Coronavirus and Autumn Quarter 2020 Updates

The University of Chicago is maintaining a Coronavirus Updates webpage that is updated daily. The page includes campus updates, health and travel guidance, resources, and other important and helpful information, including links to the Planning the Resumption of Programs and Operations on Campus, and the UChicago Health Pact pages. Please use the information on these pages as your primary resource for COVID-19 information and Autumn Quarter planning.

People with questions about the University’s COVID-19 precautions may also send them to our information email, coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu


The following are informational links for the SSA Community from the School:

Mental Health Guidance for Managing Anxiety

Field Education Remote Activity Options by CSWE Competency (PDF)

FAQs from Sara Furr, SSA's Dean of Students

DOS FAQs Part 2, from Sara Furr

Field Placement FAQs in Time of COVID

Spring Quarter Student Resources

Emails from SSA Deans and Directors:


April 23, 2020

Hello all,

We are writing with an update to the Dean’s email from Friday, April 17, 2020 to provide information about the application process for emergency financial aid. The SGA Executive Board shared a number of questions that came up during the general body meeting this past weekend, so we have attempted to answer many of those questions below.  

1. What is the process? 

Students will fill out this brief application. Applications will be reviewed weekly by the Dean of Students office, with decisions sent out each Monday afternoon. If you have a need that may warrant a more immediate review, fill out the application first and also send an email to Sara Furr to request an expedited review.  

2. What if I already filled out the emergency assistance application or financial hardship form through the Bursar’s Office as previously directed? 

We are working closely with the bursar to receive the list of SSA students who applied for funding through that office. Because this is taking time to process, we recommend you fill out the SSA application to expedite your review for SSA-specific funds.     

3. What kind of funding is available? 

At this time, we are able to offer support as aid for tuition, fees, and other needs students might be experiencing. We know many students receive federal loans that pay tuition bills before disbursing a refund. Given this, we are prepared to disburse additional funds to students for needs outside of their university bill.  

All the additional supports outlined here are still available to all students. This new application has been created for SSA students specifically.   

4. Who can apply for this funding? 

This application process and funding is available for SSA students only. These are additional funds for the purpose of supporting student needs related to the pandemic and are provided through the support of SSA and University friends and supporters. If you have friends or colleagues in other schools and divisions, their Dean of Students office many have support of their own.  

5. Can students be involved in the review process? 

Unfortunately, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act prevents us from having students participate in this process. Additionally, you all are already managing a lot in the current environment. If you have questions or concerns about how things are moving forward, we can provide you with information related to your specific application but cannot share student information with anyone beyond the student or other designee.  

6. What does this mean for the scholarship renewal process for 2020-2021?

We regret that the scholarship renewal application process has caused confusion or anxiety over next year. This process typically occurs at the end of the Winter quarter, before spring break, in order to get information to students in the early spring quarter to allow students to redistribute funding to summer courses if they choose to do so. As you know, the process was delayed this year given the immediate needs presented by COVID-19 and the shift to remote learning. We sent this out several weeks after usually intended before fully understanding the constantly changing climate.  

We have halted this process for now to focus on the needs this quarter, but will begin this work again soon. You can rest assured that as long as you are showing good academic progress by accumulating quality units towards degree completion and maintaining a 3.0 GPA, your scholarship will be renewed at the same amount. The scholarship renewal process allows students to request additional funding as well as provide additional personal information that can be used to match students with other endowed scholarship available to SSA students.

Sara Furr, PhD (she/her/hers)
Dean of Students, Diversity and Inclusion
The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

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April 17, 2020

Dear SSA Students:

In recent weeks the University and SSA have come together to address the challenges of COVID-19, provide continuity of instruction and scholarship, and support each other and the community during an extraordinarily difficult time. We know that many students are facing unforeseen financial difficulties along with increased family challenges, and have requested additional support to continue their normal degree requirements.

SSA and the University have been working hard to address and respond to these concerns. I am pleased to inform you that, with the commitment of a number of SSA and University friends and supporters, we have raised additional funds that will enable an increase in financial aid available for the Spring Quarter. We are deeply grateful for this support.

Because of the nature of your commitment to the social work and social welfare profession, SSA students have a distinct role at the University. Like many health care workers and first responders working during this pandemic, many of you will be on the front lines serving communities as we work through and recover from this health crisis.

