Emory University’s plan for the fall semester includes changes in the academic calendar, a mix of in-person and online classes, changes in student housing arrangements, and stepped up cleaning and COVID-19 testing throughout the university community.
The changes were announced June 11, first in an email to faculty and staff at Emory University and Oxford College of Emory University, and then in a late afternoon video conference that included Gregory Fenves, who assumes the helm of the Atlanta-based institution as president Aug. 1.
“We will deliver an equivalent Emory experience, knowing the necessity of health and safety protocols will prevent us from providing an identical experience to past years,” read an email signed by Fenves and Claire Sterk, the current university president.
Classes will begin Aug. 19, one week earlier than usual, and end by Thanksgiving, with the final exam period conducted remotely. Classes will be held on Labor Day and there will be no fall break for undergraduates, though graduate and professional schools may amend that plan. The university is “eager for students not to take long weekends away,” during which the potential for exposure to COVID-19 increases, said Jan Love, Emory’s interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, during the video conference.
Tuition will be applied in a uniform manner regardless of a student’s mix of in-person or online classes, Love said.
Upwards of one-third of Emory’s faculty may offer their courses online “due to their own health circumstances and their need not to interact in person, due to age or immunocompromised situations,” she said.
“It is important to note that we expect students will need to adjust their schedules to accommodate changes in course offerings and formats. Further, we expect that students’ schedules will have either online courses or a mix of in-person and online courses, based on their preference. It may be rare for students to have entirely in-person schedules,” the email to faculty and staff said.
Class sizes for most in-person, large lectures will be capped to ensure meeting social distancing guidelines and “Any rare but essential large lecture classes will be held in facilities that can accommodate appropriate physical distancing measures,” according to the email.
As much as 30 minutes may be allocated between classes to avoid hallway congestion and permit students to enter and exit buildings without crowding, Love said.
According to its website, Emory’s student body is comprised of more the 8,000 undergraduates and more than 7,300 graduate students. Undergraduate tuition at Emory College and Oxford College for the 2020-21 academic year is listed at $55,200, though with housing, food, books and other expenses, that figure rises to slightly more than $75,000.
Changes in on-campus housing for undergraduates will limit dorm occupancy to two students per room, though single rooms may be available for students “who are immunocompromised or have other health considerations,” the email said. “For our students in our residence halls, know that this fall’s experience will be different.”
On the video conference, Love said that rooms in the Emory Conference Center Hotel will be reserved to ensure sufficient housing and to set aside space to quarantine anyone exposed to COVID-19 and to isolate anyone who contracts the virus.
“COVID-19 testing will be mandatory for all students living in residence halls, along with those taking in-person classes, upon or shortly before returning to campus, and will be available at any time during the semester for those who are symptomatic and for their close contacts,” the email said. “Students may not opt out of community expectations for health and safety; everyone must participate for our campus community to stay healthy.”
On the video conference, Love said that “strict cleaning protocols” in academic spaces would include techniques used by the airline industry to clean aircraft.
“We cannot guarantee you will not get sick, but together we can support each other in our academic pursuits, in community and in health,” the email from Fenves and Sterk said.
As of June 11, the University System of Georgia has not announced specific fall semester calendars for its 26 institutions. In a May 7 statement, the Board of Regents of the university system said: “While remote instruction will continue through summer, on-campus classes are tentatively expected to restart in the fall.” Published reports said that plans under consideration included: in-person classes, with and without social distancing; fully online learning, and online learning for part of a semester.
Mercer University’s fall semester plans including a start to classes on Aug. 18 in Macon, where there are about 4,800 undergraduates and Aug. 17 in Atlanta, where several of its graduate and professional programs are located. Classes will be held on Labor Day, Sept. 7, and fall break has been eliminated.
The university announced May 20 that by the time students arrive in Macon there will be “an on-campus lab that will be certified and staffed to process up to 1,000 COVID-19 tests a day, with results delivered in hours, not days. We will also be able to quarantine and care for students in isolated housing, if necessary, and notify, assess, and monitor faculty and staff who come in close contact with any individual who may test positive for the virus.”
Georgia College and State University, in Milledgeville, which has about 7,000 students, announced June 10 that fall classes would begin Aug. 12, five days earlier than originally planned The Oct. 12-13 fall break has been removed from the calendar. Classes will end Nov. 24 and exams taken online.