Plans for 2020-21 academic year still undetermined despite widely circulated email

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Screenshots of an email seemingly outlining plans for the 2020-21 academic year have circulated widely around the Stanford community, but both the University and the professor who originally sent the email say no decisions have been made regarding online instruction or undergraduates’ return to campus next year. 

In its most definitive line, the email — sent to Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL) faculty by division chair Cécile Alduy — states that “in recent meetings with the Deans, we have learnt the following: The entire academic year 2020-21 will involve remote teaching via zoom, with minimal on campus classroom teaching.” 

“The exact ratio of zoom teaching to classroom or lab experience is undecided at the moment, and will depend on a number of variables,” Alduy continued.

However, in an email to The Daily, Alduy wrote that “in all meetings we have had, the university leadership is outlining several scenarios, and no decision has been made yet as to which one will be chosen.” 

Her email to faculty was intended to instruct them to prepare for the likelihood of online courses, not to make a definitive statement about next year, she told The Daily.

“I hope you understand the difference between preparing and training to make truly impactful online courses and a declaration on what decision has been reached regarding what will happen next year,” she wrote. “There has been none.” 

University spokesperson E.J. Miranda confirmed that no decisions have yet been made regarding online instruction for the 2020-21 academic year, writing that there have been no changes since last week’s University message to students and families. In that message, administrators wrote that the University expects “some degree” of remote instruction to continue next year. 

“We are telling all instructors to plan and prepare for the possibility that most, if not all, instruction may be remote because conditions remain uncertain,” Miranda wrote. “The preparation for online instruction is separate from decisions regarding who will be on campus.”

The University expects to release a decision about the 2020-21 academic year in June. At last Tuesday’s Undergraduate Senate meeting, Fall Planning Task Force co-chairs Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Stephanie Kalfayan and history professor Aron Rodrigue told students that hybrid options — including a mix of remote and in-person instruction that would bring only some class years back to campus each quarter — are still on the table, as is the possibility of an online-only fall quarter.

In her email, Alduy also wrote that “undergraduate students might be brought back on campus on a quarterly rotation of cohorts, with, for instance, frosh in Fall and seniors in Spring, etc.” 

Screenshots of Alduy’s email — largely without context or attribution — have been circulating on social media and in student group chats since Thursday, and campus publication The Stanford Review also shared it on social media.

Polly Moser ’22 took a screenshot of the email and posted it on her Instagram story after her German lecturer shared the email over Zoom.

“I was pretty horrified to see that Stanford had made such a long term decision and wanted to let students know as soon as possible,” Moser told The Daily.

But Moser’s lecturer, Isabel Meusen, had had a different reason for sharing the email with her class: “I had read the email and was curious to see what the students could say — in German! — about their plans for the future with this knowledge.”

“Part of German 3 is knowing how to refer to the future with grammatical structures we had just practiced,” Meusen wrote to The Daily. “I wanted my students to tell me in German what their plans were now with that knowledge about what *could* happen in the next Academic Year.”

This article has been updated to include quotes from Isabel Meusen.

Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Erin Woo '21 is a Managing Editor of News. A communications major and creative writing minor, she plans to pursue a career in journalism. She has also reported for The Mercury News and WNYC. Contact her at erinkwoo 'at' stanford.edu.