Category: Messages to the Community

Title: Announcement regarding our Spring 2021 Plan

Date Published: November 16, 2020

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

I write today to share details about Georgetown’s plans for the Spring semester. In this message, I will provide information about our Spring approach, which will focus on bringing seniors back to campus and providing some in-person learning experiences for seniors, graduate and professional students. Our campus leaders will soon send you follow-up messages with more detail about the Spring on particular campuses.

These are profoundly hard decisions, and in navigating through this difficult time, we are guided by our first priority–the safety of our community. It is a foundation for all of our decision-making. I recognize the weariness that many of us feel about the impacts of this pandemic–the disruptions and restrictions on daily life, how much it has upended our routines. For all of us, this is not how we would like to be operating and I understand the disappointment and frustration that comes with these circumstances. 

As I write to you today, we are experiencing an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 infections in the United States. COVID-19 cases in our country are higher than they have ever been and are rising exponentially. My weekly video presentation describes some of the decisions that I outline below and provides additional context on the extremely serious situation we are all facing.  As I share in the video, all of our plans are provisional and subject to modification. Our plan will also be submitted for review and acceptance by the Washington, D.C. government. 

Residential Community 

This Fall, we had approximately 500 students living in our residence halls on the Main Campus. Going forward, we plan to double this number, bringing back approximately 500 additional seniors, members of the undergraduate Class of 2021, who currently live outside of the Washington, D.C., area. Seniors will hear from the Office of Residential Living tomorrow, November 17, with more details on this process. Additionally, a small number of exceptions may be granted for undergraduate students whose living situations have changed substantially and who no longer have stable housing. Our Law Center will also increase the number of residential students on our Law campus. 

We know how eager the members of our community are to return, particularly our first-year and transfer students who have had to delay the beginning of their time on campus, and the disappointment that comes with this decision. Given the current state of the pandemic, we are not able to bring more members of our community to campus at this time. We will continue to monitor this closely and will be prepared to bring additional students to campus, should conditions considerably improve. 

For the undergraduate Class of 2024, we are developing a special residential Summer semester that will provide an opportunity for students to live on campus and take credit-bearing courses before they begin their sophomore year, provided public health conditions allow. This program will be optional and will allow students additional time to experience residential life at Georgetown. 

Mode of Instruction

All courses will be offered virtually. 

On the Main Campus, we are planning to introduce some hybrid courses–virtual courses that have in-person components–for senior undergraduate students–both those in residence on campus and those living in the Washington, D.C., area–and for students in the Graduate School. 

This semester we implemented 17 pilot programs to explore in-person learning. In the Spring, contingent on pandemic conditions, we are planning approximately 200 hybrid courses for senior undergraduate and graduate students on the Main Campus.  

We are also planning for some hybrid academic experiences for Medical, Nursing, and Law students. These programs will provide some students the option of being physically present in the classroom for in-person elements of a course, as conditions permit. All of our students will receive specific, detailed information about the hybrid approaches for their school or academic program. Our School of Continuing Studies has previously announced its intention to be virtual in the Spring.

We will follow a revised academic calendar, with undergraduate courses beginning on January 25. Specific details regarding the updated calendar will be provided by appropriate schools and programs.  

Study and Recreation Opportunities

Over the course of the Spring semester, we are looking at providing new opportunities for studying and gathering on campus. A reservation system will provide access to certain key campus locations–with strict adherence to our public health program, including participation in our Community Compact, testing, mask wearing, physical distancing, and limited gathering sizes. On the Main Campus, we will be rolling out access gradually and prioritizing seniors and residential students first. We are also looking at opening spaces specific to graduate and professional students. We may need to modify our approach as conditions of the pandemic change or local ordinances about physical space and public health are updated. 

WeWork Partnership

We are working to provide domestic and international students with access to quiet study spaces and internet access off campus, at no cost, through a new partnership with WeWork, which has office space for individuals in 800 locations in 32 U.S. cities and in 88 cities around the world. 

Our Planning

Throughout these past few months, we have been guided by local and national public health experts and public health ordinances, and we have closely followed the work of researchers to deepen our understanding of the virus. We reviewed our assumptions and our approach with our public health team–whose members have expertise in infectious diseases, public health, global health, epidemiology, vaccines, and health law and who have helped us to interpret and project how COVID-19 might impact our community. These are individuals working in clinical settings–treating patients of all ages who have been diagnosed with COVID-19–laboratory researchers, and physician-scientists who are conducting their own research, and policy and legal professionals who have additional responsibilities advising entities around the world on the COVID-19 response. 

Our faculty have provided extensive input as part of our academic planning. They have also taken seriously the responsibility to develop engaging virtual courses and continue to refine their approaches in response to student feedback. We have held regular forums with members of our staff, going back to last Spring, to share updates and respond to questions. We have also engaged the members of our Board of Directors and our special Board working group who have advised us as we developed our plans.  We have consulted with graduate and undergraduate students, and we have heard from many families about how best to approach the Spring. 

I know that this is not the message that many in our community hoped to hear when looking ahead to next semester. We understand the disappointment in not being able to fully return to campus and how eager our community is to be together in person. We recognize how important a residential experience can be in the lives of our students and appreciate the strong desire to return to residential life. 

These are challenging decisions. We will continue to monitor the state of the pandemic and may find it necessary to make adjustments at a future time. In the coming days, you will receive additional information from your campus leaders. I also encourage you to visit the University’s COVID-19 Resource Center website and these frequently asked questions, which are updated regularly. If you have additional questions, please call the University’s COVID-19 Helpline at 202-784-3510 (available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday to Friday) or email covid19-questions@georgetown.edu to be connected to the appropriate University representative to answer your question. 

We are a community of 26,000 people. The virus impacts all of us. The actions we take have an impact on those around us. We share these plans with you at a very uncertain and challenging time. As we enter the winter months–widely anticipated as the most dangerous time for the pandemic–we face uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in nearly all states. We will be closely following the trajectory of the pandemic and making adjustments to our plans, guided by our commitment to the health and safety of our community. 

Our colleagues have worked tirelessly this past semester to sustain our virtual learning environment, to implement our public health program, and to develop these plans for the Spring. I cannot express deeply enough my appreciation for our faculty, our students, and our staff. For the ways that our University has come together, supported one another, and cared for our community, I am sincerely grateful. 

Sincerely, 

John J. DeGioia

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