Message from President Collins to All Students – COVID-19 Update

Dear Clarkson Students,

It is important to provide a high level update to each of you so that we are all on the same page following a week that has been unprecedented for Clarkson and for our nation.  In the last few days, COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic and the President of the United States has declared a national emergency.

Below I will identify some of the external circumstances that have been driving our decision making as we try to assure your health as our highest priority and then successful continuation of your Clarkson education. I appreciate your understanding as we navigate the Clarkson community forward.

The following points represent a high-level summary of our current directions:

  • We will start online instruction – both undergraduate and graduate — on Monday, March 23 for all students living on campus in Potsdam and those who are living off campus at all sites.  It is our goal to have all students return to campus/regular instruction this spring and resume normal operations.  The decision on when in-person classes can resume depends upon further directives from New York State.

While you are our priority, the decisions we are making cannot be made only from the perspective of the University.  As an example for our Potsdam-based students, early Friday morning I attended a county-wide meeting of college administrators, the health system professionals and county leaders.  In St. Lawrence County, we have a disproportionate population of those most vulnerable to COVID-19 — the elderly and health compromised.  And while we have very good local emergency room and urgent care services, we have VERY limited ICU capacity and medical staff trained in the fields to handle a COVID-19 outbreak in our region.  For your safety and the safety of other community members, that factor calls for us to have the fewest number of students stay in our residence halls as we also balance that we have students who essentially MUST stay based on their own extenuating circumstances.  We are accommodating them.  

The majority of our undergraduates have proceeded to Spring Break and will remain off-campus until NYS directives are lifted regarding the numbers of individuals in gathering spaces.  Graduate students at all sites will have some changes to their schedule routines as communicated to them by the Provost. While New York State’s “headline” is to limit gatherings up to 500 individuals, the real impact for Clarkson is that NYS has also stipulated for gatherings below 500 people, allowable room capacities have been halved to allow more space between individuals.  That particular requirement essentially shuts down instruction until that ban is lifted as we do not have enough classroom flexibility to continue teaching face-to-face if only half of our desks or seats can be occupied in any one room.

  • As we prepare to transition to online instructional delivery, the faculty and their support teams are working diligently to make this work for you. We know there will be glitches and new issues to address – this will be true for all colleges and universities in these challenging times. We are working with students to make sure they have internet access at home to connect to this new method of instruction and we are looking for ways for work study positions – especially TA’s — to continue for the students who rely on this income.  The Student Success Center is also transitioning to online support.  Please contact the Office of the Dean of Students,, 315-268-6620, if you have any questions.
  • All varsity athletic contests have been cancelled for the remainder of the semester.  Some alternative activities are under consideration.
  • St. Lawrence County has also entered into a State of Emergency and directed that all public K-12 schools close at least through April 20.   We will continue to pay particular attention to employee needs, especially for faculty and staff (and students) who have K-12 students and who have underlying health issues as this pandemic evolves.  Each request is resolved on a case-by-case basis.    

There are many other matters and issues of concern that our Emergency Response Team is addressing on a daily basis.  I encourage you to keep following our communications on a website dedicated to our response to this national emergency

If you have any further questions that are not answered on that site, please submit them to  I assure you that Clarkson University is moving forward, with a strong sense of teamwork to enable you to graduate and undertake exceptional careers.

If you have travelled home, I hope you arrived safely and no matter where you are right now, I hope you are healthy and remain so.  You can expect continued updates as we progress.

President Tony Collins

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