Expanding Outreach, Assistance for New Academic Year

The following message about expanding outreach and assistance for the new academic year was sent from President John Fry:

Dear Members of the Drexel Community,

As we gear up for the start of an academic year that will see remote learning continue for Drexel undergraduates, we are expanding outreach to support and foster a greater sense of community for students, faculty and professional staff. Two town halls are planned, rent abatement is being offered to second-year students leasing from American Campus Communities, and COVID-19 testing procedures are being updated.

At each step, I want to assure you that the University remains committed to ensuring that we all have a safe and successful fall term. And whatever new challenges this pandemic brings, I am confident we can meet them by working together, looking out for one another and acting with compassion and care in every interaction.

The difficult decision last week to continue all undergraduate courses remotely for the fall was driven by concerns over national trends showing dramatic increases in coronavirus cases among college-aged students across the country. The College of Medicine, Kline School of Law, and other graduate and clinical programs, including most of our quarter-based graduate programs, are utilizing hybrid schedules for the fall with strict health and safety guidelines being observed. Drexel researchers will continue their work, following the ramp-up guidance launched over the summer.

Now and going forward, our planning will be guided by Drexel’s obligation to all of our community members to provide the safest learning environment possible in support of their academic success. Given national trends and behavioral norms we continue to see at other universities, I am convinced that our decision on undergraduate teaching is the best and safest way ahead.

Following are updates on several aspects of the fall term.

On-Campus Precautions

As a reminder, those graduate students, faculty and professional staff who will be returning to campus this fall must complete the appropriate health and safety training prior to their arrival, and will be required to check in on the Drexel Health Tracker app each time they come to campus. Use of the app to monitor symptoms confidentially and continuously is required for any Drexel student planning to move back to Philadelphia.

Additionally, once on campus, everyone will be required to follow Drexel policies with respect to social distancing, mandatory wearing of face masks at all times, and strict handwashing and sanitation guidelines. These measures apply to all of us, wherever we are: We all need to do our part to be the safest we can and, in so doing, care for ourselves and one another.

COVID-19 Testing

Those individuals currently on campus, or who will be coming to campus in the fall, will be required to complete baseline COVID-19 testing. (College of Medicine and Kline Law students have already undergone testing.) But with few undergraduates on campus, we are changing our testing strategy and now will provide testing on campus. Details and locations will be announced soon.

Additionally, the University continues to work with our neighbors in West Philadelphia, as well as city officials, regarding travel and visitor guidance. Information will be shared as available.

Housing Support

As announced last week Drexel University housing is closed to undergraduate students, with the exception of those in emergency or hardship situations, and our Housing and Residence Life team is reviewing all appeals. For those students living in American Campus Communities (ACC) partnership properties — Chestnut Square, University Crossings and the Summit — efforts are being made to provide assistance.

ACC properties remain open for the fall term, including for second-year students who choose to live in ACC properties as part of the University’s two-year residency requirement. As done in the spring and summer, ACC — with financial assistance from Drexel — is offering rent abatement for any second-year Drexel student who signed a lease for the fall. In addition, ACC is working on a case-by-case basis with residents experiencing hardships due to COVID-19. I want to thank ACC for partnering with the University in supporting our students.

Town Halls, Counseling

Drexel will host two separate town halls — one for faculty and professional staff on September 16 and one for graduate students on September 18 — in order for all of us to come together and address questions or concerns. In addition, the University will be providing events and online programming during the fall term to share additional resources and information with the larger community.

With shifts and changes comes increased anxiety and stress. If you have been feeling uneasy or unsure about the current climate, please know that you are not alone. The University takes seriously the mental health and well-being of all of our community members. Help is available. For students, Counseling Center therapists are able to conduct teletherapy using a HIPAA-compliant, confidential Zoom platform. Students can schedule an appointment at counseling@drexel.edu. Faculty and professional staff should contact the Employee Assistance Program.

Looking Ahead

While we had hoped to be back on campus in greater numbers, I want to assure you that we are ready for the new academic year. We have built upon our remote learning experience —  from recent months, as well as our two decades in online teaching. And we have invested in technology and academic supports to ensure a fall term that will be both rigorous and robust.

As our Return Oversight Committee continues to consult health experts and public health authorities to monitor the latest developments with COVID-19 in our region and on campuses nationwide, we will provide regular updates to the Drexel community to ensure that all of us have the support and information needed. By keeping a close eye on key public health indicators over the coming months, my hope is that — as soon as possible — we will all be able to safely return to campus.


John Fry