Union College response to COVID-19

To protect our students and the broader community as COVID-19 spreads across the country, Union College will be transitioning to online classes following an extended spring break. Break was already scheduled for March 16-20, and will now be extended for another week. Classes will resume using an online format on March 30.

In order to ensure the safety of Union students and employees, college administrators decided on March 19 to move Union College to "Open Limited" status.

Union does not have any cases of COVID-19, but the college is also working collaboratively with peer institutions and the Lancaster County Health Department in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and not overburden the local health care system.

The "Open Limited" status means most buildings will be open to employees and students who need remain on campus, but will be closed to any non-essential visitors. This includes the library, Union Market and Ortner Center. Offices will remain open, but some employees may work remotely. Larson Lifestyle Center is closed until further notice.

Students who have specific reasons to stay in the residence hall such as the need for access to technology, campus work or practicum obligations, or don’t have other places to go, will be able to live on campus. Other students are required to study from home.

"Because of our limited ability to quarantine students should they become ill and the importance of social distancing on campus, we believe most students will be safer and better off studying from home," said Dr. Vinita Sauder, president of Union College. "If a student can study from home, and has the tools to do that, including a laptop or computer and good internet access, we are requiring them to do that."

A task force has been in place for several weeks to ensure that Union is doing everything possible to make sure students and employees stay safe and implement procedures to support the students as the college transitions to online learning for the semester.

"We are sad for our students and our employees," said Sauder. "This year has been cut short and many great in-person learning opportunities and wonderful events lost. But we will continue to find ways to give our students the Union experience this school year even if we can't do it in the same way."

For students who moved out of the residence hall early, Union has finalized a plan to credit your student account with 70 percent of the prorated amount of room and meal plan left based on moving out of the residence hall at the end of spring break.

Students do not need to do anything additional to “check out” of their room and trigger this credit. If a student was not approved to move back into the residence hall after spring break, they will automatically be checked out even if their belongings are still in the room.

"As local health officials have tightened restrictions here in Lincoln, we ask that students not approved to live in the residence halls not come back to campus to retrieve their belongings right now," said Sauder. "You need to connect with your dean to figure out the best time. If you need certain items from your room quickly, the deans may able to mail them."

The Father's care

As Union College students, employees and their families navigate this transition, Dr. Sauder shared this with the campus:

"The spread of COVID-19 around the world has caused widespread fear—not just about the illness itself, but the uncertainty surrounding the ability to travel, make plans or possibly even finish your education.

I promise we will do our best to make sure we have plans and procedures in place to keep you safe and help you finish the semester successfully.

And better yet, we have God’s promise to hang on to. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 (NIV).

We don’t have to be afraid of sickness, classwork or the unknown because the Father that called you to Union College will continue to guide your journey.

Please continue to pray that we make wise decisions for our students and for each of you as you lay plans for your future."

Transitioning to online learning

“We understand that there is much uncertainty about how you are going to be completing your classes, particularly those that don’t lend themselves well to online formats,” said Kim Hazelton, Union’s Director of Records. “The extended spring break will not only be used to work through technical issues related to online delivery, but to determine other solutions as well.  Our focus is your success. For example, you don’t need to be concerned that you won’t graduate this year because you couldn’t attend choir for the entire term. The Records team will be working closely with your advisors and instructors to ensure that a plan is in place for you to be able to complete all the necessary requirements and stay on track for graduation.”

Union plans to move all of its academic support services online so they can be accessed by all students both on and off campus. “We are committed to helping our students finish the semester successfully,” said Taryn Rouse, Union’s Director of Student Success. “Our team is working hard to find the best ways to deliver tutoring to students who need it whether they are on campus or at home.”

Certain programs such as nursing, physician assistant, occupational therapy assistant, education, and social may require students to return to campus to complete practicum and clinical requirements. Professors are currently looking for the best ways for each student to complete their semester requirements and will be in touch with students with more information as it becomes available.

Graduation

At the request of graduating seniors, Union will keep finals week and graduation on their originally scheduled dates. This means the semester will be one week shorter than originally planned, and each professor and program will be determining how best to make up for the missed class time.

Union College will hold a virtual graduation ceremony on May 10. "We’re working on creating a live interactive celebration of the Class of 2020 and we’ll be communicating more details in the near future," said Sauder.

Homecoming weekend

Because of our care and concern for Union College alumni and in light of current information related to COVID-19, Union ReUnion 2020 homecoming weekend will be celebrated April 1-4 2021. 

“It is our sincerest desire that each person planning to attend this year’s festivities will join us next year for an extra special weekend,” said LuAnn Davis, vice president for Advancement. “This decision was made in consultation with the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department, members of the alumni association board and administration of Union College.”

The following events connected with the ReUnion have also been postponed to next year:

  • Common Ground Reunion Concert
  • 5K Squirrel Fun Run/Walk
  • Leaders Building Leaders Conference by the Division of Business and Computer Science
  • STEM Leaders for Tomorrow by the Division of Science and Mathematics

Any payments provided to the college for weekend events will be completely refunded by check via mail within the next few weeks.  You may direct your questions to alumni@ucollege.edu or 402-486-2503.

Other upcoming events

At this time Union does not plan to host any campus events or performances—including Preview Days, Gymnaires Homeshow or Fine Arts Spring Concert for the rest of the school year. 

Events scheduled for the summer have not yet been canceled—including the Maranatha Rees Hall Renovation project. We will continue to access the situation before making a final decision.

Larson Lifestyle Center

The Larson Lifestyle Center pool and weight room will closed until further notice. We will continue to post updates on the Larson Lifestyle Center web page.

Students overseas

All students studying in the Adventist Colleges Abroad program or serving as student missionaries are on their way back to the U.S or have already returned home.

While there is currently little threat from COVID-19 in Malawi, resources and volunteers the IRR team needed to complete their clinics have become limited. So the IRR leadership has decided to bring the group home two weeks early on March 27. This situation is constantly changing and they may decide to return home earlier.

Travel

All student trips have been canceled for the remainder of the school year. Union has also decided to cancel summer trips, including mission trips to Peru and the Philippines and a C.S. Lewis study tour to England.

Union has asked students and employees to cancel travel plans. If a student or employee chooses to travel internationally or to specific areas of the country, they may be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The college has also asked any students who become sick while away from campus on spring break to stay at home until fully recovered.

COVID-19 resources

If you’d like to learn more about COVID-19, please explore these resources from the Lancaster County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control: