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Update Regarding Fall 2020 Plans July 25

IMPORTANT UPDATE REGARDING FALL 2020 PLANS

 

Dear DePauw Students, Families, Faculty and Staff,

For several months, our faculty and staff have worked diligently on plans to allow all of our students who want to live and study on campus this fall to do so. Despite our best efforts, preparations and hopes, however, we now know that to safeguard the health of our DePauw and Greencastle communities in the face of an alarming resurgence of COVID-19 in our state and nation, we must limit the number who are living on campus at any one time.

I am eager to welcome and meet every student and colleague in person, and I’ve heard from so many students who are excited to return to campus. So, the decision to limit the overall number of students living on campus was especially difficult and came only after careful monitoring of data; evaluating multiple alternatives; seeking the advice of health experts in Greencastle and Indiana; and considering the recommendations of our campus-wide COVID-19 planning, safety and operations teams. 

In the remainder of this message, I’ll outline DePauw’s revised plan; more detailed information can be found in the comprehensive Q&As on the DePauw coronavirus webpage.There also will be live, virtual information sessions held this weekend; more information about those is below.

New Fall Plan: A Quick Look

All of our DePauw students are equally important to us and we invite every student to indicate their preference for returning to campus, learning remotely or being a commuter student. The number of students we can have on campus for fall term in university-owned and Greek housing is based on our ability to provide students with single rooms and the need to carefully balance the number of those living on campus with the number of available isolation spaces, as per health department guidelines. Maintaining that balance means approximately two-thirds of those students who indicated they wanted to live on campus will be able to do so. 

In determining priorities, we first focused on students newest to our community; students who may need more academic or other support; students who are unable to study from home; and campus leaders present in the community to mentor and model our community values.

During fall term, we will prioritize first-year, sophomore (Class of 2023) and new transfer students who want to live and study on campus; international students who must remain on campus due to travel and government regulations; students whose home environment is not conducive to academic success; students who exhibit particular academic risk; and selected student leaders, including some RAs, peer mentors and organizational, and Greek leaders. Should space permit, after allowing for necessary isolation and quarantine capacity, we also hope to be able to welcome, in priority order, some seniors and juniors.

For spring term, we are committed to welcoming all students, if possible. If not, we will prioritize our seniors and juniors, new midyear transfers and other specific populations as described above. If space permits, based on the number of isolation and quarantine spaces required, we also will welcome some first-year students and sophomores.

Why Was This Approach Chosen?

Due to the resurgence of the pandemic, many universities around the country are altering their fall plans based on their unique circumstances, and quite a few have announced this approach to reduce density for safer in-person learning. We know the on-campus residential experience at a small liberal arts college is paramount, and this approach allows every DePauw student who wishes to live and study on campus to do so for at least one term.

Most important, the smaller number of students on campus will minimize the risk of illness and enable us to practice physical distancing throughout campus, whether in the classroom, in residence halls or in public areas: 

  • Every student will have a single-occupancy room, including students living in Greek housing, which also allows students to quarantine in place, rather than in isolation, if needed. 
  • Appropriate physical/social distancing will be easier to maintain, with added flexibility for in-person classroom spaces and formats.
  • Adequate isolation space capacity, as per health department guidelines, will be available.

Academically, extensive data support the importance of strong on-campus interaction and mentorship in facilitating degree completion for first-year and sophomore students. Giving priority to first-years and sophomores this fall provides first-year students time to familiarize themselves with campus and their professors, supported by student leaders and peer mentors, and allows sophomores, who have had only one full term on campus, to obtain additional support and experience.

We know how critically important it will be for seniors to be on campus in the spring, as graduation approaches. We are committed to intensive, individualized support to help our seniors with their preparations for graduate school, job interviews and career plans.

Fall Term Schedule

More detailed information will follow from the Office of the Registrar, but key dates are:

  • Aug. 31: Fall classes will now begin Aug. 31, two weeks later than previously announced, to allow us to fully operationalize our COVID-19 testing protocols and finalize campus safety enhancements.
  • Nov. 20: The last day of the fall term on campus remains Nov. 20, as previously announced. However, two weeks of fully remote instruction will start Nov. 30, after a one-week Thanksgiving break. This instruction will be followed by a week for projects, papers and exams, ending Dec.18
  • Nov. 23-27:  Thanksgiving break.
  • Dec. 18:  End of exam period.

