Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 announced in an all-campus message on Monday, June 15, that the University plans to resume in-person classes in the fall, pending the ongoing recommendations of University, state, and federal health and safety experts.
“Given the current public health trajectory for Connecticut, we are hoping to welcome most students, faculty, and staff back to Middletown in safe conditions in late August,” President Roth wrote. “One thing we are certain about: it will be good to be together again—safely—on campus.”
Roth noted that the coming semester will look different than those of the past because of the additional safety measures and adjustments to campus and curricular offerings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The University has convened a contingency planning workgroup, which has proposed that 2020 fall semester classes begin on campus August 31 (one week earlier than initially scheduled), with the possibility of finishing online after Thanksgiving, allowing for more time on campus during the warmer months of the year. Food services and residence halls will be organized with safety in mind, as will classrooms and co-curricular activities, and the University does expect to offer athletes on-campus programs; it will, however, limit visitors to and excursions from campus to reduce the possible spread of any illness. Distance- and hybrid-learning options will be made available to those students unable to return to campus.
Wesleyan plans to release more specific details about the fall term in July, but included some initial key elements in the campus reactivation plan:
- Health and Safety—The planning workgroup is working out details for testing, monitoring, and contact tracing in close adherence to CDC guidelines. The University will implement thorough protocols to limit and document visitors to campus (including tours, lectures, and events), as well as to notify the campus community of confirmed cases and community members who may have been in contact with someone who tests positive. Additionally, the University is meticulously following state and federal guidelines for personal protective equipment (including wearing masks in public places), indoor air quality, and disinfection protocols.
- Return to Campus—The workgroup has created a phased approach for reactivating campus that prioritizes student-facing and faculty-support positions to meet the demands of the scheduled August 31 start of classes. This approach allows ample time between phases and employs proper social distancing protocols according to State of Connecticut guidelines. The University will explore telecommuting as an alternative to traditional work arrangements for appropriate positions, and will make the greatest possible accommodations for staff in high-risk categories. Alternative work arrangements for faculty will include teaching in a variety of in-person, hybrid, and distance pedagogies. The University also continues to work through all available options for critical services for its community—child, family, and dependent care prominent among these.
- Travel—Once students return to campus, Wesleyan is asking that they not make excursions to any areas where the incidence of COVID-19 is increasing. Its current expectation is that University-funded travel will remain suspended for the fall semester, and members of the campus community who have personal travel scheduled may be asked to take additional precautions before returning to campus.
- Deferrals—The University hopes it will be a traditional semester, but also expects to offer robust remote alternatives. Students who intend to ask for a leave for any part of the academic year are asked to notify Student Affairs of their plans for the fall semester by June 30 for planning purposes.
- Student Accounts and Financial Aid—As it continues to refine its plans for the upcoming academic year, Wesleyan is delaying the release of the fall semester bill and the financial aid award notices related to it. It will provide an update on charges and financial aid immediately following the announcement in July.
President Roth stressed that “Wesleyan will take the necessary precautions and abide by available guidance from medical experts to keep our campus and the surrounding communities safe,” and that each community member must play a role and adhere to safety protocols. The University expects to issue specific guidelines to that end, which all returning students, faculty, and staff will be required to follow. President Roth also added that all current and developing plans are contingent upon the public health context.