Dear Griffon Nation,
As you know, universities across the country are planning for the upcoming semester in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, determining the best way to provide a safe on-campus environment as we resume classes this fall. Taking into account recommendations from faculty, students and staff leadership, we have been formulating a plan over the past several months that provides a quality educational experience true to our applied learning mission while concurrently protecting the health, safety, and well-being of our campus community.
Thank you for your patience as we have evaluated multiple scenarios for the upcoming academic year. The complexities of this situation are unlike any that universities have experienced in the past. Our planning has required thoughtful, evidence-based decision-making and careful consideration of all factors involved in reopening campus. While we are still nailing down details to this very fluid situation, we wanted to share some important information with you with respect to the Fall Schedule and other matters.
Fall Semester – Date Shift
Unfortunately, we realize that the continued spread of COVID-19 will remain unpredictable for many months and that we need to remain flexible for the foreseeable future. In light of the recent announcement that the Chiefs will not be holding training camp in St. Joseph this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have gained some additional flexibility with respect to the start of our academic year.
Due to concerns about COVID-19, many universities and colleges are either moving up the start date of their semesters or shifting classes/exams to online only after Thanksgiving. After considerable discussion with faculty, staff, and student leaders, we are joining with other universities that have announced early starts to their fall semesters in an effort to hopefully avoid the unpredictable and best serve our students. As such, we’ve decided to begin our fall semester on Monday, August 17th, and conclude the semester by Thanksgiving. This offers us the best option to help protect the health and safety of the campus community while providing a quality and accessible education. Our reasoning and details are described below.
If we have learned anything from the past few months, it is that we need to remain flexible. We apologize for any inconveniences caused by shifting the academic calendar and hope you understand that these decisions are being made with the health, well-being, and success of our students, employees and the broader community in mind.
Why – The Reasoning?
As we consider that health and safety issues related to COVID-19 could cause mid-semester issues again, we believe that starting early enables us to:
- Reduce the risk of infection that could occur on campus while allowing us to have 15 weeks of on-campus courses and co-curricular activities;
- Take advantage of a period of expected lower COVID-19 case rates before winter hits (health officials worry about increasing sickness during the winter months);
- Benefit from exceptional weather for outdoor extracurricular activities;
- Be flexible in case the health situation in St. Joseph deteriorates later in the year;
- Minimize the spread of COVID-19 by keeping students, staff, and faculty away from campus after traveling and interacting with others during the Thanksgiving holiday.
- Alleviate issues that a sizable number of students have with respect to off-campus Internet access and the availability of technology to participate in online courses.
We will continue to monitor the situation and determine if any adjustments to the spring 2021 calendar are necessary.
What – The Revised Schedule?
To support the health and safety of the community, we are adjusting the academic calendar for Fall 2020 as follows:
- Classes will start two weeks early on Monday, August 17.
- On-campus instruction will end the week of Monday, November 16.
- Final exams will be held between Friday, November 20, and Wednesday, November 25.
- Students will leave campus by Thanksgiving unless they receive special permission to remain in the residence halls over the break.
- Fall commencement will be held on a date to be determined.
- Grades will likely be due by December 14.
- We will share additional details about the semester and commencement soon.
- For new residential students, move-in will take place August 11-12 by appointment. For continuing residential students, move-in will take place August 13-16, again by appointment.
- For all new students, Griffon Edge will occur on August 13, 14 and 15.
Other Important Notes
We anticipate releasing other important information and detailed instructions related to the fall semester in short order. Our planning has been comprehensive, but it is going to require your assistance in terms of successful implementation. Of note, we will need to:
- Increase personal responsibility in terms of health (monitoring your temperature and health condition daily, staying home when signs of illness arise), hygiene (washing hands thoroughly, using hand sanitizer, etc.), cleanliness (keeping your spaces clean and sanitized), contact (holding meetings virtually), and following the recommendations of health officials.
- Practice physical distancing both in and out of the classroom (limit close contact). We are planning to adjust class sizes, scheduling classes in larger spaces, and limiting some activities to make it easier to practice physical distancing.
- Follow the guidance of health officials with respect to wearing face coverings. Per CDC guidance, face coverings should be worn to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult (we will be distributing a branded mask to all members of the campus community).
- Explore a variety of formats for course offerings including in-person with physical distancing practices, blended courses with a combination of in-person and online instruction, and fully remote courses.
- Stream all courses to the extent feasible. We understand that some students may wish to remain at home for health or personal reasons. With our varied course formats and streaming of classes, all students can still work on their degrees whether remotely or in person. Some faculty may need to teach fully remote for similar reasons. This will allow for flexibility for everyone. In fact, a mix of modalities allows us to offer courses in ways that support deep student engagement while ensuring that our classrooms and learning spaces support physical distancing guidelines.
Naturally, there will be many more aspects associated with an on-campus experience this fall. As mentioned, additional details will be forthcoming. However, we wanted to provide you with information regarding the revised academic calendar as soon as possible.
Again, we sincerely appreciate your understanding during these difficult and unpredictable times. Please know that our commitment to student success is unwavering and that we are here for you. We are looking forward to an exciting fall semester and having our students back on campus. Go Griffs!