Drexel Undergraduate Courses to Remain Remote for the Fall

The following message from President John Fry about undergraduate classes being held remotely for the fall term was sent to the Drexel community on Aug. 19:

I have a difficult decision to announce today regarding our plans for the new academic year at Drexel University. We had all hoped to stage our gradual return to campus, but the shifting nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on other colleges and universities has necessitated a change of course for Drexel. After much consultation and a frank assessment of the situation at large universities that have brought undergraduate students back to campus, we have made the decision that undergraduate courses will continue remotely for the fall quarter, and Drexel University housing will remain closed to undergraduates during the fall term.

Since March, Drexel has grounded its planning efforts in two fundamental priorities: First, do all we can to keep our community safe; and, second, construct an approach that is flexible and guided by the most current data to match the unpredictable nature of COVID-19. The hybrid learning approach for most students that we planned granted us the ability to conduct the fall term in an adaptable manner to best suit the individual needs of students, faculty and professional staff, while fostering a safe and supportive campus environment.

We have carefully planned for added testing measures to augment campus safety, with rapid and accurate testing enabling us to isolate and provide care for students who test positive and trace other potential infections. With additional health and safety measures in place including mandatory social distancing and masking guidelines as well as heightened facility sanitation efforts, our Return Oversight Committee and health experts were confident we would be able to provide the safest accommodations for those students who wished to return to campus this fall. With deep expertise, necessary resources, and dedication to details, we have more than met the Philadelphia Department of Public Health guidelines to reopen.

Despite all of our preparation, we have always understood that our approach would need to be continually assessed, taking into account new data and changing conditions. We know, for example, that the recent change to online instruction by area K-12 schools poses a significant challenge to many of our employees and their families. Most notably, however, while local pandemic conditions continue to improve, unfortunately, with nearly a month until our return to campus — and as other academic institutions across the country begin to reopen — we are seeing incredibly troubling trends. There are reports of nationwide campus-based disease outbreaks and cases rising among college-age individuals. Such reports are on the rise exponentially and they greatly concern us. We have a responsibility to all members of our campus community and to our neighbors — those living in Powelton Village and Mantua. What we see happening across the nation on university campuses — outbreaks coupled with high rates of quarantine and isolation — we do not want to happen here.  

Undergraduate Courses All-Remote, Drexel University Housing Closed

I have emphasized previously that Drexel’s planning is only as good as our community’s ability to adhere to protocols set forth to keep us safe, and it is now clear that similar protocols are proving tough to follow at many universities across the nation. Based on these discouraging outcomes, I now believe that it is no longer feasible for Drexel’s undergraduates to safely return to campus this fall. There are just too many aspects of the pandemic beyond our control.

As a result, we will be conducting all undergraduate academic courses remotely except for a number of clinical programs in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. In addition, I have made the difficult decision to close Drexel University housing to undergraduate students this fall. No undergraduates will return to Drexel University housing, except in emergency or hardship situations (such as international students who cannot travel home) that should be approved by Student Life. A separate communication will be sent to all students with applications for Drexel University housing and dining by the Housing and Residence Life team. The American Campus Communities partnership properties — Chestnut Square, University Crossings and The Summit — will be open for the fall academic term and will honor the terms of all resident leases.

There will be no undergraduate on-campus programming permitted for the fall, and all programs will be moved to a virtual setting. Those programs that cannot be moved online will be cancelled or postponed to the winter term. More details and information from Student Life will be provided regarding plans being put in place to provide students with opportunities for engagement in the upcoming weeks. These have not been easy decisions, but this is the most responsible course of action.

Graduate students will continue in the currently planned hybrid modality for the fall term with some limited activities and with strict health and safety protocols in place that adhere to city and state guidelines. Kline School of Law, the College of Medicine, clinical programs in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and specific health sciences and clinical graduate programs will continue to be conducted on campus. All graduate students should consult with their programs for specific details on the fall term.

Our research, scholarly and creative activities will continue as per our research ramp-up protocol. Students engaged in research at the undergraduate and graduate level should work directly with their research mentors and faculty investigators to seek approval for student participation.

Student Assistance, Fall Tuition Freeze for Undergraduate Programs

While I am grateful for the tireless work that has taken place since March to prepare flexible plans, and that we have the appropriate training, academic programming, and technological infrastructure in place for a successful fall term academically, I am aware that our meticulous preparations do not soften the blow for our students. I understand the profound disappointment many will feel, having looked forward to returning to campus this fall. We were all hoping to regain more of a semblance of normalcy during an otherwise incredibly disruptive time in our country. 

I am aware of the significant economic hardships COVID-19 has caused for students and their families. It is our hope to assist students and help them stay on track with their academic journey. In recognition of these challenges, Drexel will cancel the tuition increase and implement a tuition freeze for all on-campus undergraduate students for the fall 2020 term.

In addition to financial support, we will continue to diligently focus on equity throughout the fall term. I know that virtual courses may pose significant challenges, especially to those students who:

  • May have hearing impairments for which virtual modalities are not ideal;
  • May need access to the appropriate hardware/software to do their work; or
  • Find themselves in need of a learning environment in which they can effectively study and do their coursework.

Please know that Drexel’s academic advising teams are prepared to assist students and connect them with the resources for a successful fall term. Students in need of additional services should speak to their academic advisors as soon as possible. In addition, if you are in need of accommodations due to the guidelines outlined in this email, please contact Disability Resources at disability@drexel.edu.

Additional resources will be found on Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website, which I encourage you to continue to visit to ensure you have access to necessary information and the latest communications.

Co-op Placements and Positions

Experiential learning is a critical part of what makes a Drexel education so distinctive. The Steinbright Career Development Center continues to work with employer partners to provide students with meaningful co-op experiences for the fall/winter term. Therefore, students who have been, or are, in the process of being paired for fall/winter co-op positions should expect to proceed with their employment, assuming their employers have made provisions for co-ops to take up their positions—whether remotely, or in person. For additional information, please visit Steinbright's Response to COVID-19.

Full Campus Return Our Goal

I would like to express my sincere appreciation for your patience during this period of uncertainty. We have all been riding an emotional rollercoaster these past several months.

I also would like to thank the members of the Return Oversight Committee (ROC), under the leadership of Dr. Marla Gold, for their tenacious and tireless work since the spring. They have displayed incredible dedication and determination and have made numerous sacrifices for the sake of the University. The work of the ROC will continue as we prepare for an eventual full return to campus, hopefully in January, and provide ongoing care and support for our current graduate students, faculty and professional staff and all our essential employees at Drexel.

I have said from the beginning that our first priority and obligation is for the health, safety and well-being of the communities we serve. I have also stressed the importance of the data which we will continue to monitor over the coming months.

My sincere hope is that we will be able to welcome all students back to campus as soon as possible. While no one can control the virus, my promise is that I will do everything I can to work toward the goal of bringing us all together again as a community.


John Fry