COVID-19 Update from President Burstein (3/12/2020)

Dear Lawrentians,

Like many of you, I have been carefully following the global outbreak of coronavirus or COVID-19. This past week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed this country’s strategy from one of outbreak containment to acknowledgement that this goal is no longer possible. We must now work to mitigate eventual spread of the virus throughout the United States. Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the virus had reached pandemic status, and last night President Trump suspended all travel from Europe, excluding Great Britain, for a 30-day period. 

Our goals as a university are first to protect the health and safety of the campus community, including those members who are at high risk for severe complications from the virus, and to sustain the teaching and learning that are a hallmark of all that we do at Lawrence. Our community prides itself on the enduring relationship between faculty and students, and frequent personal interaction is core to this relationship. But this is difficult to sustain in an environment that asks for limiting in-person interaction.

I write today to share with you updates on how the University plans to address these priorities and ensure that we remain true to our core community values of compassion and respect. While there are currently no known cases of COVID-19 on the Lawrence campus, we recognize that we can no longer continue as usual and still protect all members of our community, especially those most at risk. As a result, and in consultation with faculty, students, and staff, we have determined that the best course of action for Lawrence is to move to distance learning starting Spring Term. This was an extraordinarily difficult decision to make. 

Here is what this decision means for our campus:

Spring Break

Spring Break will begin on March 19, as planned, and will be extended until April 5 to provide faculty and staff additional time to prepare for distance learning. All University-sponsored spring break trips, both domestic and international, are canceled. Students are welcome to stay on campus for spring break, but they cannot travel outside of the immediate vicinity. 

Spring Term Classes

Spring Term (or third term) classes will begin on April 6. Spring Term will end as-scheduled on June 10. Classes will be taught via distance learning. What we mean by distance learning is the delivery of instruction and participation in courses through the use of technology. We recognize that some courses, such as research laboratories, studios, or ensembles, will not easily translate to this format, and we are working closely with faculty to resolve these issues prior to the start of the term. The Provost or individual faculty will be in touch with their students before classes resume. No study abroad programs will run during Spring Term. 

Students can apply to the Dean of Students through this webform to remain on campus for Spring Termif returning home is impossible for various reasons. All other students will be expected to leave campus for the remainder of the academic year by April 5 and will need to plan accordingly. More information regarding move-out is available on the website.

Financial Assistance

Our goal is to ensure individual finances do not impact the important choices that lie ahead for each student and their familyFor students who leave campus and complete Spring Term from home, we will remove all on-campus related fees from your bill for the third term such as the final remaining room, board, as well as the student activity fee. Third term tuition still applies. Your financial aid will be adjusted proportionately to reflect the remaining amount due. For students who remain on campus, there will be no change to your third term bill or the financial aid you have already been allotted. We encourage all students to contact Financial Aid if they have any questions regarding their financial need, including their ability to travel home.

University Operations

The University will remain open to provide our students with needed support, including academic and career assistance. Staff will continue to work scheduled hours and will receive regular pay. We will issue guidance for University employees no later than March 19. If staff have any questions in the meantime about remote working options, leave, pay, or other issues, please contact your direct supervisor or Human Resources

University-Related Travel

All international travel on behalf of the university is canceled. Domestic travel is allowed only for essential purposes as approved by a member of the President’s Cabinet. Any individual who recently returned from a Category Level 2 or Level 3 country as defined by the CDC is required to self-isolate at an off-campus location for 14 days upon your return. Please note that the CDC recently designated continental Europe as a Level 3 area. Information on self-isolation and monitoring is available on the CDC website

Campus Events 

Campus events, such as lectures, theatre productions, musical performances, art exhibits, or other large public gatherings, are canceled for Spring Term. Information regarding Admission visit programs can be found on the website.


I realize the decision to move to distance learning impacts the senior class in a unique way. The last term provides time to celebrate a glorious set of cumulative accomplishments. We are committed to helping each senior to complete their Lawrence requirements in time for graduation as well as ensure all students progress towards their degree of choice. Commencement and its surrounding events may need to be modified. We are working to finalize these decisions as quickly as possible and will share our final plans with the senior class and their families by April 15. I promise you that we will do our best to recognize your achievements and celebrate your graduation, even if we cannot all be together on the Main Hall Green.

Due to the rapidly changing nature of this global pandemic, I recognize these changes may elicit many questions. If you have any questions regarding our path forward, please email, and we will do our best to answer them in a timely fashion.

We will host two live question and answer sessions tomorrow: one for Lawrence faculty and staff at 1:00 p.m. CDT, and one for Lawrence families and students at 3:00 p.m. CDT. Please use this form to submit questions in advance of the webinar.

Also, starting Friday, March 13, through Thursday, March 19, a call center will be dedicated to answering your questions. Please call 920-832-6576 weekdays between 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CDT. In addition, please visit the COVID-19 News blog for all recent updates and resources. 

I recognize this decision presents many challenges to our students, faculty, and staff. We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity. I know, as we have in the past, we will rise to this challenge and ensure that Lawrence continues to create a learning environment second to none. Thank you all for your patience, dedication, and, most importantly, your tireless work to support our institution. 

Please take care of yourselves, and each other.



Mark Burstein

President, Lawrence University

Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699 | Office 920.832.6525