The Fall 2020 Term: Open, Closed, Online? (updated)

California State University, Fullerton has announced that it is planning for all Fall 2020 courses to be offered online only, at least at the start of the term, according to the Los Angeles Times (via Inside Higher Ed), though it may change those plans if circumstances allow.

Stanford University and Boston University are considering cancelling all courses for Fall 2020 and beginning the academic year in January 2021, though no decisions have been made.

If your university or college has announced plans for Fall 2020, or is considering some interesting options, let us know.

UPDATE (4/27/2020): In an op-ed in The New York Times, Christina Paxson, the president of Brown University, stresses the importance of universities reopening in the fall and sketches what she thinks would need to happen:

Testing is an absolute prerequisite. All campuses must be able to conduct rapid testing for the coronavirus for all students, when they first arrive on campus and at regular intervals throughout the year. Testing only those with symptoms will not be sufficient. We now know that many people who have the disease are asymptomatic. Regular testing is the only way to prevent the disease from spreading silently through dormitories and classrooms.

Traditional contact tracing is not sufficient on a college campus, where students may not know who they sat next to in a lecture or attended a party with. Digital technology can help. Several states are working to adapt mobile apps created by private companies to trace the spread of disease, and colleges and universities can play a role by collaborating with their state health departments and rolling out tracing technology on their campuses.

Testing and tracing will be useful only if students who are ill or who have been exposed to the virus can be separated from others. Traditional dormitories with shared bedrooms and bathrooms are not adequate. Setting aside appropriate spaces for isolation and quarantine (e.g. hotel rooms) may be costly, but necessary. It will also be necessary to ensure that students abide by the rigorous requirements of isolation and quarantine.

Aggressive testing, technology-enabled contact tracing and requirements for isolation and quarantine are likely to raise concerns about threats to civil liberty, an ideal that is rightly prized on college campuses. Administrators, faculty and students will have to grapple with whether the benefits of a heavy-handed approach to public health are worth it. In my view, if this is what it takes to safely reopen our campuses, and provided that students’ privacy is scrupulously protected, it is worthwhile.

Last week, Mitchell Daniels, the president of Purdue University, announced measures it is considering taking in order to reopen in the fall:

The approaches below are preliminary, meant to be illustrative of the objectives we will pursue. View them as examples, likely to be replaced by better ideas as we identify and validate them.

They could include spreading out classes across days and times to reduce their size, more use of online instruction for on-campus students, virtualizing laboratory work, and similar steps.

We will look to protect the more vulnerable members of our community by allowing (or requiring, if necessary) them to work remotely. Like the rest of society, we are learning a lot right now about which jobs are most amenable to remote work, and about new and better ways to do such work.

We intend to know as much as possible about the viral health status of our community. This could include pre-testing of students and staff before arrival in August, for both infection and post-infection immunity through antibodies. It will include a robust testing system during the school year, using Purdue’s own BSL-2 level laboratory for fast results. Anyone showing symptoms will be tested promptly, and quarantined if positive, in space we will set aside for that purpose. 

We expect to be able to trace proximate and/or frequent contacts of those who test positive. Contacts in the vulnerable categories will be asked to self-quarantine for the recommended period, currently 14 days. Those in the young, least vulnerable group will be tested, quarantined if positive, or checked regularly for symptoms if negative for both antibodies and the virus.

Again, these concepts are preliminary, intended mainly to illustrate an overall, data-driven and research-based strategy, and to invite suggestions for their modification or exclusion in favor of better actions. They will be augmented by a host of other changes, such as an indefinite prohibition on gatherings above a specified size, continued limitations on visitors to and travel away from campus, required use of face coverings and other protective equipment, frequent if not daily deep cleaning of facilities, and so forth.

Meanwhile, according to Inside Higher Ed: William Jewell College, a private liberal arts college located in Missouri, intends to reopen in the fall; the president of the University of Mary Washington, a state university in Virginia, tweeted an intention to reopen in the fall; Oakland University, a public university in Michigan, is planning for a “hybrid” opening.

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