W&L Welcomes Students Back to Campus for Fall Term
The past four months have been marked by uncertainty for all of us, and I know you are eager to hear more about our plans for Fall Term. Throughout the planning process, we have focused on providing a safe return to residential education. Virginia is now in Phase 3 of reopening, and we are optimistic that the State Council of Higher Education will approve our plan. With that in mind, we are inviting students to campus for the Fall Term.
The coming term will be different than any we have previously experienced. We are striving to deliver the essence of our residential liberal arts and legal education in unprecedented circumstances. If we are to succeed, each member of our community must contribute by agreeing to our Statement of Community Expectations, which has been developed to reduce the risk of illness and to increase the likelihood that we will complete the Fall Term on campus.
This message summarizes the critical elements of our plan. More detailed information can be found on the COVID-19 Resources website. We have prepared as carefully as possible, but it is important to bear in mind that our plans may change, depending upon the spread of COVID-19, and upon our collective ability to comply with the health and safety protocols that are necessary to allow us to be on campus.
Undergraduate students may choose whether to come to campus for instruction or not to come to campus and take classes virtually. Some courses will be taught in-person, some will be taught virtually, and others will be taught in a hybrid format. Students should consult the updated course catalog, which will be available by the end of July, to determine the format in which each course will be offered. Upper-division students considering fully virtual instruction should be aware that limitations in course selection could affect their major path, and they should contact the University Registrar if choosing this option.
Students who opt not to come to campus will be refunded room and board charges as well as the Student Health Services Fee and a portion of the Student Activity Fee. Tuition will be the same for all undergraduate students regardless of the mode of instruction they select.
First-year students who wish to apply for a one-year deferral should submit an application to the Office of Admissions by Monday, August 3. Upper-division students who wish to take an academic leave should file a request with Dean Leonard by Monday, August 10.
Students who choose to come to campus will be invited to arrive in August. We will conduct a phased first-year move-in from August 13-19. Specific dates of arrival will be communicated to each first-year student by Dean Rodocker after housing assignments have been made in mid-July. All first-year students will be placed into “home groups” of 8-12 students who will reside in proximity to each other and participate in orientation activities together, which will minimize contact among students prior to the start of classes.
Upper-division students living on campus may move into their residences in phases beginning on August 20. Details have been communicated to upper-division students by the Office of Residential Life.
Classes for the School of Law will begin on August 17. Undergraduate classes will begin on August 24. There will be no undergraduate Reading Days or law Fall Break to minimize travel during the term. Law students and undergraduates will complete their exams before Thanksgiving and will not return to campus until Winter Term begins in January.
Undergraduate faculty will determine the best mode of teaching for each of their courses: in-person, virtual, or a hybrid of the two. We expect that the majority of undergraduate courses will feature a substantial in-person component. Most of the courses in the Law School will be offered in-person but may contain elements of virtual instruction, not to exceed one-third of the course. Law courses to be offered in a fully virtual or hybrid format will be listed as such on the class schedule. Law students seeking to participate virtually in an in-person class may file a request with Dean Mason.
For both undergraduates and law students, in-person and hybrid courses will allow remote participation for limited periods of time due to illness or the need to self-quarantine.
Class schedules have been extended and classroom arrangements have been modified to facilitate social distancing. Labs and performance spaces will be equipped with protective equipment to minimize the potential spread of the virus in circumstances where social distancing may not be entirely possible.
Students will be expected to maintain a six-foot distance from others whenever possible, and to wear a mask or face covering indoors at all times other than when they are in their own room or apartment. Masks will be required outdoors while walking but may be removed when stationary and at least six feet from others.
Campus dining venues will be arranged to ensure social distancing. Elrod Marketplace and Evans Dining Hall will provide seating, which will be restricted to students. All other dining venues will offer takeout service only.
The university has established enhanced cleaning protocols and will establish hand-sanitizing stations in public areas, entries into buildings, and dining facilities. Sanitizing wipes will be placed in each classroom, lab and computer lab, and students and faculty will be responsible for wiping down the areas that they utilize. Students and employees will also be strongly encouraged to carry their own supply of sanitizer or wipes to use when a public supply is not readily available.
Campus buildings will remain closed to non-essential visitors throughout the Fall Term. No visitors or family members will be allowed into campus residential facilities, except on scheduled move-in dates.
Athletics and Events
Unfortunately, there will be no athletic competition this Fall Term. This difficult decision was made necessary by the risks associated with travel and contact. Our coaches are identifying safe ways to work with their student-athletes on campus. I am hopeful that our athletes will have opportunities to compete in 2021.
Plays, musical performances, and other large events will be live-streamed or broadcast online.
All guest speakers will visit the university virtually, delivering their talks through online technologies.
Health and Safety
Everyone on campus must comply with health and safety protocols to limit the spread of the virus. We will require all members of our community to participate in screening, testing, isolation, and contact tracing to identify and contain potential outbreaks.
Students will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to coming to Lexington. We will test all students and employees prior to the start of classes. While awaiting their test results, which is expected to take one to two days, students will self-quarantine on campus. Additional testing will be conducted throughout the term.
Students and employees will attest to any symptoms of possible COVID-19 exposure on a daily basis. They will also be asked to maintain a daily contact log in the event the university needs to investigate a viral outbreak. The university will collaborate with the Virginia Department of Health on case investigation and contact tracing.
Returning to the Workplace
As our students return to campus, so too will our faculty and staff, though the term will look different for us as well.
Phase Two of the University’s Return to Work plan begins on Monday, July 13. Full campus operations are expected to resume on August 10.
Given the uncertain timing of local schools returning to full-day classes, we will make every effort to meet the needs of employees with school-aged children through a variety of options, including shift changes, class schedule adjustments, and alternative work arrangements.
Some employees may be asked to continue working from home in order to reduce contact within a department. Virtual meetings will be encouraged when social distancing is not possible or more than 50 people need to participate.
We are pleased to be able to maintain our commitment to our workforce, avoiding furloughs despite significant budget challenges in the coming year. If we do not need to revert entirely to virtual instruction, we expect to avoid having to take additional cost-cutting measures.
Our COVID-19 Resources website features a wide range of Frequently Asked Questions and more details about the plans described above. We will host a series of Zoom Town Hall meetings in late July. More information on those will be forthcoming from the COVID-19 Committee.
I want to close by expressing my gratitude.
First, for your collective patience as we have worked through the many issues associated with planning and preparing for the coming year. It will not be normal. But everyone at W&L is devoted to making it the best it can be.
Second, for the work of so many of our faculty, staff, and students who have contributed mightily to the planning efforts — most notably our Contingency Task Force and Working Groups, which created the report that formed the backbone of our plan, and our COVID-19 Committee, whose ongoing work will be instrumental in bringing this plan to life.
And finally, for the positive spirit and mutual support that you have demonstrated throughout this crisis, which has helped us all adapt to such radically different and rapidly evolving circumstances. These qualities will continue to serve us well as we embark together on this most unusual school year.
I look forward to seeing you all here at W&L.