Expectation, Protocols and Care for Those Living On Campus

I want to be very clear that life on campus will be very different. While we plan to make the on-campus experience as engaging as possible, it is critical for students to know that, due to health and safety guidelines, there will be many constraints and restrictions on how we live and learn in person. These include:

  • No social gatherings with more than 10 people.
  • No visitors to residence halls or Greek houses (other than staff, residents and members only).
  • A strong likelihood of positive cases that would require isolation and quarantine of entire living spaces (in Greek housing, that might require an entire house to quarantine; in university-owned and approved housing/Rector Village, entire units; and in residence halls, an entire floor or more).
  • Violations of health and safety requirements will be considered violations of Community Standards and will result in immediate consequences, up to and including suspension or termination of the privilege of living on campus.
  • Limited dining and serving lines.
  • Remote delivery of peer tutoring, library services, center programs and offerings and other support resources.
  • Mandatory masks in all university-owned and operated common/shared spaces, including classrooms.
  • Many classes offered partly or fully remotely, even for on-campus learners, with the possibility that more (or all) classes may shift to remote delivery if warranted.
  • Required compliance with all testing protocols, including prior to and after arrival on campus, random testing upon request and contact-tracing.
  • Required compliance with quarantine and de-densifying campus protocols, including requiring students to leave campus.
  • The possibility of all students returning home if on-campus cases increase or if state or national orders go into effect.
  • Additional restrictions based on changing pandemic conditions.

It is our collective responsibility to protect the entire community. If you have any doubts about whether you can honor these expectations, policies and responsibilities, which will be required of every residential and commuter student, you should choose to learn remotely until we can safely return everyone to campus.

We are investing extensively in hand-sanitizing stations throughout campus, plexiglass shields where needed, disinfectant for shared spaces, testing kits and protocols, signage and other measures to protect everyone in our community. We’ll also have a designated team of contact tracers and staff support for those who test positive and have identified space for quarantine and isolation. 

And for everyone on campus, “Tigers Take Care” will be our mantra to remind us that we are in this together and that we must protect one another, together. As never before, this is a time to prioritize “we” rather than “me,” and to live DePauw’s core values of integrity and respect. I am confident DePauw students will be committed to our community values now more than ever.

Key Information and Next Steps for Students

Student Academic Life and the Registrar soon will send detailed housing, move-in and course registration messages; below is a quick summary of topics we know are top-of-mind for students.

  • Virtual Information Sessions: We have scheduled four information sessions tomorrow and Monday evening, July 26-27. We’ll record these sessions for those who cannot attend, and will schedule additional ones as needed:
    • All first-year students and families (Class of 2024): Sunday at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
    • All sophomores (Class of 2023) students and families: Sunday at 9:00 p.m. EDT.
    • All juniors and seniors (Classes of 2022 and 2021): Monday at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
    • Session focused on immigration/visa issues and challenges for travelling to the U.S. from abroad: Monday at 9:00 p.m. EDT.
  • Confirming enrollment, attendance and options for fall. So that we can plan housing assignments and isolation space accurately, each student will be asked to complete a Google form by Friday, July 31, to update preferences for fall term and indicate whether they wish to live and learn on campus, commute to attend classes or be fully remote learners. Juniors and seniors whose home environment is not conducive to academic success; students who exhibit particular academic risk; and selected student leaders (including some RAs, peer mentors and organizational and Greek leaders) should submit the form to confirm their desire to reside on campus.
  • Move-In and Housing. Housing assignments and detailed information will be sent on or around Aug. 10 to all first-years, sophomores, new transfer students and others who will reside on campus. Target move-in dates are Aug. 24-26.
  • Testing. Students who will be in residency or attending classes on campus will be required to participate in DePauw’s COVID-19 testing protocol and daily symptom screening. Two tests will be required within a seven-day period. Detailed testing protocols can be found in the Q&As referenced above.
  • Dining. All students in university-owned housing will be enrolled in DePauw’s COVID-19 meal plan, which will ensure that they have access to campus dining facilities and good nutrition, in the event of isolation or quarantine. For the first two weeks, dining will operate as carry-out only from Hoover Hall – with plans to be re-evaluated based on pandemic conditions at that time.
  • Student Athletes. As was announced earlier this week by the North Coast Atlantic Conference, all competition has been canceled through Dec. 31,  though we remain optimistic that winter and spring sports will continue, even if in a modified fashion. Coaches and Athletics Department staff are reaching out to all student-athletes and intend to provide customized approaches to sports development. Student-athletes will not lose eligibility if they choose to participate in their sports during the fall term.
  • Greek Organizations. Student Academic Life staff have been meeting regularly with Greek leadership. Greek houses that are operating will abide by the same standards and policies as university-owned housing to mitigate risks to the community. Each IFC and Panhellenic house corporation will make individual decisions regarding whether or not to house affiliated students who have been approved through the review process. House corporation presidents and the Greek Community Board are scheduled to meet Sunday and plan to respond to chapter members’ questions next week.
  • School of Music. Staff in the SOM are working to ensure on-campus students are able to practice and play in a safe environment. More information can be found on the SOM Q&A.

