The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented disruption to the lives of individuals and families in Greece and around the world. For ACG students, faculty and staff the disruption has required sudden adjustment to familiar educational patterns and immediate adaptation to new ways of living and learning – all in a context of pervasive personal and communal uncertainty.
While much of the short-term future cannot be predicted precisely, there is good reason to believe that this ill-timed and unwelcome crisis will be overcome, and the trajectory of our lives will be reestablished. The College is committed to doing everything we can to support our students, faculty and staff in this pressing moment.
Therefore, as we continue to navigate this “once in a century” challenge together, I want to share information about the actions the College has already taken and those we contemplate in the near-term to pursue two overriding goals with respect to our students: 1. Minimize the spread of the virus in the ACG community; 2. Support students in maintaining progress in their academic programs.
COVID-19 College Response To Date
With the onset of the crisis, the College immediately took the following actions in pursuit of our first goal – minimizing the spread of the virus in the ACG community:
- We sought to protect and safeguard our students, faculty and staff by creating rules of quarantine when the first few cases of COVID-19 appeared in Greece and before any cases appeared in the ACG community. To assist students that wished to put themselves in self-quarantine, adjustments were made in the absences policy so that students could continue their courses from home.
- We performed continuous disinfections both on campus and in student residences, where students (most international, who travel extensively throughout Europe and the region) live in close proximity.
- In cooperation with the Greek National Organization for Public Health, we secured free COVID-19 testing for potentially infected students, with test results available within 12 hours rather than the 3-4 day norm.
- We hired extra medical personnel so that testing and care for students could be done with minimal risk to our community. College nurses canvased residential students to identify any suspicious symptoms or travel histories of concern, and we provided free medication to any student needing it.
- We hired a chef to cook for students who were quarantined in the residences and paid for food supplies to ensure that students did not circulate in the community risking infection for themselves and others.
By promptly implementing these tactics and until the departure of all study abroad students by March 21, we managed to contain the infection to two Deree students (both related to travel to Israel) in a total student, faculty and staff population of over 6,500.
In pursuit of our second goal – supporting students in maintaining progress in their academic programs – the College built on its state-of-the-art learning management system (Blackboard) to temporarily deliver material online as well as to facilitate interaction between faculty and students. While we regret very much the need to depart so suddenly and unexpectedly from our normal and preferred pattern of face-to-face classroom engagement, this rapid conversion of both faculty and students to an online modality has helped to ensure that Deree students will receive their credits in the spring semester.
We have received student feedback, both directly and through the Student Government, about the Blackboard teaching and learning experience and are advising faculty accordingly. We understand that some students are not comfortable with asynchronous teaching. However, this is a proven method for helping students meet learning outcomes and often has more interaction than synchronous instruction. For specific questions about course material we advise our students to continue to communicate with their instructors. We have asked instructors to be more interactive and flexible. For issues not related to course content, students can always contact the Office of the Registrar or the Dean of their respective schools.
Near-Term College Plans
- Completing the Spring Semester and Extra Week Before Final Exams. Given the Greek government’s recent announcement that schools will remain closed until after the Easter Holiday, all Deree undergraduate classes will continue to be offered through Blackboard and other digital media until April 10, the end of the spring semester. Easter Break is April 11-26. In the hope that the government will allow resumption of normal classroom activities by the end of April, we will push back Final Exams one week to May 4-12. If allowed by government policy, we will use this extra week for in-class engagement; in any case, we trust the extra week will be helpful to students in preparing for finals.
In the meantime, we advised students to stay engaged in their coursework to finish out the semester successfully. The Student Academic Support Services center is operating virtually; if students need help with coursework, they are encouraged to ask for a tutoring appointment via email to [email protected] If they need to submit any petitions to the Committee on Academic Standards and Policies (CASP) or for other information, they should contact the Student Success Center at [email protected] .
- Summer Sessions. Mindful that many students are looking forward to graduation following the Summer Sessions and many more want to maintain the pace of their studies, we plan to move ahead with the Summer Sessions as reflected in the 2019-20 Academic Calendar. Summer 2020 Registration will begin on schedule on April 1. If prior to the start of Summer Session One (on May 21) the Greek government continues to implement measures that restrict the College’s ability to operate normally, we will adjust accordingly and move part or all of the teaching online. We are already seeking the permission of our accrediting/validating organizations to do so. Academic advising for summer classes can be done via phone or Skype; for an appointment, students should call 210-6009800 extension 1431, 1438, 1339, 1337 or send an email either to [email protected].edu or to [email protected].
- Financial Arrangements. Given the burdens and uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the College will implement the following interim financial policies:
- Summer registration of students with no balances without a deposit.
- Students with up to 1,000 euros in arrears to the College may register for summer courses.
- Students with balances over 1,000 euros may register, based on demonstrating proven need through the Office of Retention (contact Haris Daskalothanassis mobile phone: 694-880-9400, email: [email protected] , Skype: hdask_4 or Eleni Georgouli mobile phone: 693-696-5563, email: [email protected], Skype: egeorgouli-zefki) or the Business Office (Sophia Theologitou, tel: 210-6009800 extension 1109 email: [email protected]).
- In hardship cases, we encourage students to apply for emergency financial assistance. ACG is the largest provider of student financial aid in Greece and will do all we can in this time of need to assist our students and families. Please contact the Office of Financial Assistance at 210-6009800 extensions 1327, 1305, 1304, email: [email protected] for detailed information.
- Some students have inquired about a discount on the spring semester tuition because of the transition to online teaching. Following the common practice of colleges and universities reflecting the fact that this transition was due to unforeseeable circumstances, compelled by external authorities and occurred during the academic term, the College is not giving a tuition discount for the spring semester. Also following the common practice of other colleges and universities, we are providing rebates to residential students who needed to leave College residences to account for the institutional services not provided.
- Commencement and Student Awards Night. Colleges and universities around the world have already announced the cancelation or postponement of graduations. We have not yet reached the date by which we need to make a decision about the Deree Commencement and Student Awards Night. We fervently hope that these events will occur on schedule. If, however, that is not possible, we will make every effort to execute an alternative plan (e.g. postponement) so that these unique experiences of a lifetime – one of the proudest moments for our students, their families and, indeed, all of us at ACG – are not lost.
Finally, in these moments of global, national, institutional, and personal challenge, I am reminded of ACG’s history dating back to 1875. The recently completed, stunning digital museum in the Bailey Library showcases this unique saga of overcoming war, violence, dislocation, depression, poverty, famine, and disease to reach the heights on which ACG now stands. The circumstances and human responses I have personally witnessed in my 12 years at the College have told their own incredible tale of individual and institutional heroism. That we are now called to exercise such spirit and fortitude yet again seems incredible. But, I have no doubt that we will answer the call and in our time, in our own way add to the proud legacy that is The American College of Greece.
I trust that the information provided here is helpful to you; I welcome any feedback you might have and can be reached at [email protected] I wish you and your entire family continued health and I look forward to seeing you on campus in the near future.