On October 8, Dean Papillon sent the email below to students in the College and their families.
As a campus community, we have reached the midpoint of the fall semester. Over the last month, very few students have tested positive for COVID-19 and our quarantine capacity has never been strained; this gives us hope that the protocols we have in place have largely been followed and are working—and that we might expect to have students on campus again for a successful Easter semester.
My colleagues and I, in consultation with student leadership, have been planning for next semester and are ready to share the spring academic calendar. The schedule is still subject to change, but students and families can begin to plan now. Classes will begin later than the usual mid-January start date, and Commencement ceremonies will take place later than the usual Mother’s Day weekend. An extended winter break will run from Dec. 8 to the first of February.
- Feb. 1, 2021: First day of classes
- May 12: Last day of classes
- May 14-20: Final exams
- May 23: Commencement for the Class of 2021
- May 30: Commencement for the Class of 2020
Three reading days have been built into the schedule—March 3, March 31, and April 28—when no classes will be held. However, there will be no spring break in order to minimize the risk to campus associated with increased travel.
* These dates are subject to change. Students will be notified if changes are made to the academic calendar. We hope to hold in-person Commencement exercises; the decision will be finalized in the spring as we assess the health situation at the University, in the local community, and beyond.
The continuing health crisis will again require that the rituals and routines of campus life be modified next semester.
We have held many classes outdoors this fall, and the later start date for next semester will eliminate approximately three weeks of cold-weather classes. As in August, we are planning for staggered student arrivals, testing, and move-in for the Easter semester; the final dates are still under consideration.
Students will be able to choose whether to study on campus or remotely for the Easter semester. As in the fall, classes will be a mixture of experiences. Courses will be offered in a range of formats, from fully in-person to fully online. No courses will be offered in a fully asynchronous mode. Regardless of whether they choose to study on campus or remotely, students will be eligible to register for any class for which they are qualified. Of course, we will continue to be ready for a possible shift to fully remote learning in the spring if health conditions or local, state, and federal guidelines require it. But our fall semester experience has given us confidence that we will be able to have the majority of our students on the Mountain, as safely as possible, for the spring.
Our planning remains based on the best available public health practices and guidelines. The objective is to keep our community healthy while still delivering the exceptional education and robust campus life that are the hallmarks of the Sewanee experience.
Some plans for the spring are still to be determined. Among these are the possibility of varsity athletic competition. The presidents of the Southern Athletic Association schools will make a decision about athletic competition in the coming weeks. And while we hope to hold in-person Commencement exercises in the spring, our ability to do so will depend on the course of the pandemic.