Week of June 29, 2020

Update from the President

To the Dickinson Community:

I hope this message finds you safe and healthy. We continue to work through the details of reopening the campus and we remain focused on our two overarching priorities. Our highest priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and surrounding Carlisle community, and all of our decisions are made through that lens. At the same time, we know how important our useful liberal-arts education is to our students. It is the precise education our students will need to lead in an uncertain and rapidly changing future, and we want to continue to offer that critical education and experience.

With those priorities as our guide, we will continue to communicate regularly with more information. I have several new updates to share with you in the areas of:

  • Resumption of campus activities
  • Key dates to remember
  • Commencement for the class of 2020

Also, we are regularly updating our Frequently Asked Questions on our Campus Reopening page, so please be sure to refer to that frequently.

Resumption of Campus Activities

We are eager to have our students back to campus, but I want to stress to students, faculty and staff that a return to in-person classes does not mean anything close to a return to normal. We must remember that this pandemic has forced changes in the way we live and the way we gather, and as a result, our campus will look very different than it did prior to February 2020.

As members of this community, the health and safety of community members is our shared responsibility. To that end we all must accept personal responsibility to protect each other. Our individual actions will have a direct impact on everyone in our community. All of us will be required to wear masks whenever we are in public spaces. Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a new order requiring face coverings to be worn whenever Pennsylvanians are in public spaces or around others who are not household members. We will practice social distancing in classes, while eating and while going about life on campus. Proper handwashing will be critical to preventing the spread of the coronavirus. If you feel sick, you must stay away from others. Working together, we will be able to stay safe, but it will require all of us to take the necessary measures to keep this virus at bay.

Some in the media have argued that we can’t trust students to make the decisions that will ensure the safety of our community. When it comes to our Dickinson students, I disagree. We are a community focused on working for the common good, and right now, the most powerful way to do that is to take the necessary actions to protect others. I am confident that we can count on our students—and our faculty and staff—to commit to doing that.

Students, you will notice that your in-person classes will look different as they will be set up to adhere to social distancing guidelines. All participants in those classes must wear face coverings. Some classes will be offered only remotely, and other classes will be a combination of remote and in-person. Fortunately, our expert faculty is dedicated to student success and individual attention. They have designed their classes in a way that will allow them to be offered remotely, if necessary, without sacrificing learning goals.

We will not hold large gatherings in the fall and in-person meetings will be minimized.

Not all employees will return to campus even once in-person classes begin. If you are working effectively remotely, we will continue to ask you to work remotely, as much as possible. Only those who have permission from their supervisors should return to campus.

Faculty will be making their professional and personal best judgment about teaching in person or remotely. Currently, most expect to return for in-person instruction, though even in-person classes may include a remote component.

You also will notice more frequent cleaning throughout campus, and those cleanings may occasionally impact your ability to use specific areas.


Dickinson is a member of the Centennial Conference and member college presidents have been meeting regularly to decide how we will proceed with athletics in the fall. The conference will issue a decision next week.

Important Dates

We have decided that orientation for first-year students will be online, and we will be sharing more information about that next week. We plan to introduce our new students to as many other students as possible and students will experience a large team-building event through Zoom.

As a reminder, classes will begin Aug. 17 and in-person instruction will end Nov. 20. Residence halls will close at noon Sunday, Nov. 22. We are still working through move-in dates and procedures and will communicate details soon.

Any students who do not plan to return to campus and want to take remote classes or explore a leave of absence should fill out this form no later than July 10. You can click through the form without hitting submit at the end; it may answer some of your questions.

Here are some other important dates to remember:

  • Through July 8 – The fall 2020 schedule and Banner will be unavailable for students for adding and dropping purposes.
  • July 9-16 – The updated fall class schedule will be posted, including indications of how classes will be taught (in the classroom, distance or a mix of the two). Any returning students can make schedule changes through Banner.
  • July 10 – Deadline to indicate if you do not plan to return to campus.
  • July 20-27 – First-year students will request classes at this time.
  • Nov. 22 – Residence halls will close at noon.


We have not forgotten our 2020 graduates, nor have we forgotten our promise to hold an in-person Commencement. We know our students want to walk down the steps of Old West, and we remain committed to giving them that opportunity.

Although initially we had hoped we could hold that ceremony during the fall, the pandemic makes that impossible. As a result, we are now looking at holding a separate Commencement for the class of 2020 in May 2021. More information on that will be forthcoming.

These are challenging times as we work through the health concerns around COVID-19, the resulting economic and educational impact, and persistent and pervasive racial and social injustice. We will work through all of these challenges by coming together as a community, working together to adjust to a new normal, to act responsibly, and to bring change where it is needed. Stay Dickinson strong.


Margee M. Ensign