Fall 2020 Undergraduate Plan and ReOpen DC Plan
July 6, 2020
Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:
I write today to share with you an update on our Fall planning, including information about our approach for our undergraduate programs, our plan being submitted to the D.C. Government, and our comprehensive public health framework. I wish to express my profound gratitude to all of the members of our University community who have contributed to our response in this complex and challenging moment.
In my message on June 9, I provided a set of assumptions that have guided our planning. Since that time, our School of Medicine, Graduate School, Law Center, and School of Continuing Studies have each outlined aspects of their approach for the Fall, and we have announced our intention to resume on-campus research activities through a phased approach in mid-July.
Our actions are guided by our deep commitment to the health and safety of our community. As we respond to this global pandemic, the safety of our community is our most important consideration. As the conditions of the pandemic change, it may be necessary for us to change or alter our plans. In recent days, we have experienced the highest recorded numbers of COVID-19 cases in our nation, since the emergence of the pandemic. Many circumstances remain out of our control or have yet to unfold. This unpredictability and sense of uncertainty provide their own set of challenges, as we seek to define our Fall approaches. We are working to provide as much clarity as possible, while we continue to track, anticipate, and respond to the ongoing and serious threat that the pandemic presents to individuals and to communities.
My focus in this letter is on our undergraduate students and the comprehensive public health framework that we are building to support our academic mission in this challenging environment. As part of this framework, we must significantly reduce the density on our campus and in our residence halls.
We are planning to move forward in stages.
As we begin the Fall semester, and if conditions allow, we plan to welcome to campus approximately two thousand undergraduates, including:
- Members of the first-year class, the Class of 2024;
- Students whose personal or family situation makes it impossible or unrealistic to pursue their studies at their permanent address;
- A limited number of seniors and other students whose graduation requirements and academic program necessitate an on-campus presence; and,
- Some student Resident Assistants to support this small residential community.
These students will live in our residence halls and will be required to adhere to community and public health protocols as part of our layered public health approach. Students will be dispersed across residence halls to limit density in any one location. Each student will live in a single occupancy room.
If the conditions of the pandemic permit, we will look at the possibility of moving to a next stage–welcoming additional students back to campus residence halls, beginning with members of our senior class.
For our undergraduate students in residence on campus, some classes may be provided in-person. Some classes will be virtual. Our faculty are working to determine approaches for each individual class. Every in-person class will employ a hybrid and flexible approach that will enable a student, or the entire class, to continue in a virtual environment, if required by public health obligations. Students who prefer to pursue their education in a virtual mode this Fall will have the option to do so, absent any regulatory restrictions which may apply to a limited number of international students.
For our students who are not in residence on campus, we will employ a virtual learning environment this Fall. This was a challenging decision and one that we know will disappoint many who are eagerly anticipating a return to in-person learning. In our careful review of possible scenarios for the Fall, it became clear that we must reduce density and significantly limit on-campus activities. As part of this approach, we are strongly encouraging undergraduates not living on campus to remain at their permanent addresses, and we are strongly discouraging undergraduate students from seeking off-campus housing in neighborhoods surrounding our Main Campus. Even if a student has already secured off-campus housing, they will participate in their classes virtually and will be required to adhere to University policies and protocols, including those regarding health and safety.
Since our transition to virtual learning this past March, our colleagues have devoted significant time to enhancing the virtual learning experience through workshops organized by our Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) and implementing improvements informed by student surveys. Our colleagues have also been working on enhancing approaches to support co-curricular life in a hybrid environment, where some students may be in-person and some will be participating remotely. Student-led organizations and co-curricular activities play an invaluable role in fostering a sense of community and belonging. Activities and services supporting student life will follow our health and safety guidelines and will integrate virtual participation. More details will be provided as we get closer to the start of the Fall semester.
In the event that we face significant community spread of COVID-19 on campus or other conditions that require action, we will be prepared to become fully virtual for all classes and activities. As we monitor the conditions of the pandemic and our public health obligations in the coming weeks and months, it may become necessary for us to revise our plan and to further reduce the number of students on campus, either before students arrive or during the semester.
There are many remaining questions that we are working to address and will require our continued engagement.
For our international students, this time brings unique challenges and concerns. Our Office of Global Services, along with senior academic leaders, are closely monitoring government guidance affecting our international students, and will be communicating additional information as soon as possible.
Additionally, our colleagues at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) are coordinating their Fall plans with the Qatar Foundation and will be providing updates in the days ahead.
Regarding intercollegiate athletics, no decision on Fall athletic competition has been made. We are in communication with the NCAA, BIG EAST, and Patriot League as we develop frameworks for health and competition and will share more information as soon as possible.
For more information on these and other issues, please consult our new Fall 2020 webpage, which includes detailed information and “Frequently Asked Questions” on a wide range of topics related to Fall 2020 planning.
