After two months of thoughtful collaboration across campus, we announce today that the university will offer all Lawrentians the opportunity to live and learn on campus this fall. We will also provide a distance learning option for the fall term for those who decide not to return to campus, whether it is because of health concerns; an inability to observe all the essential safety protocols described in this letter and accompanying information; limits on traveling; or any other challenges.
To reach this decision, the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team (LPPT) researched ways to approach our learning, living, and working environments for the coming academic year. The team consulted with health experts, both within Wisconsin and around the country, and with various faculty, students, staff, and trustees through the shared governance process. Our goal was to ensure that every Lawrentian will have the opportunity to learn, teach, and work as fully and safely as possible. The President’s Cabinet, informed by the LPPT’s recommendations, made this decision grounded in three guiding priorities: protecting the health and safety of our community; sustaining our academic mission; and supporting faculty, staff, and students. When we paired these priorities with our core Lawrentian values of community, equity, and student empowerment, the path forward for fall was clear.
This fall term will not look like any other in Lawrence history. But we can assure you that this academic year will adhere to the best public health guidance available to us, offer a robust academic program and co-curricular experience, and gather us together once again as a community—in new ways.
What You Need to Know about Fall 2020
Following are highlights about fall term 2020 to help you make your decisions. More details and an extensive FAQ can be found on the Planning for Fall 2020 website. I encourage every member of the Lawrence community to review the site and explore the FAQ.
- Student Choice: Students will choose whether they will come to campus. We will offer a mix of in-person and online courses to ensure continuity of experience throughout the term. We will also offer remote learning opportunities for those who will not be on campus due to personal circumstances, challenges preventing them from traveling to campus, or a decision not to adhere to our safety protocols. Students living on campus should expect an experience that includes online instruction. Technology and student support services will be available to students both on- and off-campus to help with access to resources and the learning experience.
- Academic Calendar: Classes for this academic year will begin on September 14, and exams will end before November 25 and the Thanksgiving holiday. December Term will not be held this year.
- Living on Campus: Our regular housing practice of assigning students to the capacity indicated by the type of room (for example, two students to a double room or four students to a four-person suite) will continue. Students can apply for a single room if they prefer that choice. Final housing assignments and move-in details will be available in early August.
- Working on Campus: Faculty will choose whether they will continue to teach and work remotely. Staff will continue to work remotely unless their duties or other needs require them to work on campus or unless they would prefer to return to campus. Students will be offered both in person and telecommuting work opportunities.
- Testing: Students will be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive. Faculty and staff will be tested as they return to campus. Students, faculty, and staff will take part in frequent testing and daily symptom monitoring throughout the term.
- Health Partners: The University has contracted with Bellin Health to be our healthcare partner as we adapt as a community to living with COVID-19. They will provide on-campus testing for all community members. We are also fortunate to have long-term existing relationships with Ascension and ThedaCare health systems in the Fox Valley, who will continue to supply essential local support. For contact tracing we have developed a partnership with the Appleton Health Department to ensure the process will be thorough and quick.
- Safety Protocols: We ask all students to take preventative steps for 14 days before coming to campus to ensure a safe and healthy arrival on campus (e.g., practice physical distancing, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, consider taking a COVID-19 test). All members of the community will be required to wear masks in classrooms and other indoor public spaces as well as outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible. We will promote physical distancing and reduce contact through adjustments to classroom occupancy; new plexiglass and signage to highly trafficked areas; dining services modifications; and density control in housing assignments. We are currently upgrading our building ventilation systems to minimize recirculation of contaminants. Faculty, students, and staff will also be expected to receive an influenza vaccine, which will be made available by the university.
- International Students: We are working to ensure that students with F1 visas will remain in compliance with federal guidelines if they choose to join us on campus.
- Protecting Ourselves & Others: Protecting the health and safety of our campus community will require participation by all members of our community. We ask everyone who joins us on campus to sign the Lawrence Campus Community Pledge, which commits each of us to follow our public health and safety protocols. Violation of these protocols will lead to disciplinary action.
Preparing for the fall has been, and will continue to be, a community effort. While we have made many decisions, we are still sorting through more details as we approach the start of the academic year. Please visit the Planning for Fall 2020 website for the most up-to-date information. I would like to thank everyone engaged in this process and offer my ongoing gratitude to our entire community for your patience and efforts to successfully launch an academic year in this challenging environment.
We will continue to adjust our protocols to follow guidance from local and state health departments as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure community health and safety. When a policy change is needed, the LPPT will discuss options with the proper shared governance committee. In addition, we have developed contingency plans in case of a virus surge on campus.
I know that this email includes a great deal of information. To help you fully understand our plans and answer questions you may have, we are hosting two Q & A sessions—one for faculty and staff and one for students and families—later this week:
- Faculty & Staff Q & A Session on Thursday, July 16, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Central
- Student & Family Q & A Session on Friday, July 17, 10 – 11 a.m. Central
We will also host other Q & A sessions for Conservatory students, international students, and student athletes and their families. We will send further details about these sessions soon to all students in these communities. All sessions will be recorded and made available for future viewing. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please visit the Planning for Fall 2020 website or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call the university directly at 920-832-6576 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central time on Wednesday, July 15 and Thursday, July 16, and between 8 a.m. and noon on Friday, July 17. Staff will be available to answer your questions or direct you to the right office.
Next week, we will contact all incoming and returning students, to ask you to share with us your plans for fall term, along with other important questions. Your thoughtful and prompt response will help us make plans for on-campus accommodations and other necessary coordination.
Moving Forward, Together
I have appreciated hearing from many of you through email, phone calls, and virtual town halls over the last few months. Your questions and concerns have helped tremendously as we completed our plans. I understand that the announcement of this framework of both on-campus and distance learning options is only part of the complex assortment of questions and considerations we all confront now. I hope the information offered here will help as you consider the personal circumstances that will shape your decision about how to engage this fall with the Lawrence living, learning, and working experience.
I am mindful that preparing a safe environment for every Lawrentian also extends to our efforts to dismantle systemic racism, whether it is here at Lawrence or beyond. I am eager to continue this work, which will ensure a healthy, rich, and supportive learning environment for all. I know that together, we as Lawrentians will meet these challenges with ingenuity, creativity, and compassion.
My Cabinet colleagues and I are committed to doing everything within our power to keep the Lawrence experience strong, supportive, and safe. I look forward to seeing you on campus this fall or connect with you through technology. As always, be well and make choices that keep others well.
President, Lawrence University
Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699| Office 920.832.6525