When President Frenk recently shared our expectations that the Fall 2021 semester will be more like the traditional U experience we are familiar with, he praised the faculty’s adaptability, dedication, and resilience in helping us weather the pandemic. As we move forward in our plans for the fall, I am excited to continue to engage your support in applying the many lessons learned and employing new tools for teaching and learning effectively and creatively.
While there are many details still being finalized, I wanted to share with you some of the highlights of what you can anticipate for the new academic year. Of course, all of these are contingent on a safe return to campus, which we are increasingly confident will happen given our continued progress in vaccinating our population across all campuses. I urge those of you who have not yet been vaccinated to learn more about scheduling your shots here.
Fall 2021 Academic Calendar: A quick review of the Fall 2021 calendar reflects the reinstatement of many of the time-honored hallmarks of the academic year. Classes start Aug. 23, and the semester ends on Dec. 16. There will be a three-day fall recess from Oct. 14 to Oct. 17, and an eight-day Thanksgiving recess from Nov. 20 to Nov. 28.
Course and Classroom Scheduling: Courses will continue to be scheduled uniformly throughout the academic day and classroom management will be centralized to allow for better utilization of classroom spaces, more uniform technology, and better support for faculty and students. Although we do not anticipate using non-traditional teaching spaces, such as the Watsco Center, Newman Alumni Center, and others, we will continue to provide 25 minutes between classes to facilitate cross-campus movement and as a precaution should we need to pivot to a socially distanced semester in which non-traditional spaces are reintroduced.
Face-to-Face Instruction: We anticipate that most adults (i.e., faculty, staff, students) will be vaccinated by June and everyone will have access to the vaccine by mid-July. Therefore, there will be greater freedom to restore in-person instruction and more intentionally explore new pedagogies. Additionally, there are no plans to provide faculty accommodations to teach remotely. We will continue to monitor CDC and other public health guidelines and will consider limiting and/or removing current restrictions calling for the mandatory use of face coverings and physical distancing, among others, if conditions safely warrant doing so. In fact, for the summer, we are reducing in-person classroom social distancing to three feet, consistent with CDC guidelines.
International Travel: We are looking into the feasibility of study abroad programs, international research travel, and bringing international scholars to campus as we develop our wider return-to-campus plans. We will share these once they are finalized shortly.
While we are all looking forward to a return to normalcy, the reality is that things will never be completely the same—we have learned and grown too much as an institution and as individuals for this to happen. Certainly COVID-19 has changed the face of research, scholarship, and pedagogy, and reinforced our resolve to move forward with a clearer focus. By learning to live with uncertainty, the U is stronger, nimbler, and resolutely future-focused—you have been and will continue to be an integral part of this progress.
I invite you to send me your questions and to attend future townhalls hosted by your schools and colleges.