Nearly all SSA students receive some form of financial aid. The newly committed funds will make it possible to increase the aid available for most SSA students who apply and are in need. Beyond this quarter, we also have committed to a zero increase in SSA tuition for the 2020-21 academic year.

The SSA Dean of Students and DOS staff will communicate with you in the coming week about how to apply for additional aid. This will include consideration of aid for students who may already have made payments for Spring Quarter.

Thank you for your commitment to our community and to our shared mission.

Deborah Gorman-Smith, Ph.D.
Dean
Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor
University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

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April 14, 2020

Hello all,

As we continue to navigate the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that finances are top of mind for many of you. We want to thank those that have already reached out.  We know it can be hard to share the details of the current hardship you are experience. Some of you have already benefited from emergency assistance. SSA and the University are continuing to find ways to support student needs during this time. Please see below an overview of the financial resources available to all students.  This information has been sent in several different email messages and FAQs. Given the importance of the information, we want to ensure this information is located in one place.

Below are processes or programs that are in place:

  • Students with needs related to online learning should reach out to Dean of Students, Sara Furr, ASAP.
  • Student life fees have been reduced, and waivers may be granted in certain circumstances: https://spring2020.uchicago.edu/student-resources/
  • CTA UPASS was changed to opt-in this quarter to accommodate the differential needs.
  • Student Support Services continues to assist students with food security. Delivery methods have been altered to align with social distancing guidelines.  Toward this end, grocery vouchers and delivery services are provided, and the dining hall meal swipes program has been suspended.  SSS can also help students with the process of applying for federal programs like SNAP. 

Graduate and Professional students can contact:

Student Support Services

studentsupport@uchicago.edu

773.702.2435

https://inclusion.uchicago.edu/studentsupport/food-security/ 

Emergency funding options are available through the emergency assistance programs for students: https://bursar.uchicago.edu/emergency-assistance-programs/

  • The application is located in the finance tab on my.uchicago.edu.

Finally, please prioritize your non-University expenses (e.g. rent, food, medical care) at this time. Students concerned about paying any charges on your University account should complete the Financial Hardship Request.  We will be working in collaboration with the Bursar’s office to distribute additional scholarship funds to assist with these requests. This will be an ongoing, weekly process. Sara Furr will contact students individually as requests are reviewed and processed. SSA has set up an emergency fund to assist along with university-level resources. We appreciate your patience as we work to assist as many students as possible. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out immediately. We hope your first week of classes went well, you and your families are staying well, and we’ll see each other soon.

Sara Furr, PhD (she/her/hers)
Dean of Students, Diversity and Inclusion
The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA)

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April 5, 2020

Members of the SSA Community:

We begin a new spring quarter in a dramatically changed world. The scale of disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. All of us are trying to work in new ways while dealing with interruptions to our daily lives and life plans. Some students have had to move on short notice. Some have lost jobs. People across our community are caring for children at home or worrying about the health of loved ones. I deeply appreciate the commitment, self-sacrifice, and thoughtfulness for the well-being of others that I have seen during this public health crisis.

SSA also confronts a fundamentally changed environment. We must continue our work of educating, developing new knowledge, and supporting our community and the communities around us, but do all of these things in profoundly different ways. The global pandemic underscores how SSA is needed more than ever. Our School always has been about reducing disparities, giving voice to the forgotten, and uplifting the most vulnerable and marginalized. The current public health crisis intensifies our core values and presents an extraordinary moment in history.

While there is no clear roadmap for navigating the quarter, we are committed to doing all that we can to meet these challenges. You have received many messages over the last several weeks, and will continue to receive updates from University and SSA leadership as we move through the quarter. I realize it can be difficult to keep up with all of the information coming in. Please remember that important information is located on the SSA COVID-19 webpage and the University coronavirus update page. If you have other coronavirus related questions, you may call the University at 1-773-795-5374 or email coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu.

Daily events often can be overwhelming. We may not be able to see each other in person, but we all are here. Reach out for help when you need it, and provide support when you can.

Thank you for your commitment to our mission and for all you are doing to support one another during this challenging time.