 

Commitment to Engaged Learning On and Off Campus

We know that all of you want to live and learn on campus; we want that also. There is no question that, temporarily, for those on campus, things are going to be very different from what anyone anticipated. Yet, whether learning occurs remotely or in person, the core of what DePauw is and DePauw does remains constant: the personal and professional mentoring of students from faculty and staff who are here for you and care deeply about your experience.

Your professors – who, unlike in the spring, have now had time to prepare and fully develop engaging remote classes – will continue to provide the most engaging, individualized and small-group experiences possible for each of you. They are ready to meet with you via video conference, review your drafts, provide personalized feedback and connect you with resources. As always, you will learn in small classes, with peers who are part of a close-knit community of learners, discussing ideas and collaborating with your peers and spending a good deal of time interacting with your professors. I was inspired by words shared as a follow-up to a recent meeting of our faculty that reflects their passion and dedication:

“...We carry these relationships across the whole of a student's time with us. These relationships grow and become more complex and continue to flourish, even when we work remotely. … (and) I will need to be more available than ever and work harder to ensure students get timely and personalized feedback … And I have a lot of confidence that my colleagues are feeling the same way … Faculty are here for the students.”

The full slate of DePauw support services and resources will remain available to all students, including tutoring; the Writing Center; the Academic Resource Center; peer mentors; dedicated library personnel to help you with research and assignments; career and internship services; and professional development programming available from our many other centers, all of which are preparing new delivery methods for experiential and leadership programming.

Because we have known since March that most DePauw classes would include remote or hybrid learning, we have invested considerably in helping faculty members develop engaging remote teaching practices, and we will provide ongoing staff support and expertise for both faculty and students. 

To further facilitate a robust academic experience, we’ll soon share details about a new $500 technology grant for all remote learners and a new $500 professional development grant for juniors and seniors. A Leadership in the Liberal Arts class, previously announced, will provide a $1,000 grant from our Sanger Leadership Initiative for first-years and sophomores to use for future DePauw opportunities for those who successfully complete it.

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In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue to carefully monitor the course of the pandemic nationally and in Indiana. We will remain closely connected with local and state public health officials and will adjust policies and protocols as needed to protect our community. Our hope is that, by reducing the number of students on campus during each term, we will be in a better position to avoid a recurrence of the disruptions that occurred last spring.

Please know I share the frustration and sadness that many of you must feel in light of the pivot in plans I have shared with you today. This isn’t what any of us hoped or envisioned when we planned our time at DePauw. I urge each of us to consider the many ways we can redefine this situation, viewing it as an opportunity to interact with one another and engage within our communities -- maintaining our connections to one another even if more of our personal interactions are occurring virtually and participating in civic opportunities to ensure our communities are equally supportive of all members. 

Without question, we will need to create connections more intentionally and exhibit newfound creativity and agility – the very characteristics that DePauw teaches and that prepare liberal arts graduates to lead. I know each of you are up to these challenges and I remain optimistic about the DePauw we will build together.

Thank you all and Tigers Take Care,

Lori S. White
President