Dear Members of the University Community,
Last May, we committed to fully reopening our campus at the earliest possible opportunity. Since that time we have been carefully gauging the trajectory of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I am very sorry to report that developments in public health conditions over the past few weeks have forced us to conclude that it is simply too early to bring everyone back to campus.
When classes begin in August, we will limit the number of students who can reside on campus and take classes in person. We have decided to give priority to freshmen (and transfers with fewer than 30 college credits). They will move into the residence halls as planned, beginning August 17. The District of Columbia has asked that all people arriving from 27 states designated as “high risk” areas quarantine for 14 days. In compliance with that request, we will conduct our freshman and new graduate student orientations, as well as our first two weeks of classes, online.
Regrettably, sophomores, juniors, and seniors will not be able to live on campus this fall, and will take all of their classes online. We will make a few exceptions for Resident Assistants, international students, and students whose personal situations makes it impossible to pursue studies at their permanent addresses. Law students and graduate students should look for communications from their Deans early next week.
I understand this is disappointing news, because it is disappointing to us. But the large and sustained increase in infections nationwide poses a serious risk that we will be unable to provide the care necessary for a full complement of our student population. We remain confident that we can attend properly to a smaller cohort, while providing our freshmen with the best possible transition to college.
I want to reaffirm our commitment to our academic mission. All summer, our faculty and staff have worked diligently to prepare for this year, mindful that each student must be able to engage fully in his or her academic experience. We have made significant investments to prepare our classrooms with multiple, agile, high definition cameras to allow us to provide the same level of engagement to students learning remotely as we do to students in the classroom.
We will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine when we can resume in-person courses and other activities. It is important that we follow CDC and District guidelines for the transition from a largely virtual mode, and our academic leaders will share updates as information becomes available.
Now that we have decided to limit the number of students living and studying on campus, our Roadmap 20/21 team is addressing a number of followup questions. We appreciate your patience as we work quickly through these issues, and will provide updates early next week.
Let me offer my thanks to each of our students, our faculty and staff, and our community of parents and alumni. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have worked together to deal with this crisis. It’s worth repeating that this is a disappointment for all of us. But it is only a temporary one. We will continue moving forward through this pandemic together.