Deborah Gorman-Smith, PhD
Dean
Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor
University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

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April 3, 2020

Dear students,

Given the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, SSA has revised its Pass/D/Fail policies for the 2020 Spring quarter. We take this decision in light of the potential disruptions and complications that students may face, including the concerns some students may have about taking courses in unfamiliar on-line formats, and the recognition that students may be facing particular challenges trying to juggle classes, a changed environment for fulfilling their field requirements, the possibility of health crises, and increased personal and familial responsibilities. The Pass/D/Fail option will be implemented as follows:

  • The normal limitation of one Pass/D/Fail class will be temporarily lifted, and all SSA students will have the option of taking any or all of their courses for a Pass/D/Fail rather than a letter grade for the spring quarter only. It will not carry over to other terms.
  • If you have not yet taken a class Pass/D/Fail and you are not graduating this spring, you will still have the option of taking one additional class Pass/D/Fail next year.
  • The deadline for deciding whether to take a course as Pass/D/Fail will be the Friday of Week 9 (June 5 at 11:59 pm).
    • We will send an online link to indicate your decisions.
  • Please note that this change is an option. Many students will need and want letter grades to pursue their academic and personal goals after graduation. Prior to deciding whether to opt for Pass/D/Fail rather than letter grades, students should consider whether doing so might have an impact on their job search, licensure, or pursuit of additional graduate education post-graduation. Many states have temporarily modified requirements. Check the licensing requirements in your state: https://www.aswb.org/licensees/about-licensing-and-regulation/social-work-regulation/
  • Please note that the Illinois State Board of Education has temporarily lifted the requirement for School Social Work students that all courses be taken for quality/letter grades. For Spring Quarter, all classes can be taken Pass/D/Fail and students receiving a Pass will still be eligible for the PEL certification (formerly Type 73).

The temporary change in our Pass/D/Fail policy is intended to provide flexibility in addressing the unique circumstances of this spring quarter and the diverse needs that different students may have during this time. It implies no precedent for future SSA policies. 

Sara Furr, PhD (she/her/hers)
Dean of Students, Diversity and Inclusion
The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration (SSA)

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March 21, 2020

Dear SSA Students and Field Instructors,

We are thinking about all of you as our community continues to navigate this challenging crisis. In response to Governor Pritzker's statewide "stay at home" order beginning today and effective through April 7, we are asking that all students who had continued to provide in-person service through their field placement begin remote working. We appreciate your unwavering commitment to the agencies and populations served, but we must ask that all in-person service delivery by SSA students cease.

At this point, all students should plan remote or alternative work plans through April 20th, at which time we will re-evaluate whether any student can return to providing direct service at their placement.

We know that navigating these transition plans, including planning as students are reaching their required hours, may be challenging. Field Consultants and Field Education staff are available to assist in all planning.

We will continue to gather information about remote training opportunities for Field Instructors and students and will share this information in the coming days.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to the field office with questions. Stay safe and well.

Nancy Chertok
Curtis McMillen
Deborah Gorman-Smith

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March 16, 2020

Dear SSA Students:

Rarely have we encountered a situation where the national mood and directives are changing so quickly day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Guidance from yesterday now seems out of date given the many changes around the country made just today.  With this in mind, we have new guidance for field work for SSA students.

We have heard from several students who want to continue their field placements on site. They should feel free to do so, with their field instructors’ consent. Please let the field office know of your plans. We encourage everyone else to conduct field work remotely until April 20, 2020. This would be two weeks after the beginning of spring quarter courses.  Details will need to be worked out with field instructors, field consultants and the field office using the guidance for alternative remote activities sent yesterday (and attached). If there is a discrepancy between what the field instructor and field student thinks is appropriate, please contact the field office.

We understand that some students will not be accruing field hours as they normally would during this transition to another form of field work. Therefore, SSA is reducing the number of field hours students will need to accrue to progress in program and graduate. Some students have made commitments to agencies to stay through a certain time. These should be considered when developing your field plans.

Students currently in a core field placement will need to accrue 400 hours in their field placements (instead of 480). Current concentration level students will need to have accrued 900 total field hours (core and concentration) for graduation and CSWE requirements.

  • For students who completed the core field placement as a full-time or part-time day student, this means they need 420 hours for their concentration placement.
  • For students in the advanced standing path through the SSA program, this means they need 450 hours for their concentration placement.
  • For students in the evening path program, this means they need 500 hours for their concentration placement.

