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Looking Ahead to an Exciting 2021

A message to the campus community from President Dennis Assanis

Dear UD Community,

With the fall semester now at the halfway point, I want to sincerely thank everyone who has stepped up in true Blue Hen spirit to work together as we all navigate the unprecedented health and economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand that each of our experiences have been unique over the past several months, and I hope that you and your loved ones are as safe and healthy as possible during this difficult time.

Whether you have been on or off campus this semester, your dedicated collaboration and cooperation have been absolutely essential to enable the University of Delaware to carry on our critical work of teaching, learning, creating, exploring, engaging, serving and more. Together, we have kept the health and safety of our community as our top priority, operating during the COVID era by employing research-based protocols, daily health checks, frequent testing, contact tracing and other initiatives. We have so far avoided lockdowns or other extreme measures, and our quarantine and isolation facilities have not been occupied at any more than about 12% capacity. Very few COVID cases have been traced to the residence halls, and no cases have been linked to classroom or laboratory transmission.

The vast majority of our students, faculty and staff have embraced the “Protect the Flock” mindset to keep themselves and each other safe. Soon, we will be ramping up our surveillance testing program from 1,000 tests per week now to about 4,000 tests per week so we can quickly identify COVID-positive individuals and support them appropriately. Additional measures are being developed, and information will be communicated as it becomes available.

These successes — and the culture of caring that is always a hallmark of the UD community — give us confidence to move forward with our plans to continue phasing in a more robust on-campus experience. At this time, we expect to offer more face-to-face classes, residence hall accommodations and campus activities for more students in the spring semester. Of course, it is difficult to say with certainty what will happen in the weeks and months ahead, so our plans must remain flexible to accommodate the evolving nature of the pandemic. Adherence to the health and safety measures implemented by UD and required by local and state authorities will continue to be critical to the success of our operations and, more importantly, to the health, safety and overall wellbeing of our community.

Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving break begins after the last class on Friday, November 20, and all classes will resume virtually on Monday, November 30, for the balance of the semester. The few students who remain in the residence halls during the break or return after the break must get tested for COVID-19 during the week of November 30. Information regarding that testing requirement, as well as end-of-semester details about housing, will be communicated shortly. All off-campus students are strongly encouraged to be tested upon their return to Newark.

Winter Session

Most Winter Session courses will be delivered online, with 150 new sections available and nearly 1,500 additional “seats” this winter. Five-week courses begin January 4, and four-week courses begin January 11. Registration opens October 26. Please note that we will not be housing students in our residence halls during Winter Session unless there are documented extenuating circumstances.

As announced previously, undergraduate students who are taking at least 12 credits but fewer than 18 credits in the fall semester can “float” up to six credits to the 2020-21 Winter and/or Summer Sessions at no additional cost. This presents an excellent opportunity for students to stay on track to graduation. More details about this option are available here.

Spring Semester Calendar

The spring semester will start on February 15, one week later than originally scheduled. This will reduce campus activities during the flu season, provide more time for a longer move-in process and allow more campus activities to take place in warmer weather. To help minimize off-campus travel as a precautionary health measure, there will be no spring break, though UD will provide wellbeing programming for students, faculty and staff. The last day of classes will be May 18, and the final examination period will end May 27. Commencement is planned for May 29, subject to public health guidelines and requirements.

Academics

Spring classes will be taught face-to-face whenever possible. We expect to offer far more in-person academic experiences than have been available in the fall semester while continuing to fine tune the mix of face-to-face and online courses. The University has invested significantly in technology and training this year — which enabled us to provide most of our fall course sections online — and our faculty continue to devote tremendous time and effort to adapting and developing their course content to meet students’ needs and expectations. Because of physical distancing guidelines, spring classes with 50 or more students will be online, though smaller in-person breakout sessions will be offered where possible. The typical Monday/Wednesday/Friday and Tuesday/Thursday weekly schedule will continue. All instructors teaching face-to-face courses will continue to be prepared to go online, if necessary.

We recognize that some students may not be able to come to campus in the spring for personal or health reasons. The University will make every effort to offer online versions of courses that will be delivered in a face-to-face format. However, not all courses offered will be available online, in particular those with essential learning outcomes that include development of specific hands-on skills that can only be taught in the laboratory or studio. Students who are unable to attend these limited courses in person should consider alternative courses for the spring semester. Students who need accommodations due to an underlying medical condition or disability should work with the Office of Disability Support Services.

Spring course registration begins November 9, and course information will be available about one week prior to that date.

Residence and Dining Halls

To reduce the density of our campus this fall, we limited the number of students living in residence halls to about 1,300, or about 20% of capacity. We plan to increase that to about 4,000 students in the spring, or about 60% of capacity. Knowing how valuable the on-campus experience can be, we will give priority to first-year students, helping them build bonds with their new classmates, and to seniors, so they can pursue internships, research projects and other hands-on experiences to prepare them to enter the workforce after graduation. Additional students (primarily sophomores and juniors) may be assigned spaces based on available capacity. With few exceptions, all students will live in singles. Depending on the number of students living on campus, we plan to open at least two dining halls to meet their needs. Next week, Residence Life and Housing will communicate important information to all students holding current housing contracts.

Student Life

We plan to increase in-person student engagement opportunities in the spring, as the trajectory of the coronavirus will allow. We understand, however, that there will continue to be fewer activities on campus than normal, so the Comprehensive Fee and the Graduate Recreation Fee will again be reduced by 15% for the spring. These fees help provide important services and programs to our students, whether they are on or off campus. The Student Wellbeing Fee and the Student Centers Fee, which continue to support services to which all students will have access, will not be reduced in the spring.

Research

Since August, about two-thirds of our researchers and their co-workers have been working in campus labs, in research centers and at field sites. We will continue to expand these operations consistent with our guidelines while also increasing access to visitors and collaborators and allowing time-sensitive research travel. Moving to the next phase of research operations will depend on the trajectory of the pandemic, public health guidelines and availability of testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment. It is a testament to the dedication of our research community that this robust operation has been such a success story for UD.

Athletics

I know we are all excited to see the Fightin’ Blue Hens back in action soon. The University is taking a very measured and thoughtful approach to resuming competition for UD’s intercollegiate athletic teams, with all of its benefits for our student-athletes and the entire UD community. Tentatively, all sports postponed from this past fall, including football, will shift to spring, beginning January 23. Winter sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, will begin November 25. Spring sports are currently planned during their customary season. However, all regular competition schedules are likely to be shortened and modified to avoid air travel and overnight stays.

Faculty and Staff

We continue to prioritize the return to campus of employees who directly engage with students face-to-face. This includes faculty, instructional support services, student life, athletic and recreation services, and laboratory research and campus operations personnel. While a majority of our administrative operations will continue remotely for the spring semester, we will continue to evaluate this as spring approaches.

This has been a semester full of unprecedented challenges, and the remainder of the academic year will continue to compel us to be flexible and resilient. With challenges, though, also come opportunities — for new ways of teaching and learning, new research questions to be answered, new ways of engaging and supporting each other. At the University of Delaware, we must always look beyond the hardships of today and explore opportunities to shape a better world tomorrow.

If you have questions about the University’s plans for 2021, please visit this FAQ page, which is being updated as more information becomes available, or email coronavirus@udel.edu. I look forward to seeing you on campus again soon.

Sincerely,

Dennis Assanis, President

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