of your home. The $90 charge will be added to your student account in February after we have completed this Spring return testing process. Payment will be due by March 8, 2021. You may also add the additional $90 to your Spring semester payment if you prefer to pay in advance.

You can find further information regarding the Everlywell test kit here but must order using the form in the paragraph above to receive the College’s discounted rate.

If you do not elect to participate in the Everlywell program, you must arrange to complete an alternative PCR test before your arrival on campus and submit a negative test result to the College. Information about an online form for this purpose will be provided later this month.  

Students with positive test results will be required to quarantine at home and not return to campus for at least 10 days beyond the date on which the test was taken and/or until their symptoms have subsided, whichever comes first.

Thank you for your cooperation with this initiative. Next week we will have more information about our COVID prevention efforts for this coming semester. Please keep an eye out for this information and reply directly to this email with any questions specific to today’s content. Our energies are focused on beginning the semester as a heathy community and then working together to prevent the spread of infection. Please pray for the success of these efforts.

In His peace,
P. McNulty