This is a developing story that was last updated at 5:17 p.m on May 26. Please check back here for updates.
Here’s what all eight Ivy League universities are planning for fall 2020.
After the sudden closure of college campuses across the country in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fate of the fall semester is largely uncertain as the virus continues to spread.
Most universities in the United States are undecided about how they will conduct fall classes. All schools in the Ivy League have not yet announced decisions, leaving many options on the table, but most have ruled out the possibility of postponing the fall semester.
University of Pennsylvania
On May 21, University administration sent an email to the Penn community outlining four possible scenarios for the fall semester in response to the pandemic, stating a specific decision would be finalized by the end of June.
The scenarios under consideration are a combination of virtual and in-person classes, as previously suggested in an April 27 announcement, a shortened in-person semester, increased 2021 summer course offerings, and entirely online learning for the fall.
The hybrid experience of virtual and in-person classes will feature some in-person instruction limited to small seminars, research group meetings, experimental clinics and studios, and courses enrolling no more than 25 students.
Penn is also considering an in-person campus experience ending at Thanksgiving Break, with the possibility of additional meetings scheduled during evenings or on Saturdays and the remainder of the semester conducted online.
The third scenario, according to the May email, involves expanding course offerings for next summer in order to provide more opportunities for “earned academic credits and cohort-based learning.” The final scenario is a completely online experience for the fall semester.
The University also outlined various potential efforts to ensure campus safety, such as implementing six-feet physical distancing measures, including regular testing abilities, and placing traffic-reducing measures in dorms, dining halls, libraries, and other aspects of student life.
After non-essential research was shut down in March, along with on-campus operations, Penn is also looking to resume research in three distinct phases, according to the email.
In the university-wide April email, Penn President Amy Gutmann announced the establishment of a Recovery Planning Group to determine when normal campus operations can resume.
Brown President Christina Paxson announced on May 6 the University will make a decision about the fall semester by July 15 at the latest.
In the email sent to Brown faculty and staff, Paxson explained they are considering various scenarios including following a normal academic calendar with students returning to campus in the fall, offering three semesters of instruction with undergraduate students to be on campus for two of them, and, if deemed necessary, conducting the fall semester remotely, with a decision about the spring semester accordingly being made mid-fall semester.
Paxson also suggested on-campus scenarios could include modifications such as a hybrid of online and in-person learning, similar to a solution proposed by Penn President Amy Gutmann.
“In addition, even for an on-campus scenario, we’re planning for delivering education remotely for students who are unable to return to campus because of travel restrictions or health conditions,” Paxson wrote.
On April 23, Columbia President Lee Bollinger announced that the 2020-2021 academic year will happen, but how it will occur has not yet been announced.
In the announcement, Bollinger wrote that he asked to expand Columbia’s COVID-19 Task Force, and will continue to write with more detail in the weeks to come.
“I have no doubt, however, that whatever form our pursuit and application of knowledge takes we will be called upon to manifest a steady and determined effort and to achieve the highest levels of creativity we can summon,” Bollinger wrote.
New York City, home to Columbia’s campus, is the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States with more than 350,000 COVID-19 cases and 27,000 deaths as of May 15.
On May 22, Cornell announced the University is considering six possible scenarios for the fall semester.
The first option is having an entirely virtual semester and keeping the normal academic calendar. The second option is having in-person classes until Thanksgiving, at which point classes would move online for the remainder of the fall semester. In this scenario, the spring semester would start online at the regular time but would switch to in-person classes in early March.
Cornell’s third option is beginning the fall semester on campus four weeks later than the normal academic calendar, switching to online instruction after Thanksgiving, and finishing the semester in January. The spring semester would then start online and switch to in-person classes in mid-March.
The fourth option is starting the fall semester two weeks late, having a “final-exam-like” week before Thanksgiving, and then switching to online instruction after the holiday. In this scenario, the fall semester would end in December. The Spring semester would then start online, switch to in-person instruction in early March, and end a week later than normal.
The fifth option is the same as the fourth, but the fall semester would instead be divided into “half-semesters.” The first half would start after Labor Day and would be entirely on campus ending with an exam period in late October. The second half of the semester would begin shortly thereafter and switch to online after Thanksgiving.
The University’s final option is the same as its fourth, except the fall semester would instead be split into an 11-week module and a five-week module. The former would take place entirely on campus, and the latter would meet for two days on campus, and then move online for the remainder of the semester. Students would take three to four courses during the 11-week module and one course during the five-week module.
The announcement emphasized that nothing has been decided yet, and that “the chosen calendar will likely involve some mix of the ideas” that have been suggested.
In a May 4 announcement to the Dartmouth community, Dartmouth President Philip J. Hanlon and Provost Joseph J. Helble wrote they will make a final decision about fall semester operations by June 29.
The message said while the University wants to bring undergraduates back to campus this fall, the most likely scenario is to have a mix of in-person and virtual classes — a scenario suggested by Penn President Amy Gutmann in April.
Dartmouth’s coronavirus task force is focused on the return of off-campus programs and determining which facilities will be used for quarantine and isolation spaces.
“As has been our process since the start of this pandemic, recommendations from the task force will be presented to us for consideration, taking into account the latest data on the spread of the virus,” Hanlon and Helble wrote.
Harvard announced on April 27 that the University will open in the fall, but it is not certain whether classes will be held on campus or virtually.
“Our goal is to bring our students, faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and staff to campus as quickly as possible,” Harvard Provost Alan Garber wrote in the announcement, “but because most projections suggest that COVID-19 will remain a serious threat during the coming months, we cannot be certain that it will be safe to resume all usual activities on campus by then.”
Garber wrote that a range of solutions have been, and will continue to be, considered, including a normal return to campus and a virtual beginning. If piloting a partial or fully online-based fall semester, Garber wrote, Harvard’s faculty will use the time to develop courses for global classrooms and its affiliates will “reimagine” its resources.
On May 13, Harvard Medical School announced it will hold classes online for all incoming students.
On May 4, Princeton President Christopher Eisgurber announced in an email to the Princeton community that the fall term will continue, but a decision regarding whether it will be online or residential will be announced in early July.
While Eisgurber wrote that he is “optimistic about resuming on‑campus graduate advising and instruction this summer and in the fall”, he explained that undergraduate teaching will be on a different timeline.
“The interpersonal engagement that animates undergraduate life makes social distancing difficult,” Eisgurber explained. “That is partly because undergraduates live in close proximity to one another, but even more fundamentally because they mix constantly and by design in their academic, extracurricular, and social lives.”
On May 28, Yale Provost Scott Strobel announced changes to the University’s academic calendar in a community-wide email.
Strobel wrote that classes will begin August 31, two days earlier than scheduled, and will end on Dec. 4. Fall break is canceled, and following Thanksgiving, all activities will switch to an online format, including reading period and final examinations.
The University has yet to decide if the campus will open in the fall for in-person classes. In an earlier announcement, Salovey wrote that a decision about the fall will be announced no later than early July.
Yale Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Tamar Gendler told the Yale Daily News that the changes in the fall calendar were made “to ensure a robust educational experience for students and to maximize the possibility of having [a] residential experience for undergraduates this fall.”
In a May 28 announcement to the university community, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun said this adapted schedule "does not allow time to host pre-orientation programs on campus," which will therefore be offered online before the school's fall term begins.
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