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Campus & Community

Expanded Return to Drexel Campus for the Winter Term

October 29, 2020

The following message from Drexel President John Fry about plans for the winter term was sent to the Drexel community:

Outline:

  • Undergraduates can return to campus in January
  • Face-to-face instruction for select groups of first-year students and seniors
  • Drexel housing to reopen with single-occupancy rooms
  • Winter quarter delayed one week until January 11
  • Regular COVID-19 screening testing protocols to be implemented
  • Study abroad, international co-op suspended for the winter term
  • Research facility occupancy restrictions to remain

Dear Members of the Drexel Community,

As we near the midpoint of the fall term, I would like to thank each of you for your persistence and dedication over the past seven months. The patience, ingenuity and understanding shown in support of one another during this challenging time is a remarkable and heartening testament to the Drexel spirit.

While we miss being on campus, it has been much more important for us to tread carefully when deciding how and when we can return in greater numbers in the safest way possible. Now, I think we are ready to plan for the return of more students to campus. This next step is based upon the enhanced health and safety measures we have instituted, along with the knowledge gained from the experience at other colleges and universities that have reopened.

What follows is an update on our latest plans, developed in conjunction with the Return Oversight Committee.

Preparing for the Winter Term

Despite our desire to bring our community back to campus as quickly and safely as possible, the virus continues to spread, and cases continue to rise both in our region as well as nationally. With the cold temperatures quickly arriving, health officials and experts note we are likely entering another wave of the virus that stands to further escalate case numbers. We are considering case-report data as well as patterns of utilization in the regional health care system as we plan. We note some colleges and universities that have reopened in hybrid format have lower case counts than their surrounding region, which appears to stem from their robust mitigation efforts and screening programs that employ testing protocols. In short, campus communities that adhere well to risk reduction guidelines and requirements do well.

We continue to work with city and state health officials as well as industry experts to outline best practices given predictions of increasing cases of COVID-19 during colder weather coupled with an increase in indoor activities. Please know that we are doing all we can to devise a low-density plan for Drexel.

At this time, it is our intention to take the following steps for the winter term with strict health and safety guidelines in place, along with regular screening testing protocols:

  • Undergraduates will be invited to return to campus in January.
  • Most classes will continue to be taught remotely.
  • Some face-to-face and hybrid classes will be offered for first-year students, juniors and seniors who require access to lab and studio classes.
  • Current semester-based schools and colleges and graduate classes will continue with a mix of on-campus and remote instruction for the winter term and spring semester.
  • Campus housing will reopen with single-occupancy room assignments.

With regard to research, Drexel remains committed as an R1 research institution to continue to maintain research activities uninterrupted and in accordance with appropriate health and safety guidelines. Research is core to our mission and obligation to our neighbors, the city, as well as the wider academic community. However, even with more students on campus, we will maintain the current restrictions on lab head counts through a process of rotating access to research facilities.

Given the virus’ current state, the University will remain flexible and respectful of students, faculty and professional staff regarding decisions for the winter term. For students, this means they will be able to choose to return to campus or remain all-virtual based on their comfort level. Should a student wish to continue remote instruction, the University will support this decision and do all that we can to ensure that their learning experiences are robust and comprehensive.

For those students who will be returning over the winter, we will continue to build upon the health and safety protocols from the fall to ensure that our campus is best prepared for their arrival. Interdisciplinary teams across the University are working diligently to prepare our facilities, including rearranging classrooms for social distancing, developing enhanced sanitation procedures, and finalizing testing protocols.

As the University increases its on-campus numbers, additional faculty and professional staff will be asked to return in order to provide an engaging and supportive environment for students. Rigorous health and safety protocols, including those set forth in the Dragon Pledge [PDF], will be in place to ensure a safe learning and work environment.

Faculty and professional staff who are not required to return to campus will continue to work remotely. Deans and division heads will be finalizing the winter return to campus plans for their area in the upcoming weeks. Additional information will be forthcoming.

Testing/Screening Protocols

Screening protocols employing COVID-19 testing have been shown to play an important role in helping with risk reduction and containing viral transmission at institutions of higher education. Over the past several months, Drexel has established a COVID-19 test facility at the College of Medicine that currently has the ability to process large quantities of COVID-19 nasal swab tests. We already have experience testing thousands of students with a nasal swab test for screening purposes and are rapidly expanding capacity. In preparation for an expanded return to campus and opening of campus housing, Drexel is designing regular screening protocols for students and employees based on national guidance, risk stratification and information available from the National Academies of Science. Screening test results are delivered to students through a confidential, protected health portal on the Drexel Health Tracker App. Positive test results are also delivered to students by student health providers with appropriate further assessment and guidance. In preparation for our campus screening program, be sure to download the Drexel Health Tracker. More details will be released in the weeks ahead. Please also continue to visit Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website for the latest information.

In addition, it is essential for our community to have access to transparent and comprehensive data. As such, the University has updated and enhanced the Drexel COVID-19 dashboard, with further updates expected as screening expands. I encourage you to check the dashboard frequently. You can access the dashboard here.

Academic Plan for the Winter

As in the fall, we are creating academic calendars in a flexible manner in order to meet the current state of the virus. Students who are unable to attend in-person courses for any reason will be able to fulfill their academic requirements via virtual instruction.

Updates include:

  • Semester-based programs in the College of Medicine and the Kline School of Law will run as scheduled. 
  • Quarter-based graduate and undergraduate programs scheduled to begin January 4 will be delayed by one week and begin on January 11. 
  • Week of January 11: Classes will be fully virtual to allow for the completion of a quarantine period. 
  • Week of January 18: Some classes will move to a face-to-face or hybrid format, while the majority of classes will remain remote.

Drexel Housing

As noted, our plan for the winter term is to reopen Drexel housing at single occupancy. We will be providing additional details with regards to housing and move-in for students in the coming weeks.

International Students and Study Abroad

Due to current travel restrictions, study abroad, non-credit international experiences and international co-op opportunities will remain suspended, with the exception of international students pursuing co-ops in their home countries.

Please know that the International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) continues to closely monitor and assess the impact of the coronavirus on our international student and scholar communities. ISSS has provided websites for our international students in order to keep them informed of the quickly changing situations around the world.

Expectations and Accountability

While we are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to bring students back to campus for the winter quarter, it is important to note that our on-campus experience will be vastly different than before the pandemic. Face masks are mandatory, as is social distancing. Hand hygiene remains critically important. Occupancy standards have been changed to meet local health department requirements and allow for appropriate distancing, indoor ventilation has been carefully examined, and there is designated isolation and quarantine space.

In addition to required public health risk reduction strategies, policies and protocols, slowly reopening our campus means that we will be confronting additional challenges to keep our community safe. No matter how many changes the University makes, our individual and collective behavior will be key to a successful campus experience. Specifically, if students think they cannot adhere to health and safety protocols — and, in particular, avoid unsafe gatherings — they should strongly reconsider returning to campus.

We want you here, but we also aim for the healthiest and safest campus community possible. Each of us must help in achieving this goal. In the months ahead, safety protocols will be mandatory, behavioral compliance will be required and enforced, and we will continue to be guided by a safety-first approach for students, faculty and professional staff.

If there is any community that can meet this challenge, it is our Drexel community. I’m fully confident that we can get through this together if we look out for one another and adhere to all health and safety guidelines.

Please remain patient and vigilant in the weeks ahead, and I will continue to provide updates on a regular basis. And thank you, once again, for your continued support of our Drexel community.

Sincerely,

John Fry

President

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