Mar. 18, 2020: COVID-19 Update

For the latest updates visit COVID-19 Updates.

Dear Members of the RISD Community,

Our focus for the past few days has been to orchestrate the departure of most of our students, to help them to get home safely, and to secure the work and the materials they left behind. Simultaneously, we are intensely planning and preparing for our move to remote learning on March 30. As a result, I have been unable to respond individually to understandable concerns many of you have raised about how this pandemic will impact you, your education and your engagement with RISD.

Those concerns are real, and I hear and feel them. While I don’t yet have all the answers—none of us does—I am working intensely with the provost, deans, faculty and senior staff to implement the best possible plans to support the academic experience for our students while keeping their health, well-being, and safety top of mind. I am also working to ensure the same for our faculty and staff —those here or working remotely as well.

I apologize for the confusion and frustration many of you have felt in the past couple of weeks while we were making very difficult decisions based on daily and almost hourly changes in the status of COVID-19, here in Rhode Island and nationally and globally. I want to express how sorry I am about some of the many difficult choices we had to make, decisions that have upended so many of you. None of us would have wished for this, nor could have predicted that the semester would turn out this way. However, I also want to express my profound appreciation for how so many of you have pitched in to make sure that we come through this in the best possible manner, together and in a way that will make us all proud when we look back on this time. I have great faith in our students, faculty and staff, and am confident that in the spirit of RISD our actions will ultimately resonate with evidence of our creative and resilient core.

Students, I want to assure you that we are here to support you. We are in the process of providing assistance to every student with need. If you are a student in need of any kind of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact We have a host of resources and services available to you. I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to this massive effort in so many ways, offering your ideas and extra time and effort, as well as donating through RISD’s Student Emergency Fund or the student/alumni independent GoFundMe site. This generous spirit prevails at RISD, and will be a key factor in helping us to come through this time as an even more nimble and dynamic community.

I know many of you still have a lot of questions. Students are asking how a RISD education can be delivered remotely. How will they complete their work without access to our studios, tools and materials? Why isn’t RISD refunding tuition? Will the Grad Show or Commencement happen? And for employees—what will my job look like during remote teaching? Will I still be paid if I can’t do my job remotely? We will address these questions and many more at our Town Hall meeting this Friday, March 20 at 1 pm (link forthcoming). I hope you will attend, and please submit questions if you haven’t already. In the meantime, we have tried to answer as many questions as we can in our FAQ.

This isn’t the semester any of us envisioned and we will continue to have many decisions to make as we move forward. I ask that you bear with us as we do, knowing that we are working from a place of care and deep consideration. People across our community are working around the clock to prepare for remote teaching, to support our student needs in every possible way, and to support each other, while we keep RISD running as smoothly as possible. I am always grateful to be part of this amazing community, and especially so in times like these, when I feel great pride in recognizing the dedication we all share for our students, and the pride we demonstrate for our institution.

With appreciation,
Rosanne Somerson

Thank you all – again – for the work you are doing as RISD navigates COVID-19. Circumstances are changing rapidly, and please know we are monitoring the State of Rhode Island, neighboring states, Federal Government, and other authorities for their latest guidance and advisories. We will continue to maintain flexibility and greatly appreciate all of the work you are doing to keep RISD safe and operational. A few updates for today:

  1. We ask that managers continue to assess work needs and only designate employees who are needed to perform critical work on campus to report to work on campus. Buildings remain open to employees who need to access belongings, work materials, and mail for remote-working purposes.
  2. All employees, regardless of work responsibilities for this week, should enter time scheduled to work in Workday to ensure regularly scheduled pay is received. Additional information on time reporting for staff will be provided tomorrow.
  3. Payroll deductions for RISD parking permits will be suspended for the month of April.
  4. Mail Services will continue delivery of mail and packages to offices at this time. Mail Services remains open with limited hours. Delivery schedules will be slightly delayed given the volume and limited accessibility to offices. If you have critical expected mail (invoices, payments, contracts, etc.), please make accommodations for someone to receive deliveries on a periodic basis so they can be processed as timely as possible.
  5. Please continue to check in with your supervisor on a daily basis to review work plans for the day and week to ensure critical RISD work is continuing.

Again, thank you for all you are doing. We will continue to provide daily updates as the situation changes. Please also refer to the frequently asked questions section of our COVID web page. Please stay safe and informed.

Best regards,
Dave Proulx
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration

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