Our ReOpen DC Plan
As I shared with you on June 9, each college and university in the District of Columbia is required to submit a plan to the city outlining plans for the Fall semester as part of the ReOpen DC plan announced by Mayor Bowser on May 21. In order for research and academic activities to resume on our campuses, our plan must be accepted by the District of Columbia, and the city must be in Phase Two or Phase Three of the ReOpen DC plan. Washington, D.C., entered Phase Two on June 22. You may review the plan that we have submitted and visit our webpage for additional details. Further information will be communicated once it is available.
Health and Safety
I wish to address key areas within our plan focused on health and safety.
Testing: Before returning to any of our Washington, D.C. campuses for the fall, all students, faculty, staff, and other members of the Georgetown community will be required to complete a COVID-19 test, with an at-home test kit provided by the University, to the extent practicable. All undergraduate students living in off-campus housing in the neighborhoods directly adjacent to the Main Campus must also be tested. Upon arrival to campus or the surrounding neighborhoods for the first time in the semester, we will require two additional tests–one within 24 hours of arrival and another within five days of arrival. On an ongoing basis, we will test all symptomatic individuals and students, faculty, or staff who are close contacts of positive test cases. Asymptomatic individuals may request a test from the University, which we will provide depending on availability. We will also deploy routine, randomized, and asymptomatic testing to proactively monitor for signs of community spread on campus.
Symptom Monitoring: Allstudents, faculty, staff, contractors, and visitors to campus will be required to review their symptoms daily through a mobile application or, where necessary, questionnaire, in order to gain entry to campus buildings.
Quarantine & Isolation: Self-quarantine will be required for University community members based on guidance from a physician or care provider, public health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the District of Columbia, or close contact with an infected person, for a duration indicated by public health officials. All individuals who have a confirmed positive COVID-19 test result will be required to isolate for the period of time required by public health officials. We will provide dedicated isolation spaces and appropriate support services for those individuals who test positive, live on campus, and are required to isolate.
Contact Tracing: We will collaborate with and support the District of Columbia contact tracing program to help identify, track, and manage contacts of COVID-19 patients within the University community.
Safety Measures: We will establish a set of common expectations, guidelines, and safety measures to ensure that day-to-day activities support public health efforts to mitigate infection risks. We will adopt a new Georgetown University Community Compact,which will outline our mutual responsibilities and the commitments we must make to one another. Additional details about this compact will be shared in the coming days. We will also launch a multimedia communications plan to educate the community about the importance of creating a culture of care.
As part of our safety measures, we will require face coverings in public or shared spaces, physical distancing, and hand hygiene. We will deploy a rigorous cleaning and disinfection program across our facilities and spaces in line with local and federal guidelines. While we will encourage events to be held virtually, all University events will need to comply with applicable District of Columbia and CDC guidance regarding gathering size and physical distancing. We have also developed a “Safe and Healthy Traveler” program for Georgetown University Transportation Shuttles (GUTS).
Primary Care & Behavioral Health: We will continue to provide comprehensive health services and mental health support for all students through our Student Health Center, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS), and other support services, and will also facilitate access to telehealth services for all students, faculty, and staff, through CAPS, the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, and current primary care providers.
Monitoring Public Health Conditions: We will actively monitor the conditions of the pandemic in relation to our campus community, by tracking areas such as:
- Numbers of COVID-like illness
- Numbers of positive tests
- Numbers in isolation and self-quarantine, and
- Hospital and regional public health data.
These and other metrics will be utilized to monitor overall campus health and will allow us to balance protecting privacy with our responsibility to protect public health.
We are closely following local and national developments in the trajectory of the pandemic. In just the past few days, we have entered the most acute phase of the crisis to date, as the number of new infections grows nationally. In the coming weeks, these rapidly changing conditions may require us to make significant adjustments to our plans, including the possibility of a fully virtual environment. Our planning assumptions have emphasized the importance of flexibility, and the possibility of needing to significantly adjust campus life as local or national guidance changes and as the conditions of the pandemic evolve. We will continue to share updates and information as soon as they are available. In the coming days, we will be announcing virtual forums for members of our community–including incoming students and parents–to provide further details and answer questions.
I wish to express my deepest appreciation to many colleagues across the University who are contributing to our Fall planning–our public health advisory group, our faculty and staff leadership bodies, our student leaders, and many others, who are working to shape the very best possible experience for our community under these most challenging circumstances. Faculty and staff across the University have spent countless hours preparing for the challenges to come, in order to sustain our academic mission and support our students, and I could not be more grateful for the dedication, creativity, and resilience demonstrated by everyone in our community. I especially wish to thank our students, parents, and families for their patience, understanding, and support as we have worked to prepare for the upcoming Fall semester. This moment is unlike any other we have ever experienced. We will face new challenges and we will be required to adapt our behavior in order to protect the health of one another. Each one of us is impacted differently, but all of us must work together as we respond. The strength of our community, our values, our commitment to one another and to the common good has prepared us for this moment and will continue to shape our University, as we face these challenging months ahead. I look forward to sharing this work with all of you.
John J. DeGioia