Earlier this month, Willamette University proudly launched over 550 members of the Class of 2020 into the world to lead lives of achievement, contribution, and meaning. Since then, we have been immersed in planning for the fall semester and for the return of on-campus life after moving to distance learning in the spring. I wanted to make you aware of our plans to ensure Willamette can welcome our students, faculty, and staff to campus in August as safely as possible.
The continued improvements in the public health situation in our region, along with guidance from the state and information from local health providers, continues to reaffirm our plans to return to in-person instruction and a residential community in August safely. Our current work is focused on ensuring plans and safety protocols are in place, and that all members of the Willamette community understand their roles in protecting the health of themselves and others.
Our Reopening Operations Committee (ROC) has focused its planning in the following areas:
- Academics: instruction, technology infrastructure and academic services
- Student Services: housing, dining and campus life
- Human Resources: return to work plans for faculty and staff
- Facilities and Physical Spaces: operations, capacity adjustments, protective equipment, cleaning
Within the ROC are workgroups formulating operational plans about public health protocols and education, research protocols, classroom structure and preparedness, housing protocols, dining protocols, and athletics.
We are grounding our plans in county, regional, state, and federal public guidance, and understand we must allow for the evolution of that guidance as more is learned about the virus, and improvements become available around testing and treatment protocols. In the year ahead, Willamette University will be prepared to adapt nimbly and make any necessary adjustments to our normal operations, just as we successfully did in March with our quick shift to distance education.
We have already made one important change to our academic calendar to limit the number of times students must travel long distances to and from campus while maintaining the normal semester length.
In-person instruction in the undergraduate college will begin about a week earlier than previously planned, on Monday, August 24. Labor Day and the previously-scheduled mid-semester break day will be used as instructional days, and fall semester classes will end on Wednesday, November 25, after which students will return home until the start of the spring semester in January. Final exams will be administered online beginning Monday, November 30. (Students without home internet access may request an exception to be allowed to remain on campus for final exams.)
If protecting the health and safety of our community members is our first principle for fall planning, our second is to focus on our core educational mission. It is the intrinsic value of what we do in our classrooms and labs, our studios and performance spaces, and in all the other places Bearcats come together in the academic community that makes it so essential that we get back to that work as soon as possible and as safely as possible this fall.
We look forward to welcoming you to our campus community.
President Stephen Thorsett