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Watchwords for the Fall: Best Practices, Flexibility, Working Together

July 22, 2020

Dear Members of the Drexel Community:

I know that many of you are concerned with how the pandemic’s recent trajectory will impact our plans for September, even questioning whether our hybrid approach of remote and face-to-face teaching, student engagement and research still makes sense. Please know that I hear your concerns.

From the beginning, the University has set as its highest priority the community’s safety and well-being. We also believe that our ability to pivot and adapt during the pandemic will be  essential for operating safely and continuing to fulfill our mission of teaching, research and service. Drexel’s planning efforts have been designed with agility and rapid response in mind, should current conditions change. I believe our flexibility will enable us to move ahead successfully, no matter which direction COVID-19 takes.

Our hybrid approach affords us the flexibility and responsiveness necessary to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, all academic planning includes additional instructional design for in-person, hybrid, or fully virtual learning. The University’s IT team is outfitting classrooms and learning centers with technical features to support faculty and maximize  flexibility. This will ensure that courses can be taught either in person or remotely.

Using a fluid and flexible approach is the best option we have to meet the changing nature of this pandemic. No one-size-fits-all solution exists for these unprecedented times. It is up to all of us in the Drexel community to work together to ensure that we properly execute the protocols and plans that are outlined in the upcoming months.

What does this mean for the September 21 start of the fall quarter?

Decisions Rooted in Science, Guided by Experts

Drexel’s decisions as to who will be on campus, what courses will be taught face-to-face, how student residence halls will function, and more will all be rooted in science and follow the guidelines and recommendations provided by medical and public health experts. We will utilize testing and contact tracing as well as available evidence-based, real-time guidance in our decision making. We will leverage the capabilities that only a R1 research university can have to ensure that decisions are driven by the facts. We will consult with Drexel’s renowned medical and public health experts, as well as consult with external partners and academic counterparts to ensure best practices are upheld in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local health department guidelines.

Managing Change

While our plans are evidence-based and further guided by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, it is important to know that our guidelines may change depending on the specific conditions at that moment in time. We must be prepared to shift and adjust for the benefit of our community based on the most current information. This includes potential changes to:

  • Student arrival dates on campus
  • The start date of in-person instruction and adjustments to the academic calendar
  • Face-to-face instruction
  • On-campus dining options and accessibility
  • Housing assignments for Drexel residence halls and fraternity and sorority properties

Reducing Risk Is a Shared Responsibility

Reducing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our community is not only dependent on the decisions of Drexel, but on each and every individual. We are all accountable for the health and well-being of our community. While the University will do everything possible to minimize the risk of infection to students, faculty and professional staff, ultimately we have a shared responsibility: Each individual community member’s decisions contribute to how COVID-19 impacts our community.

This collective responsibility will require each of us to:

  • Comply with health and safety guidelines set forth by the University, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and adhering to proper hand washing procedures on campus
  • Undergo mandatory health and safety training and sign the Dragon Pledge prior to returning to campus
  • Utilize the Drexel Health Tracker app
  • Remain adaptable and be willing and able to pivot and adjust as needed

I recognize that each of us may have different preferences about returning to campus. If you feel uncomfortable coming to campus for any reason at all, it is recommended that you consult an advisor, supervisor or HR business partner immediately so that other options can be explored.

Those community members who may be currently residing in one of the surge states with travel advisory restrictions as outlined by the health department are urged to closely monitor the COVID-19 website for the latest information about quarantine, testing and returning to campus. 

For now, please continue to visit Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website for the latest guidelines and resources, as well as updates and communications to the wider Drexel community. And be assured that our planning process is part of a continuing conversation — one in which your voice matters, and your active and ongoing support and participation are key. 

Once again, I recognize how uneasy this time is for us all. By following the best expert advice, remaining flexible, and by coalescing as a community to support one another, I am confident in our ability to find innovative and creative solutions for starting the academic year.


John Fry