President’s Update – March 22, 2020

Dear Loras Community,

I hope this note finds you doing well under these extraordinary times for our world and nation. I am writing to bring you up to date as to where things stand for Loras. In addition, I want to provide a brief update as it relates to our state and our institution’s associations.

Context

As of this morning, there have been 68 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state of Iowa. Late Thursday afternoon, it was confirmed that Dubuque County had its first confirmed case. Yesterday, the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed a second case.

In recent days, a few Loras colleagues and I have been in communication with all of our representative associations and elected government officials. These include: Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, State of Iowa Governor’s Office, Office of Representative Abby Finkenauer, and the Offices of Senators Grassley and Ernst, respectively.

These communications are taking place to ensure that the needs of our students, families, employees, and private institutions are being appropriately articulated and advocated. It is imperative that these needs and provisions are properly incorporated into any federal or state stimulus bills.

Loras Campus Community

I am grateful to the members of our campus and residential communities for making the quick transition from what we all enjoyed to what must now become operative.

As of 5 p.m. on Friday, all but 27 residential students had moved back home or out of residential living. I know it was not easy for some, but I appreciate the “can do” effort. Perhaps most challenging, but most touching, was the clear message that students did NOT want to leave. It has been awhile since I was a Loras student, but I am glad that the same deep love for Loras exists today as it did when I graduated 35 years ago. We are blessed to be part of such an amazing community

Most campus faculty/staff have been directed to telecommute effective Wednesday, March 25th. While the campus has a different “feel” today and into the foreseeable future, I wish to reassure students/families that we are still here for you even as we invoke remote services/support.

Financing/Refunding

This past Friday afternoon, the presidents of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges & Universities had a telephonic meeting to discuss a number of topics. Most of the discussion related to how we were all handling a myriad of issues, but especially potential student/family refunds and faculty/staff employment.

Among the 25 member institutions, no one college/university has determined how to handle, if at all, room/board refunds. It is more complicated than what might be simply understood – individual student aid packages, government financial aid, government stimulus, semester length continuation in part or in full, etc. That said, Loras is committed to being fair to students/families based on where the overall situation lands.  Since it is clear that students will not receive some of the benefits related to residential living and/or campus dining options, Loras is fully committed to returning by way of refund or voucher, services/benefits not rendered.

Since all 25 institutions will continue our educational delivery – in person, on-line, and/or in combination – the presidents were united in keeping tuition charges consistent with what was originally expected in that academic expectations/outcomes are not altered regardless of the method of delivery.

Commencement

Loras is scheduled to hold one of the latest graduation ceremonies – regionally and nationally. The date scheduled is May 23.

To be clear, I (we) want to retain the current day and accompanying days’ events (i.e., Senior Dinner – May 21; Honors Ceremony –May 22; Breitbach Reception – May 22, etc.). Many institutions have yet to make a decision on their commencement ceremonies even as they are scheduled for much earlier dates. To that end, we are monitoring what they do and holding out hope that our nation’s crisis will have significantly subsided by our scheduled dates.

Regardless, Loras will NOT cancel its graduation. We want families and our graduating seniors to gather and celebrate in person even IF we have to postpone. Further, we want all special gatherings/recognitions to continue either as planned or with an alternate date.

Communication

We will continue communicating on a regular basis. In some cases, the communication will come from me. In other cases, it will come from one of my colleagues. To that end, I encourage you to pay attention and/or subscribe to the following communication mediums:

  • Loras e-mail
  • Loras Daily Newsletter
  • Loras College Website

Conclusion

On behalf of my colleagues, I (we) am overwhelmed by the numerous communications which have offered admiration and gratitude for the ways in which we are responding to the worldwide pandemic. Further, I (we) appreciate the thoughtful and deeply caring questions and concerns you have advanced because you rightfully seek clarity, confirmation or rationale. I (we) will continue to attempt our prompt responsiveness.

My colleagues and I are not perfect, especially as we navigate this overwhelming challenge, but I can assure you that we are working to address all that is in the best interest of Loras College as a whole and most specifically, our students, families, staff, and faculty.

Loras is extraordinary in that we are one – students, staff, faculty, board, alumni, benefactors, parents and guardians. Our treasured college is validated as Forbes designated us as one of America’s Most Loved Colleges/Universities in each of its 4 published editions. That said, as much as we are a resilient and wonderful community, we are individuals with unique needs, characteristics, desires, and circumstances. To that end, the world’s challenges play out differently for each one of us.

We know we cannot make everyone happy under these circumstances, but we strive to do just that, even if impossible.

As our very own and much beloved, Sr. Bernadine, often shares the very wise counsel of St. Francis de Sales, I do so now, as well: “Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.  Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.”

Thank you for making Loras special and providing us the opportunity to be of service.

May God bless you and your families!

Jim

P.S. A presidential colleague and friend shared with me the prayer below. I thought it might provide some comfort for all.

James E. Collins ‘84

President

Loras College

A Prayer for Our Uncertain Times

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love. And during this time when we may not be able to physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.  Amen.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2019, Loras was the second-highest ranked Catholic college in the state of Iowa according to College Consensus, the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the third consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 10th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).