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COVID-19 Information for Admitted Students

Mark Roosevelt, President of St. John’s College, Santa Fe

July 31, 2020

Dear Students and Families,

I write to you all with difficult news.

Over the last few weeks, COVID-19 infections across our region and the country have continued to rise, with no abatement in sight. During this time, the college has worked diligently with the state of New Mexico and the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to finalize our reopening plans, all with the hope that our own state and regional situation would improve dramatically and help us deliver an on-campus fall that would be both safe and enjoyable. Unfortunately, these hopes have not been realized, and as of this writing, we are faced with these realities:

  • Yesterday, Governor Lujan-Grisham extended New Mexico’s public health emergency through at least the end of August.
  • The college cannot use more than 25 percent of our classroom and residential hall capacity.
  • No indoor dining is allowed.
  • The college can only hold in-person classes that require face-to-face instruction for successful learning; while our laboratories could perhaps be approved under this definition, no other classes would be.
  • St. John’s will not be granted a waiver from the 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state students. 85 percent of our students come from out of state.
  • To guarantee a safe on-campus population, the NMDOH requires that we test students on day 7 and day 14 of quarantine. Because testing resources are in short supply across the country, tests are not guaranteed, and processing times can take up to 10 days; this means that arriving students could be in quarantine for 24 days—which is almost the first full month of classes.
  • With infection rates continuing to rise, an outbreak is likely unavoidable. We are already seeing such outbreaks at colleges across the country, creating both health and safety challenges while impairing the essential staff required to provide basic services to students on campus.

For these reasons, and many more, we have made the excruciating decision to move our fall semester entirely online, and our Annapolis campus will do the same. The one group in Santa Fe for whom this will not apply is our international students. We will continue to house international students as needed, in part due to early ICE policies that, without college support, would have put student visas at risk, and in part due to the reality that we have just enough apartments with private kitchens to serve this population. In addition, the college will uphold our promise to provide enough in-person learning to satisfy current F-1 visa requirements; this currently applies to new international students only.

We know that this decision presents many of you with new questions and logistical challenges. You will receive a follow-up email from the Dean’s Office today that will answer some of your questions, as well as a more detailed email on Tuesday, August 4 that should answer remaining questions. In addition, we will be hosting a virtual Town Hall on Tuesday and will send an invite to that shortly.

In the meantime, know that we are working to ensure that students with significant technology and access challenges will have support from the college to continue online. Room and board fees will of course be waived for those not on campus. Our undergraduate opening seminar will still begin on August 27, and our first graduate seminar will begin on August 26. Virtual lectures and activities will continue and grow.

I know this is unwelcome news for most of you, and I deeply appreciate your patience and belief in the college during a tortuous summer of ups, downs, and unknowns. I hope that this letter at least brings some certainty to your uncertain life and that you will stay with the St. John’s community this fall. With so few good options available to college students right now, and with a pandemic that may continue longer than any of us had hoped, using this time to continue your education and to engage in meaningful discovery and human connection with fellow readers, thinkers, and seekers seems wiser than ever.

And there is one thing that we do know for certain: this time will require unprecedented cognitive adaptability and emotional resilience. Throwing yourselves into an education that is precisely an exploration of disruption and reinvention may be the healthiest choice you could make right now. Our college, our Program, and our books are here for you: to help you become your most agile and courageous selves, and to prepare you for a future that none of us can yet imagine.

So please rest assured that over the next few months, this community will remain committed to each other—to discussing, exploring, learning, creating, and questioning ideas across philosophy, literature, math, science, music, and more. We will continue to exchange ideas with passion and integrity. Our class sizes will remain small and vibrant. And though we are separated by mountains, by oceans, and by this pandemic, our community will remain connected and close. We hope you will be part of it.

Sincerely,

Mark Roosevelt
President, St. John’s College, Santa Fe