RTS Moves Forward with Plans for Fall 2020

Dear RTS family,

Your Provost, Chief Officers, Senior Administrators, Presidents, Executive Directors, Deans, and I have been continuously working on our plans for the fall semester and the 2020-2021 academic year amidst the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are excited and thankful to be returning to campuses across our system (with the exception of New York City) this month.

As you can imagine, this is a complex thing for an institution that spans eight cities in seven states. You will be receiving specific details from your local campus leadership, but I write today to highlight our priorities. As we re-open our classrooms and campuses there are three particular commitments that we have that are guiding all our decisions.

First, we are concerned to do everything we can to care for the health and well-being of our students, and their families. We are enacting measures to provide for flexibility and safety and to ensure the best possible learning environment for them.

Second, we are concerned to do everything we can to care for the health and well-being of our faculty and staff, and their families. Our staff and faculty are the heartbeat of the mission and ministry of RTS, and we want them all to be safe and confident as they teach, serve, and minister to our students.

Third, we want to do everything we can to assure that our students’ educational experience is as personal, normal, and edifying as possible. We want to make sure that the teaching, interaction, and preparation they receive meets RTS’s best standards. Additionally, we are being very flexible in our delivery system so that when a student needs to miss residential lectures due to COVID-19 concerns, each campus has procedures in place to ensure that the student will still be able to complete the course with academic integrity.

Our return to campus does not mean that we are taking COVID-19 lightly. On the contrary, we are taking every reasonable measure to care for the whole RTS family, while fulfilling the mission of RTS: “to serve the Church by preparing its leaders, through a program of graduate theological education, based upon the authority of the inerrant Word of God, and committed to the Reformed Faith.” Indeed, our Westminster Larger Catechism calls us to “all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others” (135), and we want to demonstrate that in our care for all of our people.

To that end, I would ask you all to pray for and to express an attitude of patience and understanding, as well as a deliberate concern to look out for one another as we enter into the unknowns of this fall. “Adjust, adapt, and accept” is a motto from my university days. It’s a good one for us in this unpredictable season.

What are some of the measures we are taking to keep our faculty, staff, and students safe? Well, again, specifics will vary from campus to campus, depending on the situation and state and local requirements, but here are some of the things we are doing system-wide:

  • Limiting classroom size and implementing social distancing.
  • Requiring all students, staff, and faculty to wear masks in public spaces.
  • Suspending large public events (including convocation and traditional chapels) for the fall semester.
  • Encouraging students not to congregate indoors but to utilize outdoor seating and gathering spaces.
  • Enhancing the cleaning of our facilities.

The Lord has already taken us through two phases of this pandemic in the spring and summer sessions. Now, as we enter phase three, we continue to put our trust in him and look forward to our fall season together. I’m thankful to be in this with you.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan