BREAKING: WU announces delayed fall classes, remote exams in January

and | Senior Editors

Washington University undergraduates will start fall classes three weeks after the initially scheduled start date and will take final exams remotely in January, Chancellor Andrew Martin announced in an email Wednesday morning.

Grace Bruton | Student Life

For students in the four undergraduate divisions and University College, the first day of classes will take place on Sept. 14, instead of Aug. 24, and classes will run until Dec. 18 rather than ending on Dec. 4. Final exams will take place online after Jan. 1. The spring semester will begin on Jan. 25, one week later than usual.

Brown School and Law School students will begin their semester on Aug. 24, and finish final exams by Dec. 16. These students will start the spring 2021 semester on Jan. 19.

Currently, fall break is not included in the University’s schedule for fall semester, and Thanksgiving break will be reduced by one day. The University also announced that nonessential travel “may be discouraged” and that students who travel during the course of the semester may be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving back in St. Louis.

This fall calendar distinguishes the University from peer institutions such as Rice University and Notre Dame, which have announced plans to end their semesters by Thanksgiving.

“We still need to work through numerous details, and plans may change along the way depending on how the situation develops, but our ultimate goal is to bring students and faculty back into the classroom as much as possible,” Martin wrote.

This announcement comes as the University begins the process of bringing several hundred employees back to campus on June 1, and as St. Louis mayor Lyda Krewson has released guidelines to reopen the city.

While Martin reiterated the University’s commitment to in-person instruction, he also made clear that some online learning may be necessary, in addition to other precautions to allow for social distancing. “It’s possible that we will need to conduct some courses – particularly those traditionally held in large lecture halls – online, or through a hybrid model with some students in the classroom and others participating remotely,” he wrote.

Details regarding testing requirements for students to return to campus are currently being developed. Daily self-screening will be required of all members of the University community, and formal testing for students who report symptoms will take place in the Habif Health and Wellness Center.

Final decisions regarding large events such as Convocation and WILD have not yet been announced, but the University said that “it is likely that all large community events will be cancelled this fall.”

The University will also offer online options for students who wish to continue taking classes remotely.

Details about logistics will come no later than July 31, Martin wrote. He acknowledged that the University’s final decisions will ultimately depend on how the pandemic progresses in the coming weeks.

“We must remain nimble and be prepared to make further adjustments to our academic planning as circumstances continue to evolve throughout the semester,” Martin wrote. “Our collective strength and ingenuity have served us well so far, and we will continue to rely on those attributes as we head into this next chapter.”

Over the next two weeks, Student Union plans to facilitate communication between students and administrators by hosting a series of town hall meetings. Students seeking to ask questions and give feedback about the University’s fall semester plans are encouraged to use SU’s feedback form.

“SU will be hosting a panel of administrators in a town hall to answer any questions students may have in the upcoming weeks,” SU executive board members wrote in a statement to Student Life. “In upcoming meetings, we will continue voicing the student concerns we receive and look forward to ensuring that the Fall 2020 semester can go as smoothly as possible.”

During the upcoming semester, SU plans to focus its advocacy efforts on two of the changes announced in Martin’s email: remote finals and the removal of fall break. They acknowledged the burden these decisions may place on students.

“We’ll be advocating to change [the decision to hold finals remotely], or at the very least to provide an adjusted grading model to accommodate for us having to end the semester away from campus. Furthermore, we believe the removal of fall break would deny students an opportunity to rest in the middle of the semester. For the sake of our collective mental health, we will also advocate for days off in the middle of the semester, along with increased mental health coverage.”

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