University plans ‘predominantly in-person instruction’ and return to relative normal for the fall
Washington University plans to hold most classes in-person in the fall, increase housing density and possibly require students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated for the start of the next semester, Chancellor Andrew Martin and Provost Beverly Wendland announced in an email Wednesday afternoon.
Lecture components of the University’s largest courses will likely remain online and social distancing guidelines will likely remain in place, but students will be allowed to live in modern doubles, a change from this year’s single-occupancy limit. Students in traditional housing will live in singles, and the University has not yet decided whether it will continue requiring regular COVID-19 surveillance testing, though the administrators indicated that the University will still offer diagnostic testing for symptomatic community members.
“Overall, we are cautiously optimistic that fall will feel a lot more ‘normal’ than what we have experienced during the current academic year,” Martin and Wendland wrote.
Student Union President Ranen Miao is looking forward to this return to more normalcy. “I think everyone is excited,” he said. “I’m excited to be able to sit with people, and eat food together. and not die…I think most importantly, it’s just forming memories that we were denied.”
The University will update course listings before registration begins in mid-April, but students might not know of some class modalities until as late as June. While the University will provide some online learning accommodations to those with “extraordinary personal circumstances,” Martin and Wendland wrote that “our goal is for most learning to take place in the classroom.”
A student moves out of University housing in March 2020 following the announcement that dorms would close and classes were to be shifted online after spring break.
The plans align with what many other major colleges and universities have announced for the fall. The University of Chicago announced Monday that it was planning “for a full resumption of activities on campus” by the start of its academic year in September, while Emory University is planning to have 70% of its classes in person.
While the University highly recommends that students, faculty and staff get the vaccine, it is not required under the current plan.
“I think we should institute what Rutgers instituted, which is a mandatory COVID vaccine [for students], unless COVID vaccines are not widely available by the summer,” Miao said, adding that students with medical or religious exemptions should not be required to be vaccinated.
“The events that students are expecting: being able to sit inside of dorms and talk to one another, being able to go to parties, I mean, none of these things will be possible if we do not mandate vaccinations,” Miao said. “It’s important for the university and for the community to do everything possible to get us back on track.”
“I have a lot of faith in the students here so I believe that we will be able to have a safe reopening,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Wednesday night to include comments from Student Union President Ranen Miao. News editor Julia Robbins contributed reporting.