A Letter from Provost Lejuez on the Spring 2021 Semester

University seals were installed over the entrances to the north and south reading rooms at the Wilbur Cross Building. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Dear UConn Community:

We have reached the point where our community must make decisions about many aspects of the spring semester. Because we cannot know right now what the COVID-19 conditions will be in the spring, our best approach is to model our decisions for the next semester on what we have done for the fall. With that in mind, student, faculty, and staff leaders have been hard at work reviewing plans and making decisions for how we will proceed with the spring semester. We have also been in frequent contact with local and state officials, and the Connecticut Department of Public Health is in full support of our plans.

Working together as a community we have made a number of decisions recently, which I am pleased to share here as a resource.

Academic Calendar

Based on the decisions of the University Senate, we shared earlier this week that the spring semester start and end dates will remain the same, and that spring break would move to April 11-17, 2021. The University Senate also approved two reading days before final exams. Click here to see the full details on calendar changes posted to the Provost’s Office website.

Instructional Modality and Quarantine Periods

With decisions made on the calendar, we next had to decide how to balance a required quarantine for residential students and re-entry student testing at the start of the semester and the return to classes. We heard from students that the two-week quarantine before the start of fall classes was challenging for a variety of reasons, so our decision for the spring has also taken that into account. Specifically, for spring:

  • For the start of the spring semester, we will conduct the first two weeks of all classes remotely so residential students can quarantine at the same time as spring courses start.
  • Following spring break, residential students will return home and the last two weeks of classes, as well as exams, will be conducted remotely for all students.

Both measures are designed for the well-being of our community. We expect that many of our students, faculty, and staff will be traveling back from numerous locations after the winter break and after spring break; remote learning during those times will help minimize potential contact. Additionally, as Thanksgiving provided in the fall, spring break will provide an opportunity for a reset for our students, faculty, and staff before entering the home stretch of the semester. We believe that instructors should use the format that they think will best support learning and student engagement during these two periods but, based on fall selections, it seems likely that many who are teaching in-person will utilize a distance learning synchronous format (DL).

Pass/Fail

The Senate made a temporary change in the by-laws for this academic year affecting pass/fail for undergraduates. The change extends the deadlines to add or remove courses as pass/fail and also extends pass/fail availability to undergraduates with fewer than 26 credits and undergraduates on scholastic probation. The Graduate Faculty Council has jurisdiction over academic regulations affecting graduate students, and the existing bylaws apply. Pass/fail is not available to graduate students. Click here for more details on the Provost’s Office website.

Course Registration for Spring

Registration will follow the planned schedule, starting on Oct. 26 and ending on Nov. 11 for undergraduates.

With considerable effort from our schools and colleges in partnership with the Registrar’s Office, the modality for each course will be listed at the time of registration. It is also notable that the detail and description of the modality options shared with instructors last month has been sharpened based on feedback from fall semester courses. These options seek to provide more clarity to both instructors and students on the expectations of course meeting times and format, and the proportion of remote learning to in-person learning. Click here to see the full listing of spring 2021 modality definitions on the Provost’s Office website.

Fee Reduction

We will continue to offer the fee reduction to help meet two goals: 1) de-densifying campuses; and 2) opening up opportunities for in-person courses for students in residential housing.

  • A student may receive the fee reduction if they are not living on campus and they have no in-person courses.
    • Research and independent study courses will be labeled as in person no matter where they take place. Students will not be eligible for the fee reduction if they are enrolled in these courses.
    • Instructors cannot change the modality listing for individual students to make them eligible for the fee reduction.

Housing

Residential Life shared an update last week that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will not allow the residential areas to be open at full capacity as hoped for spring. As such, we will need to continue under a similar model of around 50% occupancy. All residential students at Storrs and Stamford will have to participate in re-entry testing and a two-week residential quarantine. Students currently living on campus for the fall who wish to return for the spring semester will have the option to remain in their same assignment and keep their belongings in that assignment over winter recess. Click here for more information on the Residential Life website.

Similar to the current semester, the cost of housing and dining will remain the same as the previous academic year. In the unlikely case that a positive change in the landscape of the virus results in our being able to remain on campus after spring break and through exams, no additional charges will be added to housing and dining costs. Moreover, similar to this fall semester and last spring, Residential Life will work with students who have no viable housing options for the remainder of the spring semester after the break.

If we are unable to continue campus housing up to spring break, pro-rated housing and dining refunds will be provided to students and will follow the University refund calendar.

Future Announcements

We believe in the decisions that have been made about our spring semester over the past few weeks and it is important that we do our best to communicate the details and the rationale for these decisions. We hope this communication has value in that regard.

While this message provides answers to many important questions for the spring, there are several other decisions that require more time, including how the University will undertake graduation. We will make these decisions in a collaborative and judicious manner, and as soon as we are able.

The last several months have been difficult for each of us in different ways; however, in that time I have also seen countless examples of our community working together and looking out for each other. I am proud to be a part of UConn Nation alongside each of you as we navigate unprecedented challenges.

 

Sincerely,

Carl