Managing News Editor
Following months of debate due to the fallout from the ongoing pandemic, on Tuesday afternoon, university President Dennis Assanis announced several of the administration’s plans for the forthcoming Fall 2020 semester.
The Campus Reopening and Fall Planning Task Force was assembled following the university’s closure in order to “achieve the safest and most efficient pathway” for reopening and resuming normal activities throughout the summer and fall semesters. Committee members include Assanis, Provost Robin Morgan and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John Long, along with several faculty and student representatives such as Student Government Association President Mia Carbone and Timothy Dowling, the Director of Student Health Services.
As a result of this task force’s input and recommendations, several decisions were made.
Assanis confirmed that the first day of the fall semester’s classes will be on Sept. 1, noting that classes will be conducted in a “blended format.” This includes a mix of face-to-face and online instruction, according to his email.
Through the “blended” model that the administration is pursuing, Assanis stated that the intent is to “offer face-to-face classes as much as possible.” However, there will be an emphasis on “reduced class sizes” upon students’ return in the fall.
“All classes with 49 or more students will be in online format with face-to-face recitation and small-scale interaction opportunities available as best we can provide them,” Assanis stated in the email. “In the event that UD needs to revert to fully online instruction due to escalation of COVID-19 exposures, all classes will be prepared to do so.”
As for students with any health complications or conditions that would prohibit them from attending class, Assanis stated that the university will “provide access to a high-quality online course delivery.”
The academic calendar for the fall semester was confirmed to remain the same apart from a modification to the Thanksgiving break schedule and the days thereafter.
The last day of “face-to-face classes” will take place on Nov. 20. In-person exam days, if needed, will take place on Nov. 21, 23 and 24. The exact start date of the Thanksgiving break that follows remains undetermined at this time.
Following the break, all classes and exams that take place in the remaining days of the fall semester will be conducted online.
Students living on-campus in the coming semester will move in over an “extended period” over the course of mid- to late-August. Those affected will receive more information from the Division of Student Life “soon.”
Assanis additionally said that research and graduate education will “continue to reactivate with revised safety protocols.”
A pilot focus group headed to campus in early June, comprised of members of the university’s research community, student athletes and other essential staff. The email stated that other staff “will be encouraged to continue working remotely” so that the population of people operating on campus is lowered as much as possible between now and the fall.
More than 700 members of the university community have returned to campus “on a limited basis” since “Phase 1” of research reactivation began. Assanis confirmed that “Phase 2” of research activation begins this week, meaning that research operations will now include: all field-based work, limited human subjects work in the context of clinical care visits and studio activities such as visual and performing arts and design.
Assanis stated that “UD Athletics will continue to monitor the public health situation with plans to compete.” Student athletes are being tested “in anticipation of an active fall season of sporting events.” However, no decision regarding fan attendance at forthcoming games has been made.
Assanis included an emphasis on preparation for “the new normal” upon individuals’ return to campus, which included “revolv[ing] around responsible attention to (1) daily health screenings, (2) physical distancing, (3) hand hygiene and (4) wearing cloth face coverings.”
This responsible attention also included what the email referred to as “Testing, Tracing and Tracking,” wherein it was noted that all symptomatic individuals will be tested and have their contacts traced to control further transmission of coronavirus. This will be conducted by the Delaware Division of Public Health with the assistance of the university.
Assanis said that campus spaces will be “regularly deep cleaned” following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines and that thousands of new hand sanitizer stations will be installed across all campus locations. Plexiglas shields will be installed at locations with face-to-face points of sale and reception areas.
Assanis stated again that the university’s senior leadership team cut their personal salaries by “5-10%” and have further frozen the salary bases for all university staff in the 2021 Fiscal Year. This followed several reports of financial strain, including Assanis’ announcement a few months prior about the university’s $50 million spring semester loss, as well as reports of a projected fall semester loss of more than $40 million.
Assanis further announced that the Student Wellbeing Fee will increase by $250. This inflation, according to the email, is to “meet increased demand of various health services, supporting such areas as expanded telehealth services, cultivating mental health counseling, increasing [the] number of clinicians on the ground and new programming at Warner Hall, which is currently being renovated.”
The comprehensive student fee will increase by $120, to “partially defray increased operating costs, including enhanced student services, notably advising, and contractual and debt service obligations.” Student housing and dining fees will increase by $264, to offset custodial costs and renovations made to the dining halls.
Assanis reiterated that the administration and Campus Reopening and Fall Planning Task Force’s work will continue to evolve around long-term planning and the global pandemic, stating that more information is soon to come.