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Looking Towards Spring

As we navigate the final weeks of the fall semester and look towards spring, I’m pleased to offer this communication in an effort to clarify the what and why of plans for spring. In these very uncertain times, it is my hope this helps us all feel a bit more grounded.

What is happening with Spring Break?

Prioritizing the health and wellbeing of our students and employees, as well as their families and communities, has guided our decisions about spring break. Rather than eliminating spring break altogether and ending the semester one week early (which would have threatened the educational benefits of our Veteran and active military students), we have opted to push spring break to the week of April 12-16 and to deliver the final two weeks of classes remotely.

This approach was the top choice of the Associated Students Assembly by a near supermajority (63%). Chief among their reasons for wanting to push the break later in the semester was their recognition that many students are facing significant emotional and mental health issues, and that fifteen weeks of class without a break would only exacerbate their vulnerability on these fronts. Placing the break where we have for spring mirrors our treatment of Thanksgiving break in the fall and provides students an opportunity to rest and recharge before the push for final class projects and exams.

It’s very important to emphasize that the university is not encouraging students to vacate student housing after spring break (or after Thanksgiving, for that matter); quite the contrary. We will transition any in-person instruction to remote in order to reduce the level of exposure on campus. However, campus services will remain open and active after both Thanksgiving and spring break, providing valuable academic and social support for students. We encourage students to remain on campus in order to take advantage of these services and our facilities.

How is the spring semester starting?

Spring semester classes will begin on Monday, January 11, 2021. The first week of instruction will be held remotely for all classes. The delayed start to in-person instruction is in place to accommodate surveillance testing of students who live on campus and employees who will be working on campus. This will help to keep our campus community safe by reducing campus mixing while we identify and address any positive cases returning from winter break. This was suggested by the Associated Students Assembly as an alternative to a delayed semester start with no spring break, and it was well received by university leadership. Our new campus CLIA-certified lab makes it possible for us to execute highly accurate PCR testing of everyone needing it, with lab results in less than 24 hours.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required everyone in the campus community to flex in ways that we hadn’t previously imagined. I feel deep gratitude and pride for the ways in which our students, faculty, and staff have risen to the formidable challenges that we face together in service to our mission.

Thank you for your interest, understanding, and support.

Dr. Tony Roark
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs