Dear Students, Families, and Friends:
As you know, the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has come to Montana. At the University of Montana Western, we are working with state and local government and health officials to do our part to slow the spread of the virus to avoid overwhelming healthcare providers, and to protect everyone’s health, particularly the most vulnerable.
University decisions regarding our actions related to this situation are guided and directed by state and local public health in coordination with state government. As members of the Montana University System, our decisions are also guided and directed by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education. We also work closely with our Safety and Security Committee, which includes several members from our campus, public health officials, and our community’s first responders.
At all of these levels, people are working hard together to respond to this dynamic, disruptive and disturbing situation.
On Friday, March 13, we announced the extension of Spring Break to March 23 in order to give our faculty and staff time to prepare to deliver courses online so that students have the opportunity to continue to make progress toward their degrees. We also canceled all events through May 8. We are continuing to consider options regarding the May 9 Commencement Ceremony. We will make that decision soon so that you can finalize your plans.
On Saturday evening, March 16, we learned that two individuals who had attended the Board of Regents meeting on our campus March 4-6 developed symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 just a few days after the meeting. We were advised that people who had spent substantial time in the meeting in the Great Room of the Swysgood Technology Center should self-quarantine for 14 days since the last possible exposure, which is this Friday, March 20. This group includes most of my administrative team, the faculty senate president, several student government leaders, and two of our support staff.
Yesterday, we were informed that one additional individual who spent substantial time at the Board Meeting has tested positive. State and local health officials are using registration lists to contact individuals who attended to interview them, assess their risk level and current state of health, and provide guidance and direction.
As of this moment, we have not received word that any of the UMW self-quarantined individuals had tested positive for COVID-19, nor do we know of any of our other employees or students testing positive for COVID-19.
As of now, we are continuing with our preparations to begin remote course delivery on Monday, March 23.
We have received additional guidance from the Commissioner of Higher Education.
- We strongly encourage students to consider living arrangements outside our campus residential halls for the rest of the spring term. Our efforts to promote adequate social distancing and safe living, learning, and working spaces for our students and employees will be more successful if we are able to streamline our services and staff our campuses accordingly. To be clear, our campuses will remain open and students who need to live and learn on our campuses will be able to do so. For students who determine that they must continue to live on campus, please know that we have implemented aggressive cleaning and hygiene practices across campus, changed the dining services practices to mostly “Grab and Go,” altered computer labs and other spaces to support the serious need for social distancing, and altered our practices in many other areas to protect everyone’s health and safety.
- MUS Statement on Refunds
During the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Montana University System’s foremost priority is the safety of our students, faculty and staff. We recognize there are other issues of importance, financial and otherwise. Due to the dynamic and complex nature of this rare and extraordinary situation, the Montana University System will postpone consideration of potential refunds until after the COVID-19 emergency has been addressed. At this time, there is no certainty whether it will take weeks or months to manage this emergency.
We are grateful for the commitment, skill, and caring of our entire team of faculty and staff as they work day and night to address this crisis. We are all committed to doing everything in our power to allow our students to continue to progress toward the degrees they seek. Health and safety are our number one priority.
We are grateful for the patience, understanding, and flexibility all of you have shown during this incredibly volatile situation. Thank you, too, for your kind words of appreciation and support.
We will continue to keep you informed. Please visit our updates webpage for the latest information: https://www.umwestern.edu/section/health-advisories/
Wishing you well,
Chancellor Beth Weatherby and the entire team at the University of Montana Western