This is an archived message. Please check the most recent updates to ensure you have the most current information. 

Released: March 12, 2020 at 10:33 a.m. PDT

Dear members of the Whitman community,

Given dramatic increases in cases of coronavirus in the United States during the last 24 hours, and increased efforts here in Washington by Governor Jay Inslee, we have made the very difficult decision to go to an online learning model at the end of spring break on March 30, 2020 and until further notice.  Classes are canceled tomorrow March, 13, 2020 to allow members of our community to prepare for this change.

While at this time we have no confirmed or presumptive cases at Whitman, it has become clear how quickly this virus is spreading as we watch communities across the country and in our region increase their response to the spread of coronavirus. Now it is time for us to do the same.

Can I stay on campus?

You are welcome to stay here on campus through spring break and until the end of the semester.  We will have resources for students who choose to do so.  Residence halls will remain open. Dining services will continue to operate. Other campus services will be available on a limited basis. For students who find themselves unable to return home for the summer, we will work with you to arrange housing accommodations.

If you feel comfortable traveling and would prefer to leave campus at this time, we are supportive of that as well. We strongly discourage leaving for spring break and then returning to campus.

Preparing for online learning

Following spring break, we anticipate all students will need access to a laptop or tablet with a camera and high-speed internet access.  If you do not have access to these things, please reach out to the Dean of Students Office. Students who don’t have access to reliable internet at home should consider staying on campus.

Learning opportunities on campus

While we plan to move all classes online, we recognize that some areas do not lend themselves well to online learning formats and require specialized settings, labs or equipment. We will work with faculty and students to explore the possibility of supplementing online learning with access to these specialized experiences, especially for seniors who are working to complete their degrees.


We are committed to working with every senior to make sure they can graduate on time. While we have not made a decision about how long online learning will continue, it is likely that it may need to continue through the end of the semester. We have not made any decisions about the commencement ceremony and will do everything we can to hold a safe and celebratory event.

What about staff?

Since the college is staying open, staff should still report to work. If you have health issues that put you at greater risk for coronavirus, please work with your supervisor to arrange for appropriate accommodations.

College-sponsored travel

We are suspending all college-sponsored travel at this time. The spring athletic season has been suspended.

Community Events

All public events on campus are canceled until further notice.  Access to Whitman facilities is limited to students, faculty and staff, and their immediate families. This includes (but is not limited to) the Sherwood Athletic Center, Baker Ferguson Fitness Center, Bratton Tennis Center, Penrose Library, Reid Campus Center, Cleveland Dining Commons, Cordiner Hall and Harper Joy Theatre. Please note that it is likely that many of these facilities will have limited hours until further notice.

Most Whitman sponsored community-based volunteer programs, internships and other programs in the region will be suspended until further notice. In cases where it is possible to continue these programs remotely or with limited public contact we encourage students to work with the SEC or their Whitman program advisor to explore those possibilities.

Off-Campus Studies

The Office of Off-Campus Studies has been in contact with students studying abroad. Staff are in the process of helping all students studying in Europe return safely. They are also working with students in other countries to offer resources and assess safety.

Moving Forward

It is with a heavy heart that I am making this decision today.  This is not the direction I was hoping to go for the learning of our students. I understand that you may be experiencing a sense of loss and that this may be extremely upsetting for many of you. It is for me too. Minimizing the impact of coronavirus will require all of us to make sacrifices individually and as a community. This is uncharted territory and we will all need to be flexible and support each other through this time. 

I thank you for your grace, understanding and continued support of the Whitman community.

Kathy Murray

The coronavirus situation continues to change day-by-day. Please check your email and our website for the latest updates.