Students should be aware of the following and plan accordingly. 

  • State of Illinois School Social Work requirements call for 600 hours in a school placement.
  • Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor Training Programs require 500 hours in an approved substance abuse treatment setting.

This email has been shared with field instructors and field consultants.  Again, we appreciate your patience and flexibility as we continue to navigate these rapid changes.

Nancy Chertok
Curtis McMillen
Deborah Gorman-Smith

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March 15, 2020

Dear SSA Students:

As the public health crisis associated with COVID-19 rapidly evolves, we have been faced with a host of challenges.  Among the many challenges for social workers is that we are often in positions where we serve and support the most vulnerable and marginalized.  We are the social safety net. We know that the children, families, senior citizens, and communities that we serve are those that bear the disproportionate burden and impact of this global pandemic.  As social workers, we are guided by the core values of service to community, social justice, and the dignity and worth of every person.

As social workers, we need also to be ambassadors of rational, fact-based approaches to the epidemic.  The public health recommendations that include the closing of schools, businesses, and government offices, and recommendations for social distancing present a challenge for those working in organizations that cannot close -- that have to remain open to support those most in need of services. These are the challenges of the profession and run through the profession’s core competencies.

We have heard from students asking us not to shut down field placements. We have heard from students asking us to shut down field placements. We have a greater understanding at this moment that there are number of variables that contribute to each field student’s situation being unique.

Yesterday you received guidance regarding remote activity options for field education.  Because the situation continues to change hourly, we want to emphasize the need for flexibility on all our parts in order to meet these challenges. It is our belief that each triad – field student, field instructor, and field consultant – needs to assess the current and evolving field situation and make the proper determinations for each student and inform the SSA Field Office of the plan. Some of you want to and will continue in field.  Some of you, in consultation with your field instructor and field supervisor, will make alternative plans as part of this assessment and based on the guidance you received for remote activities. 

Many of you have already started to have these conversations and have plans in place.  For those who have not, we ask you to contact your field instructors and field supervisors to begin this process and make a plan.  If you are not able to connect with your field instructor, please contact the Field Office.  Variables that should be considered when deciding whether a student remains at a site during the COVID-19 crisis include, but are not limited to

Field Site Variables:

  • Is it the field site open?
  • Does the field site involve congregations of individuals, such as in a shelter, residential treatment center, skilled nursing center?
  • Does the field site serve people who are at higher risk of death from the virus (e.g., older adults, persons who are immune compromised)?
  • Has the field site developed guidance for student trainees? If yes, what is it?

Field Instructor Variables:

  • Is the field instructor working at the site, working remotely, or not working?
  • Does the field instructor’s COVID-19 crisis responsibilities reduce the field instructor’s ability to serve the student?

Student Variables:

  • Can the student reasonably get to the site without public transportation?
  • Is the student immun0compromised?
  • Does the student have access to the means to work remotely?
  • Does the student provide care for family members that may be at higher risk of death from the virus?

Service Recipient Variables

  • Does the student provide vital services to service recipients that would put the recipients at risk if the student is not providing these services?

 Potential Outcomes:

  • The student continues to conduct field work at the field site.
  • The student conducts agency-related field work remotely.
  • The student works on alternative activities that count as field hours as developed by the field instructor (if available) and the field student.
  • The student works on alternative activities that count as field hours as developed by the field consultant (if the field instructor is not available) and the field student.
  • The student works on alternative activities that count as field hours as developed by the field office (if the field instructor and field consultant are not available) and the field student.
  • The student delays field work temporarily and will begin to accrue hours at a later time.

In addition, some of you have reached out to ask “what more can we do to support during this crisis?”  We want to also share that the Chicago Center for Youth Development, directed by Dean Gorman-Smith, is working with local community partners to deploy Center research staff to support a number of needs in the community, including food distribution to CPS students and families, providing groceries to senior citizens, and more.  These plans are still evolving, with more information to follow, but the Center is open to expanding field opportunities for students to provide support where there is greatest need.

For your reference, we have attached the guidance for remote field education activities to this email to use for planning.  Reminder that these are just examples and not an exhaustive list.  As noted, we are also working on possible alternative activities to be offered through the field office.

