2020-2021 Academic Year – Return-to-Campus Planning

June 8, 2020
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, Professor of Engineering Sciences

Many members of our community have been eager to hear about our plans for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year. At this point, we do not know when New York state will allow the higher education sector to restart. Nonetheless, we have been working on a robust return to campus plan, which we will implement, if and when we are allowed to. 

The Start-up Task Force, chaired by Prabhat Hajela, Provost, and Curtis Powell, Vice President of Human Resources, has developed recommendations for fully reactivating the university, with a particular focus on health and safety, pedagogical innovation, and operational effectiveness. 

The Start-Up Task Force is comprised of five workgroups: 

  1. Protocol Development and T3SQ (Testing, Tracking, Tracing, Surveillance, and Quarantine) 

  2. Teaching and Learning

  3. Campus Life

  4. Research and Graduate Education

  5. Financial Modeling and Guidance

The five workgroups have collaborated with people from across the university and have spoken with many colleagues - faculty, students, staff, community members, and public health officials - to understand the issues and challenges we face here on the Troy campus, and across the Capital Region. The workgroups continue to create plans, and establish contingencies, so we can be flexible enough to adapt to circumstances that are likely to change. 

While we are in the process of finalizing the comprehensive return to campus plan, based on what we know today, we have eight early considerations we would like to share:

  1. The beginning and end of each academic term will be different from the published academic calendar. 

  2. Students should not expect to have all of their fellow classmates on campus in the same term, or even the same day, because of the need to de-densify in order to adhere to public health protocols, including the proper social distancing, because of our own community members’ assessment of their vulnerabilities and comfort with in-person campus operations. 

  3. Course delivery will be a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction, while classroom structure and class scheduling will reflect the public health protocols.

  4. Students will be spread out in the residential commons; meals will not be served in the usual way; there will be specific social distancing protocols; and masks will be required when students are not in their personal spaces.

  5. While athletics are under discussion, we do not anticipate a full athletic schedule. 

  6. There will be no large gatherings on the campus of any kind.

  7. There will be continual testing, contact tracing (if needed), and health condition information that everyone will be asked, and expected, to report.

  8. Everyone is expected to comply with all public health and safety protocols, and Institute protocols, as a requirement to be on campus and/or to participate in in-person instruction. 

Our focus is on limiting risk and managing consequences. Everyone must understand that we are still in a pandemic, and we will still be in a pandemic in the fall. Therefore, we cannot make campus operations entirely risk-free. We urge everyone to weigh their own comfort with the health situation, their own vulnerabilities, and our requirements, prior to returning to campus. 

We all are eager to return to campus life and remain committed to making the required decisions, with careful planning and a focus on safeguarding individuals and the community. The steps we are taking are intended to preserve the health, safety, and well-being of all members of the Rensselaer community. Even during these challenging times, we are fully committed to delivering the curriculum, and carrying out our research mission at the highest level. 

I look forward to discussing details related to the return-to-campus planning, and will host a virtual Town Meeting this Wednesday, June 10, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. The Town Meeting will be recorded and posted to the COVID-19 website.

Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we work to reopen Rensselaer. 

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