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Penn will conduct classes in a hybrid of online and in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Penn will invite students back to campus for fall 2020 under a hybrid instruction model. 

Penn President Amy Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett, and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli sent an email to the Penn community on Thursday announcing that the upcoming semester will begin as scheduled on Sept. 1, and end in-person operations on Nov. 20. The remainder of the semester, beginning on Nov. 23, and final exams will be conducted remotely to limit the spread of COVID-19. Fall break, Oct. 1-4, is canceled.

For all students who are unable or prefer to remain off campus such as international students or those with health conditions, fall course offerings will be accessible remotely.

The University will only guarantee housing for first years, sophomores, and transfer students in the College House system. The University is planning to lease additional off-campus space to accommodate housing for juniors and seniors who applied for on-campus housing and cannot be accommodated.

All students will be housed in private bedrooms, including in Greek residences, with a maximum ratio of six students to one bathroom. Housing assignments are forthcoming. On-campus housing fees for the fall will be adjusted to the shortened on-campus schedule. 

Penn will stagger student arrival onto campus with exact move-in dates for the College Houses and other University residences to be sent out to students in the coming weeks. New Student Orientation will be predominantly delivered online from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31, ending with Convocation.

Students will be required to agree to a Student Campus Compact, requiring all students, faculty, and staff to wear facial coverings in public, practice six-feet physical distancing measures in public and in classrooms, and avoid large gatherings of 25 or more people, including in all extracurricular activities. 

"What makes this plan robust — and what will maximize its success in among the most trying of times — is nothing less than the resourcefulness, resilience, and responsiveness of every member of the Penn community in carrying out our uplifting historic mission," Gutmann wrote.

According to the University FAQ ‘Student Campus Compact’ page, classes with more than 25 students will be recorded and have an online foundation. Those with fewer than 25 students may have an in-person option, space permitted, and will be held in larger spaces. Recordings of class meetings will also be provided for students who need the option of asynchronous learning. 

All students will be tested for COVID-19 when they return to campus, and additional testing will be conducted throughout the semester in the Hall of Flags in Houston Hall. Daily symptoms must be checked through a mobile app or via text before students enter buildings.

Dining halls will have limited indoor and outdoor seating, and will no longer have self-serve options such as salad bars. Students will have access to take-out and pre-packaged meals, which can be pre-ordered.

Regular academic policies will be unchanged from typical fall semesters for undergraduate students, while graduate and professional programs may make policy changes.

An announcement on University athletics is expected in July. 

Other institutions have announced similar plans, including Tufts University, Emory University, and Drexel University.

On March 11, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Penn to shut campus operations and transition all classes online after spring break, prompting uncertainty among students and faculty as to whether classes would be conducted in person in fall 2020.

Gutmann and Pritchett sent an email to the Penn community on May 21 outlining four scenarios under consideration for the fall semester, and committing to provide finalized plans by the end of June. The scenarios included a hybrid of in-person and online instruction, a shortened in-person semester, and entirely online learning. 

According to The Daily Pennsylvanian's survey, which garnered responses from 921 undergraduate students, 53% of students said they would prefer a hybrid model, while 30% said they wanted a return to all in-person instruction. 

While students will be able to return to campus to resume some in-person classes, Penn Abroad canceled all programs for fall 2020 on June 2. Students were given the option to withdraw their application entirely or defer their program to either spring 2021 or fall 2021. 

More specific details about fall plans will be communicated before the start of the semester. 

"The most critical factor in this plan — for all its important details — is the most human one of all: that every member of the Penn community do our best to maximize its success," Gutmann wrote. "Keeping our beloved University and community healthy and educationally vibrant is a goal we all share."

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