COVID-19 Prevention & Response Plan


May 14, 2020

Dear Reed Alumni,

July will mark my first anniversary at Reed, and in just a few days the academic year will come to a close. I never imagined that less than twelve months into my presidency we would be facing the perils of a pandemic. During my inauguration speech I said that Reed is a special place. I have come to understand this more deeply over the course of the year—particularly now. It is an honor to lead this college and, with all of you, to be part of Reed’s extraordinary story.

This is a new chapter for Reed, and it is centered on the bonds and growing sense of pride that arise from coming together to face adversity. Seeing the community completely rewire itself in response to COVID-19 has been nothing short of breathtaking. Faculty rapidly moved their courses online, and there are countless examples of the Reed curriculum being delivered with creativity and resourcefulness, including Hum 110 lectures, some of which are now available for your enjoyment, too. Offices like the Center for Life Beyond Reed (CLBR) extensively overhauled their operations to support students, especially our seniors, who are entering the workforce, heading to graduate schools and volunteer positions, or pursuing other opportunities. We thank all of you who have volunteered your time in support of CLBR’s efforts to connect students with alumni who work in their fields of interest.

Most impressive has been the resilience of our students and the community’s care for their well-being. In March, all but 145 students moved off campus. It was heartbreaking to see our students leave, even more so knowing that many of them would experience hardships along the way as a result of the pandemic. We are grateful the college could respond to unanticipated financial needs through the Student Emergency Fund, which covered medical expenses, food and supplies, emergency travel, and more. We thank the more than 140 alumni and friends who have contributed to the fund to date. I am also inspired by the efforts of the Reed Care Team, which continues to proactively coordinate a diverse range of support for students experiencing personal or academic issues that interfere with their ability to succeed. The team’s work undoubtedly helped students accomplish important goals in these difficult times.

To see the students prevail is heartening, especially seniors who have completed the capstone of the Reed experience, the Reed thesis—a significant feat even under ordinary circumstances. You can read about their research topics on the new Digital Thesis Board. And you can rest assured that the seniors received their laurels, despite not being on campus, thanks to the staff who worked on packaging and mailing laurels-containing care packages. While the May 18 Commencement has been moved to Reunions 2021, we will not let the day go by without honoring our seniors’ remarkable achievements: join us to celebrate them at 4 p.m. PDT at our livestream Tribute and Toast to Seniors and Graduates.

As the college shifts its attention to the fall, it is challenging to know so little about the future—particularly regarding the progress of the novel coronavirus, the local and national response to it, the extent of economic devastation, and the impact all of these events may have on the college’s academic program and students’ participation in it. With careful management, we will navigate these uncertainties. It is my great hope to provide our program on campus in the fall. Although much will remain in flux throughout the summer, the college will announce its planned implementation of the academic program by June 30, based on recommendations from working groups established earlier this month. We aspire to offer a program, under nearly any conditions, that will allow our students to make expected progress in their academic journeys without compromising the integrity of a Reed education. Now more than ever, training in rigorous methodologies and techniques for understanding and addressing pressing human problems—whether a pandemic or the tough economic consequences of this disease—is crucial.

On this final note, I wish each of you well in your endeavors and in addressing challenges that you face during this pandemic. Greeting you in person when that is again possible is something I am very much looking forward to.

With hope,
Audrey Bilger
Reed College

PS Check out Reed Remote: a virtual space for alumni to come together and connect with each other and the college. There you can sign up for our (virtual) Alumni College: Democracy 2020: Mechanics, Opportunities, and Perils, among other engaging online events.