Sunday Message: Local Reopening Plans

Dean Jon Levin writes to the Stanford GSB community with updated COVID-19 guidance and support for international students.

July 12, 2020

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. The campus continues to be quiet, although it is possible to spot GSBers accompanied by small children at the Coupa Cafes. Our virtual summer programs are in full swing: Stanford Ignite, the Stanford Seed and Botha-Chan Internship programs, the Business Leadership Series, and Stanford Rebuild, which has enrolled over 5,000 participants.

I have a few updates to share on the reopening of Santa Clara County, recent immigration rules, and our continuing planning for fall quarter.

Local Reopening

The last few weeks have made clear the health challenges involved in reopening activity during the pandemic. We are seeing record numbers of national COVID-19 cases, and this week, a very concerning increase in COVID-related deaths. The Santa Clara County data shows that cases, positive test rates, and hospitalizations are all increasing, although we continue to be relatively fortunate compared to many areas of the county.

These trends highlight the care that will be needed as local activity continues to increase, and as we look ahead to the fall. The latest public health order, which goes into effect tomorrow, permits additional businesses to open, but gatherings are strongly discouraged, and indoor gatherings remain prohibited. Stanford’s swimming pools and the Stanford Dish are open, and campus childcare is gradually restarting.

Stanford has published updated social distancing rules this week in conjunction with the new order. They mandate frequent hand-washing, the wearing of face coverings, and six feet of physical distance when interacting with others. While the specific rules may evolve in response to public health guidance, we should expect these behavioral standards to be an important part of maintaining campus health in the fall.

International Students

Stanford is strongly opposing the new student visa rule announced by the Department of Homeland Security, which can only be characterized as awful. An earlier April rule enabled international students to retain their visas as instruction shifted online. The modified rule requires students holding F-1 or M-1 visas to participate in some amount of in-person learning, or else leave the country.

This change undermines months of work done by schools across the country that intend to have fully remote instruction or to invite a fraction of students to campus. It also makes the prospect of mid-year lockdown scenarios even more concerning. Stanford is filing an amicus brief in support of a legal challenge brought by Harvard and MIT, which experts say has a reasonable chance of success. We at the GSB stand firm in our commitment to our international students, supporting their efforts to secure student visas and join us on campus.

Fall Quarter Planning

The Autumn Quarter Task Force continues to develop our plans for the coming academic year. Key issues currently being addressed include arrangements for hybrid (in-person and virtual) learning and interaction, and protocols for welcoming students to campus and into the GSB Residences in September. We are coordinating with a large team at the university that is developing Stanford’s plans for testing and contact tracing. Incoming and returning students will be receiving more information in the coming week, and on an ongoing basis, and we’ll be sharing more with the broader community soon.

Closing

As these updates make clear, there are a lot of complexities to be resolved over the next two months as we look ahead to the new academic year. I plan to be writing at least every other week to keep the community updated, and you also will be hearing more from other school leaders. In the meantime, I hope you are finding ways to enjoy the summer and to restore yourself.

Jon Levin

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