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A letter to students from Dr. Tromp

To our wonderful students,

We made a momentous decision Friday evening that it was in the best interest of our students, faculty, staff, and the larger community to move all courses to remote delivery. Immediately after we completed our campus communication, I walked out onto a very quiet campus and experienced an overwhelming sense of loss at the reduction in the lively and tremendously significant activity that makes being a part of a university exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling.

The Change

I joined a university community for the first time in 1984 (long before many of you were born) and made a decision that I would stay at a university forever. It’s one of the greatest joys of my life that I have been able to do so. To disrupt our campus life—the life that we love so much—is something I feel keenly. I have experienced institutional disruptions from blizzards, critical heat warnings, hacking, water main breaks, ice storms, power outages, protests, earthquakes, mudslides, and fires—but never anything like this nor for this length of time. In his “President to President” newsletter, Ted Mitchell, the President of ACE (American Council on Education), called this moment a “once-in-a-generation situation.”

No one wants to see the departure of the students for which we care so much in the midst of a semester. I grieve for the loss of the rest of this semester’s campus experience for everyone, but most especially for you. Many of you will have academic, co-curricular, and social events canceled. Art shows, field experiences, performances, club meetings or events, dances, athletic events, late night delivery of pizza or Chip will be lost. The wonderful face-to-face interactions that characterize our warm and vibrant community will be missing. People will be studying on their own instead of face-to-face with their favorite groups (though you can still meet online). Our students athletes who participate in spring sports have had their seasons canceled, and our women’s basketball team, who won the conference championship and progressed to the NCAA tournament, lost their chance to compete.

The Context

It might help you to understand the public health factors that underlay our decision. We did not want to have students, who often live and work in close quarters on campus, to fall ill away from their loved ones in large numbers. Moreover, while the mortality rate of this illness for the majority of our student population would likely be very low, there is evidence that COVID-19 may be more transmissible than the flu, and we learned that our community—the organization with the largest footprint in the entire state—could become a vector for a disease that could harm our city’s and state’s most vulnerable, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. (Many of you will have seen Governor Brad Little’s message explaining that “flattening the curve” on transmission will help our healthcare system remain able to care for everyone who needs it.)

Your Faculty and Staff Care

Our amazing faculty and staff have responded with tremendous care, thoughtfulness, creativity, and a sharp eye to the well-being and development of our students. They were responsive to the call to adapt, immediately pivoted, and focused on how you, our students, could continue to learn and to have the best experience possible under trying and unpredictable circumstances. They are profoundly committed to delivering your courses and helping you to grow.

Our community is dedicated to helping you create experiences that will make your Bronco life special this spring—no matter how dispersed we may be. We have a heartfelt and earnest commitment to celebrating the milestones that make spring term at Boise State so wonderful. We know our students often have expertise in creating remote experiences and crafting a rich digital/human interface. If you have ideas about how we might create remote experiences that matter, will you share them here? We aim to credit any students who develop concepts we employ!

Looking Forward

The shift has been unexpected, and I know that there remain challenges ahead. Like our faculty, you have been exceptionally poised. And, in spite of the inherent difficulties, this will be an incredible learning opportunity. Our faculty and students will become more creative and innovative. You will develop strategies that will help you and Boise State become more nimble and responsive. This “once in a generation” experience will give you new ways of thinking and doing. You will learn how to continue to excel and succeed in the face of crisis. That’s something you’ll take into your careers and your personal lives in the future.

There will likely be additional communications in the coming days that will provide you with information and support as we move forward. I wanted to write you personally to express my gratitude and respect for all you have done and continue to do.

Please take good care of yourself and your loved ones.


Dr. Marlene Tromp