We know that this is a challenging time.  This situation will continue to evolve.  We are in regular communication with other programs in the city, region, and across the country as we coordinate plans.  We are counting on everyone to be patient, flexible, and above all, compassionate and kind to one another as we each do our part to navigate this evolving situation.

Nancy Chertok
Curtis McMillen
Deborah Gorman-Smith

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March 12, 2020

Dear SSA Students:

As you know, the situation related to COVID-19 has been rapidly changing over the last several days, and there is evolving guidance from public health officials in response.  As is the case for universities across the country, the University of Chicago is making plans to start the Spring quarter delivering courses online.  Final decisions and plans will be outlined later today.

Based on current data and public health guidance, Winter quarter will finish as planned. Classes continue through this week and finals will be held next week. Contact your instructor directly with any questions related to completing class this quarter.

As I shared in my email two days ago, we have been working on continuity plans for field education in the event of a disruption to ensure that students progress in the program and meet requirements for graduation. We will provide detailed information later today. 

Please keep in mind that many agencies that employ social workers (e.g. hospitals, long-term care facilities, Department of Children and Family Services) cannot close during the outbreak of a contagious disease. If you are serving in one of those agencies, there should be protocols for the management of infectious disease and you should follow all protocols at your agency to ensure your safety. If you have any concerns about your agency’s protocols and management of COVID-19, please speak with your field instructor immediately about these concerns. If you believe you need accommodations in field placement due to the possible exposure to COVID-19, are in a high medical risk category, or have questions about accommodations, please contact the Director of Field Education.  If you need additional guidance or assistance about your situation, please contact coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu.

This is an unprecedented situation. I know this raises anxiety and concerns. We will need to be flexible and patient as the landscape changes. It is also important that we all do our part to support and increase health and safety practices.  Please continue to follow the guidelines outlined by CDC and CDPH.

Again, more information regarding Spring quarter and field education will be provided later today. Thank you in advance for your understanding and assistance during this challenging time.

Deborah Gorman-Smith, Ph.D.
Dean
Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor
University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

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March 10, 2020

Dear Members of the SSA Community:

I am writing to follow-up on today's message sent by the Provost regarding the University's guidance on campus health and safety precautions related to the COVID-19 outbreak. I know that the rapidly changing circumstances associated with the spread of the disease has raised uncertainty and concern for many. As outlined in the Provost's message, the University, and we at SSA, are preparing for a range of contingencies should additional steps be needed. The precautionary steps enacted today are intended to support the health and wellness of the University community and minimize disruption of research and education. To clarify the current status:

  • Classes continue as scheduled. We are not yet going online, but have contingency plans to do so if necessary. Information regarding online platforms and training opportunities for faculty and lecturers is forthcoming should it become necessary.
  • Field education continues. No field sites have closed, however, we have continuity plans and will deploy them if necessary so students may fulfill their field education requirements. If a site closes due to COVID-19, please reach out to your field instructor and field consultant to develop a plan for completing required field hours.
  • The University has suspended all nonessential international and domestic travel through April 15. Contingency plans are in place for students participating in Washington Week. Details of the revised plan will be discussed at the pre-departure meetings scheduled this week. Please attend these meetings as scheduled. Students who were planning to travel to Dilley, Texas should schedule to meet with the Dean of Students Office.
  • University-sponsored events and gatherings of more than 100 people have been suspended through April 15. Admitted Students Day, scheduled April 4th, is cancelled. We are developing alternative options for admitted students to engage with and learn more about SSA.
  • Working remotely. Normal operations continue. Staff are encouraged to become familiar with the University's resources for working remotely should the University issue such guidelines.

As outlined in the Provost's message, if you plan to travel over the spring break, please note that evolving public health measures could make it difficult to return to campus in a timely way. Also, note that anyone returning from a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 country in the past 14 days and going forward is strongly advised to complete this simple form with information about their trip.

Further information can be found on the University's coronavirus updates. Please contact coronavirusinfo@uchicago.edu if you need guidance, resources, or assistance.

We will provide additional information as it becomes available. Please be well and use all necessary precautions to maintain your health.

Deborah Gorman-Smith, Ph.D.
Dean
Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor
The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

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