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Stanford unlikely to bring all undergrads back in fall or delay quarter, admins say

Administrators outline possible “new normal” of residential, academic life

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“Extreme” options like bringing all undergraduates to campus in fall 2020 for fully in-person instruction, or delaying the start of all undergraduate instruction for the 2020-21 school year, are “the least likely of the many scenarios we are considering,” University administrators announced on Tuesday.

Hybrid options, such as allowing only two class years on campus each quarter and continuing instruction through summer, remain under consideration. 

A final decision on the state of the 2020-21 school year is expected mid-June.

The email, sent by Provost Persis Drell in conjunction with Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs Stacey Bent; Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole; and Vice Provost for Faculty Development, Teaching and Learning Sarah Church, encourages students to prepare for a “new normal” in the coming school year. 

According to the message, possible models include having only certain class years on campus each quarter, ending fall quarter before Thanksgiving break, or delaying all residential programs until winter quarter, which would possibly start later than normal as well. All possible options are intended to reduce the density of on-campus life or limit student travel. 

Should on-campus residential programs resume, administrators cautioned students to expect a very different version of university life. Face coverings will “likely” need to be worn on campus, physical distancing practices will remain in place and large gatherings will be discouraged. 

“Returning large numbers of people to campus will require that we have sufficient capacity for viral testing, for contact tracing, for self-isolation for individuals who test positive, and for local hospitalization of those who need it,” the administrators wrote. 

In order to maintain physical distancing protocols in academic spaces, “some degree” of online instruction is expected to continue through the 2020-21 school year, for both undergraduate and graduate students, the administrators added. Furthermore, should only one or two undergraduate class cohorts be permitted on campus each quarter, academic instruction may continue through the summer quarter as well. 

Students who may be allowed to return to campus in fall will be expected to self-report any COVID-19 symptoms and self-quarantine should they or someone they’ve been in contact with test positive.

“Those who are on campus during fall quarter will be asked not to travel outside the local area, and if you need to travel for an emergency, you’ll likely be asked to self-isolate upon returning to campus,” the administrators wrote.

All plans under consideration will depend on county- and state-level public health orders, as well as “sufficient capacity” to test and treat students and faculty who may contract COVID-19, according to the email. 

The University is also assessing Bing Overseas Studies Programs on a case-by-case basis to determine when they will be able to resume. In addition to physical distancing concerns, the administrators wrote that they are weighing factors including “difficulties in international travel during the pandemic, entry requirements such as mandatory quarantines for travelers imposed by several countries, and the overall public health situation in different localities.” 

Contact Grace Carroll at gac23 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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