By L. Kincaid Holmes

Interim President John Williams confirmed yesterday there will be no live graduation in May this year because of the extension of the Illinois shelter-in-place mandate through at least the end of April, but he left open the possibility for a live on-campus ceremony in the Fall.  

Williams’ graduation announcement – along with many other business matters from how to collect belongings from campus to financial issues such as reimbursement for room and board – came via a virtual town hall meeting over a Zoom conference call.

The meeting, the first of weekly virtual student gathering to be held every Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. for the rest of the semester,  also included student body president and vice president Sophia Hathaway and Matthew Mcleod-Warrick, dean of students Maya Dietz, dean of academics Meggan Madden, and College technology director Bill Whitney. Students and other Principia community members listening submitted questions – along with notes of gratitude to the administration – that were read aloud in the meeting. (The administration said a video recording of the meeting would be posted on the student resources page.

Williams kicked off the meeting – in usual humor – by using a meter stick to show his distance from those on the screen to ensure he was social distancing.

Student life issues addressed

Dean Dietz’s updates included these details:

•There are about 60 students living among five houses – Rackham, Sylvester, Lowrey, Ferguson, Joe, and Williams – with no more than eight students to a hall.  

• PrinWeb has COVID-19 updates in an eye-catching yellow band on its home screen. And on the student resources page of PrinWeb, students can find the recording of the virtual town hall, including all questions asked at the meeting.  

• She encouraged students all to stay engaged in house connections. RC’s should be reaching out to the members of their house to further the feeling of community at Principia, and house boards are encouraged to continue their work to their fullest ability.   

•Metaphysical activities continue. Dietz’s staff is working on continuing Friday EMCs and is looking for those interested in sharing one to reach out. CSO has also been sharing its Wednesday readings on Watercooler.  Many churches are conducting virtual Sunday School church services.

Academic issues addressed

Dean Madden’s update highlights included:

• A call for virtual student assistants who can help teachers work on their engagement in class, as well as improve their knowledge of the technology for remote learning.

•  Reimbursements on room and board for the semester, The administration has already started adjusting PrinBill payments for reimbursements on room and board for the semester and has waived late fees (though Williams encouraged on-time payment).

•Those on abroad this semester in India and Nepal could have a harder time getting reimbursed for room and board. Madden noted that refunding investments that were partially used abroad would be “money that Principia has lost.” But more information on this will  come.

•Summer abroad programs, such as Malawi, will be postponed to accommodate Principia’s travel restrictions, both domestically and abroad. More updates on this will be come.

•If you worked this semester and haven’t already sent your email in to Human Resources for an emergency paycheck, check out the watercooler update on how to do so and make sure to send those in.

Madden also addressed other academic matters, including grading. Many schools across the nation have been looking into “pass-fail” semester ideas and Principia is no exception.  Madden said she has been researching ideas that do not negatively impact GPAs and has sent a proposal to the faculty senate. She said she expects to send an update on grading out by next week.

If any of your professors failed to make it to class over the past two days, both deans laid out the protocol moving forward. Make sure you know the department chair, because they should be the first  contact for assistance, followed by the division head. If you have further questions, contact  Madden, or you can find the list of department and division heads on PrinWeb.

Retrieval of belongings left on campus is a complex issue, said Dietz. With evolving rules and guidelines from both national and local governments, Principia is trying to figure out an appropriate time for students to collect their personal items. Dietz said that windows of time to collect belongings – for both local students and those living  away – are being planned, and updates will be sent to students’ Principia email addresses.

The administrators repeatedly noted that students should check their Prin email because all administration news and updates will be sent there as well as posted on Watercooler (which sends notifications to student email addresses).   

Williams also told students, when it feels right, to send an occasional cat video to

•Featured image at top of page is for illustration only; it is a screen grab from last week’s faculty town hall meeting and includes dean of students Maya Dietz (left), dean of academics Meggan Madden (right) and Interim President John Williams (center).